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Highlights from Collier's World Atlas and Gazetteer, 1947


New York City in 1947

Collier's World Atlas and Gazetteer, 1947


    New York, the commercial metropolis of the State of New York and of the United States, has an area of 320 sq. mi., and a population of 7,454,995.

    New York has five boroughs, each also a county. Manhattan (New York County), the original New York City (an island which is 12½ mi. long and 2 mi. wide and separated from the mainland by the Harlem River and Spuyten Duyvil Creek) and Welfare, Ward's, Governor's and Randall's Islands, has a total area of 22 sq. mi. and a population of 1,889,924. Bronx (Bronx County), the mainland north of Manhattan Island, and North Brother, South Brother, Rikers, City, Rodman, Hunter, and Harts islands, have a total area of 42 sq. mi. and a population of 1,394,711.

    Brooklyn (Kings County), a portion of Long Island, Coney Island (on which are located the Brighton Beaches and Manhattan Beach) and a number of islands in Jamaica Bay, has a total area of 81 sq. mi. and a population of 2,698,285. Queens (Queens County), a portion of Long Island, which includes Rockaway Beach and numerous small islands in Jamaica Bay, has a total area of 117 sq. mi. and a population of 1,297,634.

    Richmond (Richmond County), Staten Island, has an area of 57 sq. mi. and a population of 174,441. The landlocked harbor of New York includes the lower bay, the upper bay, the East River, and the North, or Hudson River. Steamships enter it from the sea by Sandy Hook through the Narrows, or through Hell Gate which connects the East River with Long Island Sound. Hudson River here averages a mile wide and is navigable for 150 miles; the East River is not so wide, but both are deep enough tor the large ships, and furnish many miles of wharfage. The Harlem River and a ship canal at the north end of Manhattan Island connect the two great rivers. The total water front of Greater New York is 578 miles.

    New York has ranked first in the U. S. in population since the taking of the first Federal census. In 1790 it was first with 33,131; in 1800, with 60,515; in 1810, with 96,373; in 1820, with 123,706; in 1830, with 202,589; in 1840, with 312,710; in 1850, with 515,547; in 1860, with 813,669; in 1870, with 942,292; in 1880, with 1,206,299; in 1890, with 1,515,301; in 1900, with 3,437,202; in 1910, with 4,766,883: in 1916, with 5,528,750; in 1920, with 5,621,151; in 1930, with 6,930,446; and in 1940, with 7,454,995, respectively.

Empire State Building, New York City, 1947

    The main portion of Manhattan, from 8th Street north to 155th Street, is laid out with severe regularity, the numbered avenues running north and south and cross streets at right angles, east and west. Broadway, the principal thoroughfare, runs north from the Battery, until at 10th Street it deflects to the west, crossing the rectangular streets diagonally. Below 10th Street the streets are irregular and narrow. In this portion of the city, in what is known as the "Lower East Side," is concentrated a large portion of the foreign resident population, living mainly in densely packed tenement houses.

    The most southerly mile of Manhattan is given over to the financial district, shipping offices and a great variety of other business and professional offices. From 23rd Street to 59th Street is an area the center of which is given over primarily to hotels, theaters and large retail department stores, flanked on both sides with residential property and industrial plants. Centering on 42nd Street is the new midtown skyscraper zone.

    The 125th Street region is known as Harlem. The high ground above Harlem on the west side is known as Washington Heights. Central Park, 2½ miles long, about ½ mile wide, 840 acres, between 59th and 110th Streets, and Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, is the chief city park. It contains lakes, a menagerie, an Egyptian obelisk, "Cleopatra's Needle" (1500 B.C.), many statues, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other parks are Van Cortlandt Park, 1,132 acres; Pelham Bay Park, 1,788 acres; and Bronx Park, 719 acres, containing the Botanical and Zoological Gardens. On Morningside Heights are located the buildings of Columbia University, St. Luke's Hospital, and the great Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The Croton and the Catskill aqueducts supply the city's water.

    The architecture of New York exhibits great contrasts and diverse styles. The steel frame building or "sky-scraper," is characteristic of New York, where there are more edifices of this style of structure than in any other city. Notable among them may be mentioned: Empire State, 102 stories, 1,250 feet; Chrysler, 77 stories, 1,046 feet; Cities Service, 67 stories, 950 feet; Radio City—Central Tower, 70 stories, 853 feet; Manhattan Company, 71 stories, 838 feet: Woolworth, 60 stories, 792 feet; City Bank Farmers' Trust, 60 stories, 686 feet; Metropolitan Life, 52 Stories, 700 feet; 500 Fifth Avenue, 58 stories, 697 feet; Chanin, 56 stories, 680 feet; Lincoln, 50 stories, 638 feet; Irving Trust, 51 stories, 654 feet.

