in the Public Realm
  • 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:  

    • 1800, using the Ratzer 1767 map (cut off at Chambers Street which was the northern boundary of the city at the time.)
    • 1860,  using Harrison’s 1852 map which was the first to show the buildings and streets (below Canal Street)
    • 1900 (using the current GIS) showing how dense the blocks become


    • 1867 Viele’s topographical map 
    • 2016 GIS

    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 NOW

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

    • 2012 Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge  
    • 2050 projected National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected  flood zone showing 31 “ of sea level rise
    • 1609 Shoreline
    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.   

    About the 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.  

    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. 

    Some of the famous Historic Maps of Lower Manhattan:


    To purchase a map

    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
    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