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About the Lower Manhattan THEN & NOW Map

Lower Manhattan has effectively been America’s town square since its discovery in 1524. Virtually every major event of local, national and global significance has played out in some way on this stage. Some have been forgotten and some have been transformative in our culture and many have fallen between. This is both a project in urban archeology and a way of describing the city over time in a printed map. The map captures the multiple and overlapping stories that are woven throughout our city’s life in a single document. It embraces America’s history as the museums, monuments and memorials that dot its streetscape do.   It highlights many of the concerns, events and places that the people who lived, fought, worked and visited here thought were important at their moment in time.   It takes another look at the issues that they were preoccupied with and how they solved them:  their politics, religion, social protest, health and safety, commerce, disasters and defense, scandals and crime, education, publications, art and culture, parades and celebrations, architecture and engineering. It encapsulates the events that shaped the physical and cultural landscape within the changing geography at the water’s edge. And it raises questions that need to be considered as we plan a more resilient city in our future.  

Lower Manhattan THEN

Lower Manhattan Then Superimposes the historical maps that mark different periods with a snapshot of the city as it looked at each era:  


These maps are heavily photoshopped to accommodate surveying discrepancies to make the streets align. Shown also are infrastructure: ferries, horse carriage routes, elevated trains. Future infrastructure of significance such as the bridges are dotted in.
The events are depicted with the year cross referenced to the timeline as are places of significance and some memorials.

The historic maps are shown at the same scale on the right panel

Lower Manhattan THEN Map

Building the THEN Map in Layers

Lower Manhattan NOW

Lower Manhattan Now Describes the city as it looks today and might look in the future

The historic timeline continues from 1900 to 2016. Overlaid on this map is the infrastructure from the turn of the century on showing, current ferries, subways, pneumatic tubes. Also shown are cultural institutions, some buildings of note and memorials, plaques, and artwork inspired by the history of the area.

Lower Manhattan NOW Map

Building the NOW Map in Layers

To see some of the famous Historic Maps used for the Lower Manhattan THEN & NOW Map

Historic Maps of Lower Manhattan >

To look at the map more closely, download a PDF

NOW.pdf (4.3Mb) THEN.pdf (3.1Mb)

To purchase a map

About the Map
The project began in 2015 as a summer internship program for a group of students (4 from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and one from City College). None of them were historians. We set out to research what happened downtown and figure out how to tell a large and complicated story about time and place.

The result is two maps which are framed by a timeline of 760 events that were impactful with a ‘sound bite’ about each event.

Designed by:
Abby Suckle FAIA
Kritika Dhanda
Kaitlin Faherty
Siobhan Feehan Miller
Gavin Ruedisueli
Young Joo Song
With Thanks to:
Anne Lewison AIA
Franziska Amacher AIA
Susan Chin FAIA
Diana Darling
Mark Favermann
Christina Lanzl PhD
Diana Pardue
John Powell
Jessica Baldwin
Margaret Chin
Wellington Chen
Charlotte Cohen
David J Cohen
Peter Feinman
Shuai Hao
Anna Heineman
David Henning
Catherine McVay Hughes
Tessa Huxley
James Kaplan
Jonathan Kuhn
Michael Levine
David Marwell
Xichee Moua
Jennifer Patton
Ambrose M. Richardson III
Barnet Schecter
Carol Willis
With Special Thanks to:
The Lower Manhattan Historical Society
New York City Department of Transportation
The Boston Society of Architects
The Harvard Graduate School of Design
The AIA NY Chapter
John Herzog

Battery Parks City Parks Conservancy
Battery Conservancy
Chinatown Partnership
Downtown Alliance
9/11 Tribute Museum
Fraunces Tavern Museum
Manhattan Community Board 1
Museum of American Finance
Museum of Jewish Heritage : A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Municipal Archives
National Museum of the American Indian
New York City Dept of Parks & Recreation
Sons of the Revolution
Sons of the American Revolution
South Street Seaport Museum
The Anne Frank Center
The Skyscraper Museum
US General Services Administration Arts + Architecture

Historic Maps :
The David Rumsey Map Collection www.davidrumsey.com
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division of the New York Public Library
Municipal Archives of the City of New York
Harvard Library Map Collection

Inspiration :
Mannahatta - Eric W. Sanderson
All Around the Town - Patrick Bunyan
Inside the Apple - Michelle Nevius / James Nevius
Manhattan in Maps - Robert T Augustyn / Paul E Cohen
The Historical Atlas of New York City - Eric Homberger
The AIA Guide to New York City - Norval White / Elliot Wilensky / Fran Leadon
The Bowery Boys www.boweryboyshistory.com