    Other notable buildings are the Custom-house and the Produce Exchange at the foot of Broadway, the Stock Exchange on Broad Street; the City Hall dating from 1803; the County Court House, 1861; the Federal Building; the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in Madison Square, a white marble structure in Corinthian style; the "Flatiron" building on a triangular lot at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street; the Grand Central Station, at 42nd Street and Park Avenue: the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets; the Post-office building at 8th Avenue and 32nd Street, facing Pennsylvania Station; the Museum of Natural History at 77th Street, with the Planetarium at 81st and Central Park West; the buildings of Columbia University at 116th Street, and of the College of the City of New York, at 138th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

    Among the educational institutions of New York, first place is held by Columbia University (chartered in 1754 as King's College). Associated with it are Barnard College (for women); the Teachers College, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Among other educational institutions are New York University (1831); the four municipal colleges, College of the City of New York, Hunter, Brooklyn, and Queens Colleges; Cooper Union, in which nearly all the courses are free; Fordham University, Manhattan, and St. Francis Xavier, Roman Catholic Colleges; besides many professional schools.

    Notable churches are St. Patrick's Cathedral (Roman Catholic); Riverside Church (Baptist); Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. Paul's Chapel; Trinity, Grace, St. Thomas's, St. George's, and St. Bartholomew's (Episcopal) ; the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian; Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal; the Broadway Tabernacle (Congregational); All Souls (Unitarian); the Divine Paternity (Universalist); the First and Second Churches of Christ, Scientist; the Temples Emanu-El, and Israel (Jewish).

    The Astor and Lenox Libraries, with the aid of the Tilden Trust, were consolidated into the New York Public Library, for which a new building was built at a cost of $9,000,000, and which possesses approximately 4,000,000 volumes. It maintains numerous branch circulating libraries throughout Greater New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Central Park, near 82d Street, contains paintings, statuary, ivories, tapestries, porcelains, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities. The American Museum of Natural History, 77th Street and Central Park West, contains collections of natural history, paleontology, and ethnology. Pertaining to it are the Planetarium and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Building. There are nearly 200 theaters, music halls, and similar first-class amusement places in the city.

Columbia Resbyterian Medical Center, New York City, 1947

    As a business center, New York has long been not only the first city of this continent, but the first or second city of the world, London being its only rival. It is the greatest seaport of the world. The port of New York receives two-thirds of the imports into the United States, and one-third of the exports pass out of it. The principal exports are grain, flour, cotton, tobacco, petroleum, dairy products, iron, and steel goods, fruits, cattle and frozen meat. The manufactures of New York cover a wide range of products.

    Greater New York has a large mileage of Street, Elevated and Subway tracks. Tubes under the East River extend the subway system through Brooklyn and outlying points. There are two sets of tubes under the Hudson, connecting Manhattan with Jersey City.

    Only one of four elevated lines still remains, running on Third Avenue, south and north through Manhattan. Most of the numerous surface car lines have been replaced by bus lines. The Holland Tunnel extends under the Hudson River between Manhattan and Jersey City. It consists of twin tubes which accommodate four lanes of vehicular traffic. Lincoln Tunnel, at 38th Street, a vehicular tunnel passing under the Hudson, was opened in 1938. The Queens Midtown Tunnel, at 37th Street, a vehicular tunnel extending under the East River and connecting Manhattan and Queens, was opened in 1940. The projected Midtown Underpass will link this tunnel with the Lincoln Tunnel. George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River between Manhattan and Fort Lee, N. J. West Side Express Highway is a partly elevated roadway, with three lanes each of north and south motor traffic. It extends along the Hudson from Duane Street (eventually from the Battery) to connect with Riverside Drive and Henry Hudson Parkway at 72nd Street. The East River Drive, a part of the express highway system that will encircle Manhattan Island, has two four-lane sections in use. The Triborough Bridge was completed in 1936 and connects the boroughs of Manhattan, Bronx and Queens. The Whitestone Bridge, spanning the East River between Bronx and Queens, was opened in 1939. The Belt Parkway, completed in 1940, starts at the Whitestone Bridge, passes through the outskirts of Brooklyn and ends in Bay Ridge. It will eventually join the projected Battery-Brooklyn Tunnel, as part of a system of superhighways linking the boroughs of New York.

    Among the great railways that start from New York are the New York Central; Central of New Jersey; the New York, New Haven and Hartford; the Pennsylvania; the Baltimore and Ohio; the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western; the New York, Ontario and Western; the Erie; the Lehigh Valley; the West Shore; the Long Island; the New York, Susquehanna and Western. Most of these have their termini at Jersey City or Hoboken, being connected with Manhattan by ferries and by the two extensive tunnel systems under the Hudson River. The Pennsylvania Railroad has a large terminal station in the heart of the city, trains running through tunnels under the Hudson River to the South and West, and under the East River to points on the Long Island Railroad.

    The new Air Lines Terminal, at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, was opened to passenger traffic in 1941. Express bus service is provided to La Guardia Field, the New York Municipal Airport, which is located on Flushing Bay. The airport is a terminal for both land and transoceanic planes.

    The site of the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair near Flushing Bay on Long Island will be converted into a permanent formal park for the citizens of Greater New York.

