Video of Manhattan in 1911

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A horseless carriage putt-putts and three amused men stroll past the Flatiron Building.

This is, I am pretty sure, the best video of old New York City that I’ve come across. At eight and a half minutes, it is among the longest, with crisp photography and a wide range of locations. Ladies and gentlemen of every status, kids, hucksters and hoboes manage to stroll by, most but not all unconscious of the camera. There are more scenes where people are the focus than in most such films. There are early motor cars, horse cars, trolleys, horse-drawn wagons and conveyances of every sort. At one juncture, the camera, shooting from the rear of a trolley, catches one motorcar attempting (and failing) to pass another. Ahh-ooo-gah! Yes, the sounds of the street are reproduced, too – probably in a studio. Some of today’s most recognized buildings slide by – there’s even a stretch of film, shot from a high floor or the roof of a building, that conveys a strong sense of the Manhattan skyline of the era. The film is slightly colorized, as if it had originally been shot in color (an impossibility?) but had faded – at least that’s the impression achieved. The auteur of the video is Denis Shiryaev of Neural Network Things. So click the button in the frame below and enjoy being transported 109 years into the past.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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5 Responses to Video of Manhattan in 1911

  1. says:

    I want a white bonnet with a flowy ribbon and a twirly parasol…


  2. LazyReader says:

    If DC didn’t have the heights of buildings law or at least a higher minimum limit. DC would resemble a bit of New York circa 1910. Would that be terrible……meh. News outlets have written what DC would look like with a new skyline devoid of it’s height laws.

    The law is largely outdated and serves little purpose but to preserve scenic views of buildings that skirted the law before it went into effect. D.C. also has the second-highest office rents in America at $49.40 per square foot. That, again, is more than double the $21.60 U.S. average. This strongly suggests that in the absence of anti-skyscraper rules, thousands of short-term construction jobs would be created to build the square footage that the market demands. This stimulus would come at zero taxpayer expense. What’s more, the new offices would be filled with workers, leading to a boost in employment. Contrary to stereotype, there’s more to D.C. than just the federal government. Beyond public-sector activities, the city has built is trying to diversify it’s presence in industries like media (Slate for example), legal services, and information technology. But high rents mean D.C. firms have huge overhead. It’s even worse for the government. Indeed, higher buildings would reduce the federal government’s office costs over the long run. Cause normally they consolidate their holdings in HUGE buildings that take up an enormous amount of real estate just to obtain a million square feet.

    It would also give opportunity for the feds to eliminate their horrible holdings. SOme of DC’s ugliest buildings house federal offices. The Architects of the post war era littered the city with concrete monuments to bureaucracy. Some of the worst
    New Post Office building.
    Dept of Energy Headquarters
    Dept of Labor headquarters*&output-format=auto&output-quality=auto
    The FBI headquarters.


    • Wrong, Lazy. It would be awful. Your first illustration proves it. Remember, it would be buildings of recent vintage, not the mixture that is today’s Manhattan. Totally awful.


      • LazyReader says:

        Classical adoption. there are firms who do the work
        David Schwarz
        Duncan Stroik thou he’s never done a highrise in HIS LIFE
        Rober Stern
        And perhaps NOT the whole city, but K-Street and the “Downtown”
        Course that would be a security issue, tall buildings are a snipers paradise


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