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Watch Manhattan's Earliest Skyscrapers Materialize Before Your Eyes (MAP)

February 3, 2017 2:45pm | Updated February 6, 2017 7:22am
At heights of 260 and 230 feet respectively, the Tribune and Western Union Buildings were constructed in 1874 and remained in New York City's top ten tallest buildings through the 1890s.
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Skyscraper Museum

It's time to revisit Chicago's claim to fame.

A new interactive map suggests that New York City, not Chi-town, is the real "birthplace of the skyscraper."

The map — which took staff at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City more than 1,500 hours to stitch together from 101 plates from a 1909 atlas — plots out the footprints of every building erected in Manhattan at a height of ten stories or taller between 1874 and 1900.

A slide bar feature animates the construction of office buildings, hotels, apartments and lofts in Lower Manhattan and along Broadway over the course of 26 years.

Clicking on an individual footprint reveals more information and historical photos of a particular building.

The visualization, based on data collected by the structural engineer and historian Donald Friedman, undermines the prevailing notion of "skyscrapers" as towering, slender buildings with steel skeletons.

Chicago gets a head start in the race to the sky if you write off the New York City's early tall buildings, many of which were constructed with old-fashioned materials and wider dimensions, as "high rises."

But the Big Apple boasted 252 buildings with ten or more stories by 1900, more than three times as many as the Second City during the same period.

And the Tribune Building at 154 Printing House Square and the Western Union Building at 195 Broadway, constructed in 1874 at 260 and 230 feet respectively, dwarfed all Chicago skyscrapers at the time. (So there, Chicago.)

In addition to one pretty neat map, the Skyscraper Museum's virtual exhibition of Manhattan's earliest skyscrapers features a grid with photos and a timeline

The museum's physical installation is in place through April and general admission costs $5.

Then go taunt our sister site about Chicago's building inferiority.