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LANDMARKS IN NEW YORK | 43 Historical Sights and Architectures in NYC

Historical Buildings in New York

A lot has been said about New York. Alicia Keys succinctly sang it “noise is always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere, that’s what they say. Seeing my face in lights or my name in marquees found down on Broadway. Even if it ain’t all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams. Baby I’m from New York” or Jonathan Larson, played by Andrew Garfield, exclaimed, everyone is unhappy, it’s New York.

The list goes on. Taylor Swift. Billie Holiday. Jay Z.

My personal favorites are the words of Joan Didion and Eula Biss.  

And they say, “if you want to know the city’s soul, know its history.” If you are on a trip to New York or are planning, be sure not to miss these 43 historical landmarks in New York.

Traveling to New York Mid-pandemic

Wearing a mask in any public indoor setting is advised by the NYC Health Commissioner, but it is not required.

The federal mask mandate for public transportation was struck down in April by a judge; however, masks are still encouraged to be worn on all forms of public transportation. The Department of Justice filed an appeal to the ruling in April 2022.


Looking for a place to stay in New York? Check out some awesome hotel deals here.


Whitney Museum Of American Art

The Whitney Museum of American Art’s new Meatpacking headquarters is a stunning example of cutting-edge design. The building, designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, houses 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries, four outdoor exhibition spaces and terraces, a theater, a library and reading rooms, a ground-floor restaurant, and a top-floor bar. The Whitney’s collection is one of the most comprehensive and important collections of 20th- and 21st-century American art in the world and includes paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, films by Andy Warhol, photographs by Richard Avedon, sculptures by Alexander Calder, and more than 3,000 other artists. The Whitney Museum is a must-see for any art lover visiting New York City.

Brooklyn Bridge

Under the guidance of John Augustus Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was built from 1869 to 83 between the east river in Brooklyn to Manhattan in New York City. It is a suspension bridge that used steel wires for the first time.

One of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in New York, was designed by John A. Roebling and completed in 1883. The bridge spans the East River and connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a National Historic Landmark and a popular tourist destination. It is also a popular spot for photographers, as it offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.

If you’re planning to visit the Brooklyn Bridge, you should know a few things. First, the bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists 24 hours a day. However, vehicles are only allowed on the bridge during certain hours. Second, the bridge is located in a busy area of New York City, so there is a lot of foot traffic. Be prepared for crowds, especially on weekends. Finally, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most popular spots for photographers, so bring your camera!

Grand Central Terminal 

Grand Central Terminal is one of the country’s outstanding architectural achievements and New York City’s unofficial meeting place. With its beautiful Main Concourse, thousands of people choose to “meet me at the clock” each day – rendezvousing with friends, families, and lovers beneath the iconic clock. Hailed as a temple to the modern commuter, the cathedral-like Terminal was constructed to honor its visitors.

Grand Central Terminal is more than just a transportation hub – it’s also a shopping, dining, and cultural destination. There’s something for everyone with over 60 shops and 35 places to eat. The Terminal also hosts a full calendar of events, from art exhibits to holiday markets.

In 1978, architect Philip Johnson and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis campaigned to secure landmark status for the Terminal, ensuring that it would be preserved for future generations. Today, the Terminal is an iconic symbol of New York City and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings globally. Standing at 1,250 feet tall, it is the tallest building in New York City and was the tallest building until 1970. It is located on Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets in Manhattan.

The Empire State Building was built in just one year and 45 days, or more than seven million man-hours. It was the tallest building in the world at its completion in 1931 and remained so until 1970.

Historical Buildings in New York
Empire State Building

The building has two observatories, one on the 86th floor and one on the 102nd floor. Visitors can see up to 80 miles away on a clear day from these observation decks. The Empire State Building, which is one of the popular landmarks in New York, is also home to the world’s largest binocular viewers located around the building.

The Empire State Building tower lights are turned off on foggy nights during the spring and autumn bird migration seasons to not confuse birds and cause them to fly into the building.

The Shed

The Shed is a state-of-the-art cultural center in the heart of New York City’s Hudson Yards development. Featuring a retractable shell that can create an indoor/outdoor space for performances, installations, and events, The Shed is designed to be a flexible, multi-purpose venue for the performing arts, visual arts, and pop culture.

The media praised The Shed for its innovative design and commitment to commissioning, producing, and presenting a wide range of activities in the arts. It has been criticized by some community members for its potential to disrupt the surrounding neighborhood. Still, overall, reviews of The Shed have been positive. Construction on The Shed began in 2015, and it opened to the public in 2019.

Jane’s Carousel

 There are few things more magical than a carousel ride. Jane’s Carousel is a beautiful antique carousel built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It was lovingly restored and donated to the park by Jane and David Walentas. The carousel is housed in a gorgeous glass pavilion designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. The pavilion offers stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge, New York Harbor, and Lower Manhattan.

