11. It Would Have Been The Largest Building In North America At The Time

Architects Calvert Vaux (who helped design Central Park), and J. Wrey Mould had grand plans to occupy the entire Manhattan Square space. These plans included a domed, five-story square around a Greek cross with four courts and an octagon shaped crossing. Vaux also planned for the museum’s edifice to be 700 feet long on each side, centered around a massive tower called the “Hall of the Heavens.”

In fact, according to New York 1880, Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age, the American Museum of Natural History would have been the world’s largest museum and the largest building in North America at the time, if these plans hadn’t been altered.

The new museum didn’t get off to a great start-by 1886 attendance was one-sixth of what it was at the Arsenal. You’ll learn more about this rocky start next.

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