    The approaches to the harbor of New York are defended by strong fortifications at Sandy Hook, the Narrows, and at the head of Long Island Sound. On both sides of the lower sections of the city the river front presents a succession of piers crowded with shipping and local ferries.

    Near the head of New York Bay are two islands belonging to the United States. These are Governors Island, a military station, and Bedloe's Island, not now fortified, and site of Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty. Blackwell's Island, connected by bridge with Manhattan and Queens, contains city institutions. Connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn are three magnificent suspension bridges: Brooklyn Bridge, 6,016 feet long; Williamsburg Bridge, with a total 7,308 feet, and Manhattan Bridge, with a total length of 6,855 feet. Queensboro Bridge, which has a total length of 7,449 feet, connects Manhattan with Queens.

    Verrazano probably entered New York Bay in 1524. In 1609 Henry Hudson sailed up New York Bay and the Hudson River, and four years later the Dutch began the establishment of trading posts on Manhattan Island, where a settlement soon rose which received the name of New Amsterdam. In 1664 the town was surrendered to the English, and was given the name of New York. New York was the meeting-place of Congress from 1785 to 1790, and Washington was inaugurated President here in 1789. In 1807 the first steamboat, starting from this city, navigated the Hudson. Steam communication with the Old World was inaugurated in 1838. In 1873 the limits of the city were extended beyond Manhattan Island to include Morrisania, West Farms, and Kingsbridge, and in 1898 New York, Brooklyn and the rest of what are now the city's five boroughs, united to make a greater New York.

Rockefeller Center, New York City, 1947

    Brooklyn Borough is situated on the western extremity of Long Island, on New York Bay, and the East River, extending from the ocean at Coney Island to the East River and New York Harbor. The northern part of Brooklyn consists of the former city of Williamsburg and the town of Greenpoint. It occupies the whole of Kings County. In the west central part, on Wallabout Bay, is located the United States Navy Yard. The shore opposite lower New York is an irregular bluff, with an elevation of about 90 feet, and is known as Brooklyn Heights, where are located many fashionable residences and club-houses. The main business street is Fulton Street, from Fulton Ferry to East New York, and contains some of the largest retail establishments in the United States. Clinton Street (on the Heights) is the handsomest street in the city, and is lined with fine residences surrounded by ornamental grounds and shade trees. Other fashionable residence streets are Remsen, Montague and Pierrepont. The favorite drive is through Prospect Park and along the Ocean Parkway, a boulevard 210 feet wide, extending to the seashore at Coney Island. About one-half mile southeast of Prospect Park is Greenwood Cemetery.

    Prospect Park, with 526 acres, is the second largest park in Brooklyn. (The largest is Marine Park, 1,767 acres.) Prospect Park is situated on an elevated ridge, commands a magnificent view, and is one of the most picturesque parks in the United States.

    The principal public buildings of Brooklyn are grouped together about the Borough Hall. This building is of white marble in the Ionic style. The Kings County Court-house stands east of the Borough Hall, and has a marble front with a Corinthian portico and an iron dome over 100 feet high. Near the court-house are the Municipal Building and the Hall of Records, both of marble. The Federal Building is the finest structure in the borough, built of granite at a cost of $5,000,000. It is in the Romanesque style, with numerous turrets and a tall tower. It is occupied by the post office and the United States courts.

    Other notable buildings and institutions are the Academy of Music, Pratt Institute (technical school), the new Brooklyn Library, opened in 1941, the Art Association Building, the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Long Island Historical Society, Packer Collegiate Institute (women), Brooklyn College of Pharmacy, and the museum of the Brooklyn Institute. Important hospitals are the Long Island College, Kings County, Brooklyn State, Israel Zion, and St. Mary's. Of Brooklyn's 575 ecclesiastical edifices, the best known is Plymouth Church. The Atlantic Dock, and the Erie and Brooklyn Basins are among the most extensive works of the kind in the country. The former embraces 40 acres, while the latter occupy 60 and 40 acres respectively. Over $200,000,000 has been spent on Brooklyn's shore line, which extends 200 miles, and with the completion of pending improvements on Jamaica Bay, will extend 150 miles more. More than half of New York's foreign commerce is handled at the Brooklyn docks, which are used by more than 40 steamship lines, with a fleet of 700 vessels. Associated with the navy yard are two drydocks, 465 and 307 feet long.

    The manufactures are legion, making Brooklyn one of the country's most important industrial centers. The Borough also contains one terminus of the Long Island Railroad system. There are several lines of subway and elevated roads and suburban trolleys.

    Brooklyn was settled by the Dutch in 1636, and in 1646 was incorporated by the authorities of New Amsterdam under the name of Breukelen. It came into the possession of the English in 1666. In 1776 the Battle of Long Island was fought upon the site of Prospect Park. Brooklyn was incorporated as a village in 1816 and as a city in 1834. In 1894 the city was made coextensive with Kings County, and in 1898 united with the city of New York to constitute the borough of Brooklyn. It is more populous than Manhattan, having at the last census a population of 2,698,285.


Click on the map below to greatly enlarge it in a new window.

Map of New York City, 1947