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The History of the Most Famous Landmarks in New York

November 17, 2023 By CityPASS

New York City is home to some of the most recognizable landmarks around the globe. With its rich history and cultural diversity, it's a city that never fails to amaze both its residents and visitors. In this post, we'll delve into the history of some of the famous landmarks in New York and why they are a must-visit.

What Are the Most Famous Landmarks in New York?

New York City's skyline is a kaleidoscope of historic landmarks and iconic buildings. Let's take a historical journey through five of these landmarks that have withstood the test of time and continue to captivate the hearts of history buffs everywhere.

The History of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world, is a testament to New York's architectural and engineering prowess. Construction on the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper began in 1930, with the last brick laid just one year later in 1931. During the difficult economic times of the Great Depression, the Empire State Building stood as a symbol of hope and perseverance. Architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon designed the skyscraper in the distinctive Art Deco style, with a tapered top and decorative spire that soars 1,454 feet into the city skyline.

Upon opening, the Empire State Building claimed the title of the world's tallest building, surpassing the Chrysler Building. Its height record would stand for over 40 years until the completion of the original World Trade Center towers in New York's Financial District in 1970. Beyond holding height records, the Empire State Building was innovative in its use of new technologies like elevators and electrical power distribution. Seventy-three elevators whisk visitors to observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors, providing unforgettable panoramic views of the city.

Though no longer the tallest building, the Empire State Building remains an architectural marvel and a beloved New York icon. Over 4 million visitors per year come to glimpse views from its observation decks and marvel at the details that make this skyscraper a standout in the city skyline.

The History of Central Park

Central Park, an urban oasis amidst the concrete jungle, has a history that stretches back to the 19th century. As New York City rapidly expanded in population and urban development, city leaders recognized the need for open public green spaces. Landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition in 1858 to transform over 800 acres of swampy land on the island of Manhattan into an idyllic park space.

Their visionary design brought together a mix of naturalistic and formal elements, showcasing winding paths, lush meadows, ponds, and woodlands contrasted with elegant promenades, fountains, and sculptures. Construction on Central Park began in 1858, using both manual labor and dynamite blasts to carve out and landscape the terrain. The public park was completed in 1876, though improvements continued in the decades after.

Over 42 million visitors enjoy Central Park annually, escaping the bustle of the city. The park is home to numerous attractions, including playgrounds, a zoo, skating rinks, concerts, and monuments. Architectural marvels like the stone Gothic Revival Bethesda Terrace arch and the cast-iron Bow Bridge allow visitors to admire the park's detailed beauty. For a more comprehensive view of this popular destination, you can observe Central Park from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.

The History of the Statue of Liberty

Lady Liberty has greeted immigrants arriving by sea at New York Harbor since 1886 when the Statue of Liberty was gifted from France to America. This iconic statue is 305 feet tall, formally known as Liberty Enlightening the World, and was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The internal steel framework, engineered by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, allows the copper statue to move slightly in the wind.

Near the pedestal base on Liberty Island, a museum displays the original torch and tablet with the date of American independence in Roman numerals. Visitors can access the crown for spectacular views encompassing the sweeping harbor and Downtown Manhattan skyline. Since its dedication in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has remained a powerful symbol of freedom, hope, and democracy. It welcomes immigrants to Ellis Island and the promise of America and reminds New Yorkers and visitors of the city's diverse roots. You can see this landmark with the Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises.

A History of Times Square

Times Square, the beating heart of New York City, has evolved from a horse trading market in the 1870s to the dazzling entertainment hub it is today. This busy intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue was originally named Longacre Square. In 1904, The New York Times moved its headquarters to the area, prompting a renaming to Times Square.

As the Theater District rose up around Times Square, its restaurants and theaters became major attractions for New Yorkers and visitors. By the mid-20th century, brightly lit billboards illuminated the area, showcasing it as "The Crossroads of the World." Though it fell into decline in the 1970s, a massive redevelopment project turned it into a pedestrian-friendly zone showcasing the energy and excitement of New York.

Today, the Times Square area welcomes almost 50 million annual visitors who come to admire the bright lights, see a Broadway show, and feel the palpable, dynamic energy of the city. The famous New Year's Eve ball drop has occurred here since 1907, broadcast across the country. Times Square reinvents itself decade after decade, remaining an essential New York City experience.

The History of the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History provides a treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits to explore human cultures and the natural world. Founded in 1869, the museum has amassed one of the largest natural history collections in the world. Its immense collection includes dinosaur fossils, mammal dioramas, anthropology artifacts representing human cultures, meteorites, gems, and much more.

The museum was founded to advance scientific research while educating the public, especially students. Early exhibits focused on zoology, paleontology, mineralogy, and anthropology. In 1877, the museum opened in its permanent home, a Gothic Revival building on the Upper West Side. This architectural marvel was designed by Calvert Vaux and J. Wrey Mould and included grand spaces like the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda.

Over 32 million artifacts and specimens reside in the museum's collection, including cultural objects and important fossils like Tyrannosaurus rex. Through immersive exhibits and active research programs, the American Museum of Natural History is a popular tourist attraction that invites visitors on a journey to understand the grand scale of galaxies, the diversity of lifeforms, and human cultures over time.

Experience Unforgettable New York Moments With CityPASS® Tickets

Your expedition through New York's historical tapestry wouldn't be complete without the convenience and savings offered by New York CityPASS® tickets. With access to many iconic sights, CityPASS® tickets allow you to delve deeper into the heart of New York and explore its celebrated landmarks at a leisurely pace.

New York CityPASS® tickets allow you to visit legendary attractions like the Empire State Building, the 9/11 Memorial, and the American Museum of Natural History, with options to customize your itinerary. As you uncover the rich history of landmarks across the city, you'll save both time waiting in ticket lines nearly half off admission.

Embark on a journey of discovery with CityPASS® tickets and make the most of your New York adventure. Create memories that will last a lifetime as you experience the iconic landmarks that make the Big Apple world famous.

New York City Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in New York City, we recommend finding lodging near New York City's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

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