Tackling the theme SKYLINE has been both an indulgent and a challenging project. We love to look at images of New York’s past, and we are excited by the prospects of its future skyscrapers. For this show, the Museum’s staff and interns searched, sorted, and sifted through thousands of photographs and texts and explored topics such as souvenir books, postcards, and night illumination. Within these historical sources and artifacts we found the emergence in the late 1890s of the image of Manhattan’s skyline as the brand identity of New York City.

Our research was a treat made possible (especially for me, in the wee hours of the night) by the magnificent digital resources that have been posted online by many institutions and archives, including the New York Public Library, Museum of the City of New York, New-York Historical Society, NYC Municipal Archives, the New York State Archives, and the Library of Congress, as well as Internet Archive, HathiTrust Digital Library, and, of course, Google Books. 

A slow, but rewarding part of our image search was finding photographs of the skyline taken from the same position in different eras. Views of lower Manhattan from standard points across the rivers made this task possible because so many of the images were created by commercial and professional photographers who were magnificent chroniclers of New York – especially the long-lived Irving Underhill and the extraordinary Andreas Feininger. For our present-day Feininger, we chose Richard Berenholtz who has shot the skyline in panoramic format for more than three decades. For the Museum, Richard supplemented his 1999 and 2002 views of lower Manhattan – with and without the World Trade Center – with a new photograph in June 2018 that matches exactly the earlier perspectives. We have combined Underhill and Berenholtz panoramas, seven images spanning from 1902 to today, in a digital banner that animates the evolution of the lower Manhattan skyline on the screen to the right and in an interactive slider in the gallery and on our website.

The Museum is also grateful to many people who helped with models, images, and archives: Jordan Auslander, Richard Berenholtz, Mary Beth Betts, Hudson Yards, Ondel Hylton, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Rafael Viñoly Architects, The Real Estate Board of New York, James Sanders, SHoP and the JDS Development Group, Silverstein Properties, and archivists at the Library of Congress, New York Public Library, New-York Historical Society, and the New York State Archives.

SKYLINE could not have been accomplished without the dedication of our staff and interns, all of whom brought great enthusiasm and creative thinking to this project: Josh Vogel, Peter Sohmer, Claudio De Los Reyes, Daniel Denci, Rosalind Flower, Amhara Hernandez, Jose Hernandez, Henry Morales, Deyanisse Monegro, Merritt Rosen, and Leonardo Tamargo.

Carol Willis

Founding Director and Curator

The exhibitions and programs of The Skyscraper Museum are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

The exhibitions and programs of The Skyscraper Museum are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.