Ellis Island 

The island, which is now a part of the Statue of Liberty monument, used to be the landing port for the immigrants. A rough estimate says that about 12 million immigrants entered New York through this island from 1892-to 1954. 

LANDMARKS IN NEW YORK (3)
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is the only place in America where the story of immigration ends. Everywhere else in the country, immigration is an unending story. Ellis Island Museum tells the stories of the immigrants who were processed and detained from 1892 to 1954. Ellis Island is a living testament to the millions of immigrants in the United States. 

World Trade Center Transportation Hub  

 Hailed by architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff as “a symbol of hope” and “a triumph of civic spirit,” the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is one of the most ambitious and complex engineering projects ever undertaken in New York City.

The building, which is still under construction, is composed of two main sections: a large, oval-shaped space called the Oculus, which serves as the main entrance and exit for the PATH trains; and a network of underground tunnels and concourses that connect to the subway system, Brookfield Place, and the Fulton Street Transit Center.

The Oculus is clad in a sweeping white “rib” structure that resembles a bird in flight. The ribs are made of steel and glass, and they filter natural light into the space below. The Oculus is also lined with over 100 shops and restaurants, making it a destination in itself.

The underground concourses are spacious and well-lit, with high ceilings and various retail options. They are also easily navigable, with clear wayfinding signage and different transportation options.

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub was completed in 2016. It is one of the most iconic structures in New York City – a fitting tribute to the strength and resilience of the city and its people. 

Historical Sights and Architectures in NYC
New York Public Library

Queensboro Bridge

The Queensboro Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in New York City. It has been featured in countless movies and TV shows and is a must-see for any visitor to the city. The views from the bridge are truly stunning, and it is a great spot to take photos of the skyline. If you are visiting New York City, add the Queensboro Bridge to your must-see sights!

Metropolitan Life Tower

The MetLife Tower, now the New York Edition Hotel, is a striking example of how a building can be adaptively reused. The original office building was no longer profitable as an asset, so it was sold and redeveloped into a hotel. The new office building built in 1933 occupies the same block and is also known as the Metropolitan Life North Building. This shows how a building can be adapted to changing needs over time.

The MetLife Tower was initially built in 1909 and was known as the Metropolitan Life Tower. The tower was designed by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons and modeled after the Campanile in Venice, Italy. The tower is 50 stories tall, but the clocks on each side are three stories tall, making the tower appear shorter than it actually is. The tower was also equipped with an elevator shaft, which reduced the size of the floor plates, making the MetLife Tower unprofitable as an office asset. Consequently, the tower was sold and redeveloped into the New York Edition Hotel by Marriott. The office building that now occupies the same block was built in 1933, known as the Metropolitan Life North Building. Credit Suisse mainly occupies this building and has more than 2 million square feet of office space. The MetLife Tower is a prime example of how a building can be adaptively reused to meet the changing needs of its occupants. 

Ansonia Hotel

The Ansonia was one of the most luxurious apartment hotels of its time. It still retains much of its original grandeur today. The building has 425 apartments, ranging from studios to four bedrooms, with many unique and atypical layouts. The Ansonia’s amenities include a full-time doorman, garage, roof deck, and storage bins. The Ansonia is located at 2109 Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Paul Emily Duboy was the brain behind this grand residential hotel in Manhattan. It houses luxurious suites and rooms for the tenants. It is located at 2109 Broadway and is an iconic New York structure.

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building’s unique triangular shape allowed it to fill the wedge-shaped property at Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The building was originally built in 1902 to serve as offices for the George A. Fuller Company, a prominent Chicago contracting firm. It was designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham.

At 22 stories and 307 feet, the Flatiron Building, which is not only one of the famous landmarks in New York but also a historical and architectural marvel, was never the tallest building in New York City. However, its unique shape and popularity among photographers and artists have made it an enduring symbol of the city for more than a century.

Daniel Burnham and Frederick Dinkelberg designed this 22-storied triangular marvel in 1902. It has a steel frame and is a right-angled triangle-shaped building.

Washington Square Park

For centuries, Washington Square Park has been an integral part of New York City life. Originally used as a burial ground, the park was later transformed into a gathering spot for artists, musicians, and other creative types. The park has also served as a battleground for chess enthusiasts and a playground for children and dogs. Today, the park is still a popular meeting place for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Thanks to its rich history and diverse range of features, Washington Square Park is truly a one-of-a-kind place in the city’s heart.

Washington Square Park

Even though it is a 9.75-acre park, this is better known for being the center of performing arts, demonstrations, and shows. If you want to feel the spirit of New York City, this is a must-visit place. The Washington square arch is the most sought-after structure in the park for tourists.

