20 November 2009

Evolution of a Block

When I was looking through the Sanford Insurance maps of the Washington Park area, I was struck by the fact that there is a tendency to remove whole blocks of smaller, diverse buildings and replace them with much larger, single use structures. Then it would just so happen that I came across a student who documented the history of a single block in NYC:

I decided to try a more mammoth task, compiling a complete record of the life cycle of a single city block. That's what I've presented here. Beginning in the 1780s with James Delancey's farm, and ending with the present public housing structures, erected in 1985, this is a record of eight generations of buildings on two-thirds of an acre.:
In the Youtube video, it is sped up a bit too much. Better to go to his site and watch it.

It is fascinating, and unfortunately the end result is this:

The location in Google Maps.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for this great link. As a native New Yorker, I could have spent hours at that fellow's site.

There were two parts especially interesting to me.

The first was how much building was done starting in around the mid-1800's. New York City enjoyed a very big boom after the Erie Canal was finished (IIRC, around 1830ish). The Canal brought a tremendous amount of goods through the city and really helped make New York into the center of trade and commerce we know it as. This little cartoon is evidence of how much benefit you get from a good public works project.

The second was how desolate the block was in the 1970s, during the era when NYC almost went bankrupt (after President Ford told us to Drop Dead). This is extra-horrifying to me when I think about how much our present circumstances (for example, what's happening in California) have been reminding me of that era in NYC.

I'd write more, but it's almost time to meet the school bus.

Blue Ash Mom

Dan said...

That is fan-freakin'-tastic! Well, not the end result but the little movie.