New York Illustrated – As It Was 150 Years Ago – Part III

New York Illustrated 1870

Part III – 150 Years Later And (Mostly) Still Here

Our third installment of illustrations taken from Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871) looks at what remains today.

The Great East River or Brooklyn Suspension Bridge would not be completed until 1883. The rendition seen accurately shows what the span would look like when completed. Work on the bridge began in 1869. To fully appreciate the epic undertaking,  I strongly recommend David McCullough’s The Great Bridge (Simon & Schuster), 1972.

Trinity Church 1870 New York Wall StreetThe current Trinity Church at the intersection of Broadway and Wall St. is the third Trinity Church on the site. The first, built in 1695 was destroyed in the American Revolution during the Great Fire of 1776. A new church was completed in 1790. In 1838 it was discovered that the second church had structural issues which necessitated its replacement. In 1846, the new Trinity Church was completed by architect Richard Upjohn. For much of the 19th century Trinity’s steeple offered the best three hundred sixty degree views of New York.


A block away from Trinity Church on Wall Street stands the United States Sub-Treasury Building now known as Federal Hall National Memorial.

The 18th century building that stood on the site was New York’s City Hall, later becoming Federal Hall where Congress first met. George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States here in 1789. The current building seen here was built in 1842 as the U.S. Custom House. When the Custom House moved their in 1862, the building became a storehouse for the nation’s gold and silver known as the U.S. Sub-Treasury Building.

A bronze statue of President Washington was added in 1882 in front of the building. Mostly unchanged in the last century, the building is open for touring through the National Parks service.

The great philanthropist Peter Cooper built Cooper Union as a free educational facility in 1859 . Rather than apprenticeship in mechanical and technological trades, a completely different sort of higher education was the goal. For those who qualified, admission was granted regardless of race, religion, sex, wealth or social status. The building, a National Historic Landmark, still stands on Astor Place between Third and Fourth Avenues.

Closed off to the public since the 9/11 attacks, you can still schedule a tour of City Hall by going to the official web site a couple of months ahead of when you plan to see it. The building completed in 1812 was designed by architects Joseph Mangin and John McComb Jr.. Throughout the last 200 years the building has been threatened with demolition as being inadequate. Now a landmark, the building is safe from the wrecking ball. Many renovations and creative use of space has preserved City Hall as the seat of city government in New York.


Lord and Taylor Broadway New YorkLord & Taylor are no longer are located within the building that stands on the corner of Broadway and 20th Street. Architect James H. Giles was responsible for the new Lord & Taylor building which opened November 28, 1870.

Lord & Taylor moved uptown to Fifth Avenue and 38th Street in 1914.  The corner portion with its Addam’s Family-like turret is original. The adjoining parts of the building are from a 1914 alteration by architect John H. Duncan.

St. Patrick's Cathedral 1870 New YorkThe glorious St. Patrick’s Cathedral at Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets is the work of architect James Renwick. This view shows what the completed building would look like. Construction began in 1858 and the Cathedral opened 21 years later in 1879.

Highbridge New York 1870Opening in 1848, High Bridge carrying Croton Aqueduct water is the oldest extant bridge in New York City.  The bridge was mutilated in 1927 by the removal of five of its stone arches and replaced by a single steel span arch. The work was done at the insistence of the War Department to facilitate navigation in case of an emergency. It could have been worse – many officials called for the demolition of the entire bridge.

Closed for over 50 years after thugs kept attacking passing ships from the bridge, the bridge reopened to pedestrians and bicyclists in 2015.

Meant To Be Permanent Reminders To The Honored Dead

Trinity Church Martyr's monument Revolutionary War Rhinelander Sugra HouseMonuments and memorials seem to last even if they are unnoticed or unvisited.

Within Trinity Church’s cemetery is the 1851 Martyrs’ Monument to the soldiers who perished in the The Rhinelander Sugar House, which was converted into a prison during the Revolutionary War.  Ignored by most passerby, it’s one of thousands of monuments in New York to remind the current generation who have very short memories.

Worth Monument New YorkThe 1857 Worth Monument at 25th Street and Broadway contains the remains of Major General William Worth. A hero of the war of 1812 and Mexican-American War, Worth has the city of Fort Worth, Texas and Worth Street in Manhattan named after him.

Union Square and its Park between 14th and 18th Streets have seen countless changes over the years. The 1856 Washington monument is no longer in the street on 14th Street, but inside the park on the South plaza.

Green-wood cemetery 1870 BrooklynPerhaps the most unchanged places in New York are the cemeteries. Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn being a prime example.

The entrance gate was built between 1861 and 1865 by Richard Upjohn, the architect of Trinity Church. Located at 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, the building has been expanded, but still retains much of its original grandeur.

Frireman's Memorial Greenwood Cemetery 1870The 1848 Firemen’s Monument stands in honor of New York’s firemen who lost their lives in the line of duty. The fence surrounding the monument is gone and acid rain has dulled some of its details but the monument still delivers a somber reminder of the dangers of firefighting.

Canda Memorial Green-wood cemetery BrooklynSupposedly, after Niagara Falls, for a number of years, the Canda Monument was the most visited attraction in mid-nineteenth century America. Beautiful Charlotte Canda died at age seventeen in a horse carriage accident in 1845 returning home from her own birthday party. The elaborate memorial was designed by Canda herself for her recently deceased aunt. Her untimely death made use of the design when she was re-interred here in 1848. Today the monument has lost several of its design elements and needs restoration, but the majority of it is still there. When passed by current visitors to the cemetery, few stop to investigate or know the story behind it.

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