Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Browse by Decade



Amazon Fun

« Electronic Home Library (1959) | Main | Will Humanity Annihilate Itself? (1939) »

Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers (1925)

This postcard from 1925 imagines future New York City, "The City of Skyscrapers." Utopian New York of the 1920s sure had a lot of levels, with a system of elevated trains, some beautiful flying contraptions, and towering skyscrapers reaching toward the heavens. I'm fascinated by New York futurism, as it generally had a more rugged or old world vibe (even in its utopian form) than the futurism of the shiny western United States.

Of course New York is a favorite setting for the apocalyptic as well. Just yesterday my friend Brian Horrigan, co-author of the book Yesterday's Tomorrows, told me about a decidedly apocalyptic book focusing on New York that I can't wait to get my hands on, The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fear, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction

The postcard is from my personal collection, but the date I'm using is based upon Corbis Images.

UPDATE: Though the identical colorized image from Corbis may very well be from 1925, I've found earlier sources of this image from travel guide publisher Moses King, dating back to 1911.

FUTURE NEW YORK will be pre-eminently the city of skyscrapers. The first steel frame structure that was regarded as a skyscraper was the Tower Building at 50 Broadway, a ten story structure 129 feet high. There are now over a thousand building of that height in Manhattan. The best known skyscrapers are the Singer Building, 612 feet high, the Metropolitan Building, 700 feet high; and the Woolworth Tower which towers above them all and rises to a height of 790 feet. The proposed Pan American Building is to be 801 feet high.


Previously on Paleo-Future: 


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (35)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (12)

Why, some of those buildings must be nearly 30 stories tall!

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArt

I'm fascinated by this image because, in a lot of respects, the creator is correct (if we go by your title). The essential technologies are there *minus* the respective changes to the technologies that happened: new materials (concrete and high-stress glass come to mind) and new propulsion techs.

I'd love to put this right next to *today*'s imagination of New York in the future.

Great find. Thanks, Mr. Novak.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Warren

I'm working on a Visual Arts course - do you know what the copyright permission might be for this image?

July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterK. Blackthorne

it reminds me of the movie fifth element

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFarley

It's amazing how so many of these future visions involve "sacrificing" the ground level to darkness and dirt. (In addition to this postcard, there's Metropolis and other movies from the '20s, and then as another commenter has noted this trend continues through some of Batman movies, The Fifth Element, etc.) How striking that today, instead, the emphasis is on opening up views of the sky and of distant perspectives.

And of course there's the whole structural aspect to these elevated trains - look at the one going through the tops of buildings, center right. If you add the columns necessary to support the viaduct arches to the massing necessary to contain elevators and the building's own supports, you're left with very little usable floor space!

July 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

The Future New York Picture is really amazing. Good Creativity I really appreciate your skill. We hope your creativity should come to reality very soon.

You'll never get me up in one of those things!

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterspinetingler

This postcard is amazing, if anyone can get one of those I'm more than interested!

Thanks a lot, kind regards

October 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOliver

love it! if only...

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThefuturegirl

the plane looks a bit weird...just as an ancient model

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertedmosyt

The card can not be from 1925. In those years there were already more modern looking planes than shown in the picture. Next, the 20's were also the years of the coming of age of modern architecture (e.g. strict functional design without ornaments (Bauhaus)), so it would be unlikely anyone picturing the future would use oldfashioned architecture and planes looking like the ones the Wright brothers had flewn.

Have said this, still like your blog very much.

The Netherlands

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeroen

I wish NY looked like this today.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIsaac

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>