NYC Urbanism: A spectacular snapshot dip into New York City history

The photo sharing service Instagram is a tricky site if you’re a history buff. By design, it’s meant to capture the immediate moment, often drenched in a filter to make things seem nostalgic or historic. The Bowery Boys have an Instagram account if you’d like to follow us along there, although we are mostly just documenting our journeys through the city, stopping to photograph places we are researching for upcoming shows or simply locating hidden spots of historical interest.

However I’d like to draw your attention to somebody else’s account which I think you’ll enjoy. Josh Vogel, a curator at the Skyscraper Museum (you can see his work at their latest show Ten & Taller), operates an independent Instagram account called NYC Urbanism, offering up old photographs, maps and drawings of Old New York for you to ogle in place of the usual selfies and photos of food.

The images, many of them rarely seen, provide a rich and interesting portal into the past via a photo app that seems initially unsuited for such fascinating discovery. NYC Urbanism has taken a tool meant to render superficial displays of nostalgia and turned it into something legitimate.

Vogel recently helped me out on the latest episode of The First podcast, focusing on the invention of the first electric chair. (Check out the episode if you haven’t; it’s a fascinating and bizarre tale set in upstate New York.)

Below are a few of my favorite posts from his account. Head over to Instagram and follow NYC Urbanism for little daily doses of eye-popping New York history:

#MapMondays! 1930 plan to fill New York Harbor with landfill! The proposal by T. Kennard Thomson was originally published in 1911 in Popular Science and would have filled the entire east river with landfill in addition to creating new peninsulas off of Staten Island, Bayonne and Sandy Hook, totaling fifty square miles overall! With the East River gone, Thomson proposes connecting the Long Island Sound back to the harbor by digging a new channel from Flushing through #Brooklyn. Thomson revised the plan in 1930 (seen above), naming the new landfill City of New Manhattan, half of which would be in the state of New Jersey, separated by the extension of Broadway which would be a grand boulevard over railroad tracks and end in a tunnel to Staten Island – no need to keep the Staten Island Ferry around! This grand boulevard would be four miles long and three decks high, with levels for trains, automobiles and airplane landings! Tunnels would also go from Sunset Park to Bayonne, Red Hook to Jersey City and Cobble Hill to Jersey City. #MapMonday

A photo posted by NYC URBANISM (@nycurbanism) on

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