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Brooklyn Bridge (1883)

The Big Apple:
The Architecture of New York

Report of the lecture given by Mike Higginbottom BA MEd on July 27th 2011

Our lecturer this month, Mike Higginbottom, from Sheffield, chose as his subject "The Architecture of New York". Never having been to New York, I was surprised to discover how many attractive buildings it has.

Mike first visited New York in 1981 and has returned many times. He started with a brief history. It was first discovered by an Italian explorer, Verrazana in 1524, followed by Henry Hudson in the 17th century and then the Dutch. The British gained permanent control in 1674 and established the name New York (after the Duke of York, brother of Charles II).

 Queensborough Bridge (1909) Within 200 years it had become America's largest city and grew even larger when mass immigration, a rather gruesome process, took place through Ellis Island towards the end of the 19th century.

Brooklyn Bridge, which took 15 years to build, was opened in 1883. It was the first steel suspension bridge and an engineering marvel. Its pedestrian walkway presents a fantastic view of Manhattan. Many bridges have been built since, including the George Washington Bridge (1931), the Manhattan Bridge and the Queensborough Bridge (1909).

Woolworth Building We were shown many of New York's famous buildings, starting with the 20 storey Flatiron building (1902) which heralded the age of the skyscraper. It has a unique structure with a narrow triangular base and is much photographed.

Thereafter it appears that every building erected had to be higher than the previous one! What a good thing that Central Park was created - a green space amongst the high rise.

Buildings which particularly impressed me were the Woolworth Building (1913) with its gilded lobby in Gothic style, the Art Deco Chrysler Building with its distinctive spire and the Grand Central Terminal, a stunning building with a vaulted ceiling showing the signs of the Zodiac.

Chrysler Building Nestling amongst the skyscrapers is St Paul's Chapel dating from 1766 and based on St Martins in the Fields, London. George Washington worshipped here and his pew can still be seen. Being a block away from the Twin Towers, it was much used as a spiritual support centre at the time of the disaster. Mike likes to experience its peace and tranquility. He also recommended the Cloisters Museum which is constructed from medieval stone and artifacts from several French and German monasteries, proving that not all things in New York are modern!

The buildings of New York are best seen from the air as we saw from Mike's slides. Although easy to find ones way around with the grid system, I cannot help feeling that neck strain might be a problem when sightseeing!

Maureen Hellyer

New York Panorama

Mike Higginbottom with two of our members