Trinity Church

The current Trinity Church is the third structure to stand on the site. It was designed by architect Richard Upjohn and completed in 1846. The Gothic Revival church is built of stone, with a nave that is 200 feet long, 115 feet wide, and 80 feet high. The front facade features a large rose window and two entrances, each flanked by two turrets. The church also has some notable features inside, including stained glass windows, a pipe organ, and a carved wooden pulpit.

Trinity Church has been a prominent fixture in the New York City skyline for nearly two centuries now. It continues to be an important part of the city’s history and culture. If you’re interested in learning more about the church, or if you’re just looking for a beautiful place to visit, make sure to add Trinity Church to your list!

Brooklyn Museum  

The Brooklyn Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States. It is located in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. The museum was founded in 1823 and has a collection of more than 1.5 million objects.

The Brooklyn Museum is well known for its extensive Egyptian and African art collections. The museum also has a significant collection of 17th-, 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from many schools.

The Brooklyn Museum is committed to addressing exclusions and erasures of Indigenous peoples and confronting the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism in the Museum’s work. In recognition of the Lenape (Delaware) people, who are the original inhabitants of the land on which the Museum stands, the Brooklyn Museum honors the Lenape (Delaware) Nations, their elders past and present, and future generations.

LANDMARKS IN NEW YORK
The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

VIA 57 West

It is an upscale residential property with 32 stories. It features a full-fledged garden in the center of the building.

The goal of the Courtscraper is to bring together the best of both worlds: the density of the American skyscraper and the communal space of the European courtyard. The result is a unique, 709-unit highrise that offers residents a 22,000 sq ft garden at its core.

The building was designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, and it’s no surprise that they were able to perfectly blend these two concepts together. The result is an indeed one-of-a-kind building that will become a New York City landmark.

New York Public Library

Located in midtown Manhattan, it is an iconic building. It is now a chain of libraries all through the city of New York. It has 9 divisions, of which 8 are special collections. 

The library’s mission has always been two-fold: to provide free access to information for all people and preserve that information for future generations. This mission is reflected in the Main Library’s architecture. When it was built, the Schwarzman Building was one of the largest marble structures in the world and cost an unprecedented $9 million to construct. The building was designed to be a palace for the people, with superb features like a 60-foot-high reading room that spans the entire length of the building.

While the exterior of the Schwarzman Building is impressive, it’s the interior that will truly take your breath away. The Main Reading Room, which is now one of the most iconic locations in NYC, is where researchers and writers go to get inspired by their surroundings. The room is lined with ornate bookcases and decorated with grand chandeliers, making it feel like a palace than a library.

If you’re planning a trip to New York City, add the Main Branch of the New York Public Library to your itinerary. Even if you’re not a book lover, this historical architecture is worth visiting for its sheer size and beauty. And who knows, you might just find yourself inspired by the surroundings.

The High Line

 It is an elevated linear park built on the out-of-use southern viaduct section of the New York Central railroad. This 1.45mile-long stretch is home to plants, temporary installations, and tourists who flock to the place to have a beautiful view of the city and the Hudson River.

The park has been an enormous success, drawing visitors from all over the world. In 2017, the High Line welcomed 7.6 million visitors, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City.

The High Line is a great example of how urban spaces can be repurposed to create unique and enjoyable public spaces. If you’re ever in New York City, check it out! 

One World Trade Center

 One WTC has been designed to be extremely welcoming to visitors, with entrances on all four sides of the building. The cubic base has a footprint identical to the original Twin Towers. The surface of the base is clad in more than 2,000 pieces of shimmering prismatic glass.

The tower ascends 69 stories, its edges chamfered back to form 8 isosceles triangles, with a perfect octagon at the center. It culminates in a square, glass parapet at the crown. Its crystalline form creates a vibrant effect as light refracts like a kaleidoscope throughout the day.

The “One World Observatory” will be an enclosed observation deck rising 1,250 ft. above street level. The crown of One WTC will be a 408-foot spire consisting of a mast and a communication platform ring. At night, a beacon at the top will send out a horizontal light beam seen from miles away.

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

The Met is one of the world’s leading art museums, with a collection of thousands of years and cultures. Located in New York City, the Museum comprises three iconic sites—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters—and welcomes millions of visitors each year.

The Met’s collection is vast and diverse, encompassing everything from ancient Egyptian art to contemporary works. The Museum strives to provide a unique and memorable experience for each visitor, whether they are exploring the galleries or taking part in one of the many events and programs offered.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Woolworth Building

 It is one of the earliest New York skyscrapers. It was designed by Cass Gilbert and stood at 241m. It has a 30-storied base and a 30-storied tower. It is used for residential as well as commercial and office uses.

