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New York's Old Future: Lots of Bridges, No Flying Trains

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Put on your pair of rear-view future specs and take a look at what the old future holds for us in 1999, as seen from 1900. This rendering of what the city might look like comes just two years after Consolidation in 1898, and bridge building fever between the boroughs must have been high. The Brooklyn Bridge was in place in 1900 of course, but the historical future drawing shows the correct approximate placement of the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges to Brooklyn (completed in 1909 and 1903, respectively). One can also make out a bridge up the East River at almost the exact location where the 59th Street-Queensboro-Koch Bridge would wind up in 1909. What promise Governors Island must've held back then, that the futurist illustrator thought the island would warrant a Brooklyn Bridge copycat connecting it to lower Manhattan.

Long before zoning and landmarks preservation became important factors in imagining how the city would continue to grow, New Yorkers could envision entire blocks being swallowed up by towering skyscrapers from the Battery to midtown. The shape of many of these towers reminded us of Antonio Gaudi's drawing plans for a grand hotel in downtown New York.

The drawing of New York's future in 1999 was published in the New York World in 1900, and was included in a 2008 exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum and recently come across by Ephemeral NY.

· "New York City As It Will Be in 1999" [Ephemeral New York]
· Future City 20|21 [SkyscraperMuseum]
· El Gran Hotel de Gaudí en Nueva York (1908) [Skyscrapercity]