Video from the New Yorker
On June 13th, the New Yorker released “Eighty Years of New York City, Then and Now,” the above video, which shows footage of New York City landmarks in the 1930s next to footage of the same places, as they are today. The split-screen tour highlights some of the growth that New York City has experienced over the past eighty years, but ultimately reveals that some things, like most of the city’s iconic landmarks and characteristic hustle and bustle, never change.
The videos feature some of the city’s most famous locales. It starts with a side-by-side shot of two New York City maps, one in black-and-white and the other in the familiar shades of blue and green. It then takes the viewer across the Brooklyn Bridge as a battalion of Duesenberg Model Js roll along on their way, sharply contrasted by the sleek Hondas and neon yellow taxicabs to the right.
Next it pans to the Museum of Natural History, then to the same sloping roads of Central Park, then to the Frick Collection. Although fashions and styles have changed through the years, these major installations have stayed the same.
The videos roll through Times Square and the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, and Federal Hall. As the footage indicates, the people of New York City haven’t changed so much either—both sides of the screen reveal New Yorkers in constant motion, rushing through the streets or speeding down the highway. In both frames, businesspeople in suits or night revelers in evening clothes race across the pavement towards their destinations, past brownstones and high-rises that have stayed fixtures of New York City skyline since their construction.
The left side of the video, with its black-and-white footage, is sure to invoke its fair share of nostalgia too, though the similarities it shares with the modernity shown in the right frame are more apparent than the differences.
The video pans over Harlem, and to the Riverside Church and the West Side Highway. It all happens to the sound of a fuzzy montage of songs soulfully crooned out by a saxophone, a sound smooth and vibrant enough to induce nostalgia for New York City’s bygone jazz age.
In the 1930s, New York City was experiencing somewhat of a heyday, and the construction boom of the roaring 20’s made the 30’s a city that was arguably as grand and as architecturally complex as the one we know today. In spite of all the turmoil and change New York City has experienced over the past eighty years, some things are constants, including the unforgettable monuments that make the city into a permanent fixture on the world’s radar, and the perpetually unique individuals who give the streets their character.
And if there is a New York City destination not featured in the video that you would like to see as it was in the 1930s, it may be available on the NYPL’s recently updated extensive database of free-for-use historic photographs.
For more, check out Photographs of “Dirty Old 1970’s NYC” Then and Now: East Village, West Village, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, and Alphabet City and NYC Then & Now: Melding NYC Photos Together Using the App Timera.