The Woolworth Building is one of the most famous skyscrapers in New York City, and for a good reason. The building was a showcase for modern technology at the time, boasting a 792-foot steel frame set into some of the deepest bedrock in the city. It also featured high-speed elevator service, self-sustaining electrical power, heating and cooling, water supply, and fire protection.

The Woolworth Building was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and in 1983, a New York City Landmark. With its extensive terra cotta cladding and dazzling interior, the Woolworth Building is a must-see for any visitor to NYC.

Chrysler Building

 When in the turtle bay neighborhood, don’t forget to stop by the Chrysler building. This art deco building was once the tallest in the USA, and the building was designed by William van Alen.

The Cloisters

 It is a museum in Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan. It specializes in medieval European art and architecture. The museum has about 5000 art pieces.

Waldorf Astoria 

 It is a 47-storeyed luxury hotel in Manhattan. It was designed by Schultze and Beaver in 1931.

Lincoln Center For Performing Arts

Spanning over 16.5 acres, this building complex is the budding ground for performing arts. Over 5 million tourists visit the place annually, and it has outdoor as well as indoor performing stages.

Seagram Building 

One of the most copied and iconic New York skyscrapers, the Seagram building used to be the headquarters of the Canadian distillery, Seagram. The design has a steel frame.

The Tenement Museum

The motto of the building is to promote tolerance for immigrants. The museum’s two buildings housed approximately 15000 people from over 20 countries around the world from 1863-to 2011.

The Boathouse And The Audubon Center 

It was built in 1905-07. It is the first urban Audubon Center. The building is a white marvel built-in beaux-arts style.

Vessel 

It is a 16-storeyed structure resembling a honeycomb. Visitors can take the stairs that run throughout the building and enjoy the adjoining views.

The Trinity Church
The Trinity Church

Bronx Stairs

The iconic stairs in the Joker movie are the Bronx stairs. The stairs connect Shakespeare and the Anderson avenues at west 167th in the Bronx.

The Frick Collection

This art museum features works by the likes of Bellini, Turner, and Vermeer. It was founded by Henry Clay Frick, a well-known industrialist.

Delmonico’s

Talk about fine dining in New York; talk Delmonico’s. Originally a pastry shop opened in 1827, today it is the favorite dining place for who’s who are from politics, fashion, Hollywood, and all the elite class.

Brooklyn Heights

One of the iconic residential buildings of New York since 1834, it is known for its low-rising brownstone row houses. 

Dyckman Farmhouse Museum 

The two-storeyed farmhouse is the oldest surviving farmhouse in Manhattan. It is built in dutch colonial style.

Brooklyn Borough Hall

Built in 1848 in greek revival style, the Brooklyn borough hall is now a well-known skating spot.

Little Island At Pier 55

It is an artificial island park of 2.4 acres that is supported by 132 tulips (pot-like structures).

Summit One Vanderbilt

 It is the observation deck at the top of the grand central Terminal. 

Katz’s delicatessen

 It is a kosher-style delicatessen most known for its hand-sliced corned beef.

Apollo Theater

If you wish to have a taste of noted African-American performers, head to the Apollo theater at 253 west 125th street. About 1.3 million art enthusiasts and tourists visit this place annually.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Founded in 1910, it spans over 52 acres. It is well-known for its specialty garden which houses over 14000 plant taxa. No wonder, it annually receives a footfall of over 1 million.

Queens County Farm Museum 

It is also known as the queen’s farm. It is the largest undisturbed farmland spanning over 47 acres and has been in use since 1697.

Statue of Liberty 

The most iconic and well-known landmark of New York is the Statue of liberty. Whether you see the movies or the magazines or whatever media, if it depicts New York, it has to show this lady with the lamp. 

Designed by the renowned French sculptor Frederic Auguste, this copper statue was a gift from the French people to the people of the USA. The steel frame for this stunning sculpture was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the Eiffel Tower. 

Central Park

As the largest urban park in the United States, Central Park is a true oasis in the bustling metropolis of New York City. Home to over 843 acres of green space, the park welcomes more than 42 million visitors each year.

The Central Park Conservancy is tasked with the complete day-to-day care of the park, a monumental undertaking that requires expertise and dedication. With nearly 300 employees, the Conservancy handles everything from horticulture and turf care to trash management and visitor services.

LANDMARKS IN NEW YORK
Central Park

The Conservancy is committed to serving the public’s best interests and providing the oversight necessary to ensure that this world-class greenspace is accessible to all. Funded primarily by individual donations, the Conservancy invests nearly $78 million into the Park’s care each year. This allows the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to allocate nearly its entire budget to other parks. In addition, the Conservancy’s work generates more than $1 billion in annual economic activity and supports 5,000 local jobs.

The final say

Even though New York has an impression of a modern, fast-paced city, it still has some real historic gems hidden. Don’t forget to give them a tour when you are in NYC next time.

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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