Mapping Manhattan's Designated Landmarks
The three maps in our installation show enlargements of an online map created by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). They distinguish four types of Landmarks – Individual, Interior, Scenic, and Historic Districts – by different colors. Individual Landmarks are pink; Historic Districts are yellow. Today there are more than 37,800 designated Landmark properties across the city, with the vast majority in Historic Districts. Of these thousands, 1,449 are Individual Landmarks, of which 84 by our definition count as "skyscrapers." The Museum has colored the Skyscraper Landmarks blue.
Our crops zoom in on the districts where skyscrapers have clustered: Lower Manhattan, Midtown, and Midtown South, from 14th to 34th Streets. These areas have changed across the century. In 1900, by far the greatest number of tall buildings concentrated in the Financial District around Wall Street and the corridor of Broadway. While a few spread as far north as
Madison Square, most high-rises above 34th St. were hotels or apartments. Not until Grand Central Terminal with its below-grade, covered tracks was completed in 1913 did an office district expand along Madison, Fifth, and eventually Park Avenue.
The LPC maps show the expansive areas of Historic Districts, where all "contributing buildings," like Individual Landmarks, are protected against demolition and inappropriate alterations. In general, Landmark designation stops the historical trajectory of Manhattan development, which tends to combine smaller lots and buildings into larger sites that will accommodate taller structures. Landmarking can, in effect, take a property off the Monopoly board. Along with zoning, Landmark designation is a powerful tool of city government to regulate private property in the public interest – and therefore often incites controversy, litigation, and politics.