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A 3D Animation Shows the Evolution of New York City (1524 – 2023)

Open Culture: “Nearly two and a half centuries after its founding, the United States of America is still both celebrated and derided as a young country. Examined on the whole, the US may or may not seem less mature than other lands in any obvious way, but the difference manifests much more clearly on the level of cities. For even among those founded before the independence of the country itself, no American city has yet attained 500 official years of age. But in the case of New York City, we can trace its formation through half a millennium of history, as rendered in the 3D animated video from InfoGeek above. The long version of New York’s story begins in 1524, the year Giovanni da Verrazzano commanded the French ship La Dauphine into what we now know as New York Harbor. While he and his crew did not, of course, get the dramatic forest-of-skyscrapers view for which that approach would later be celebrated, they would, perhaps, have seen an actual forest, as well as other elements of a natural landscape that would have appeared sublimely untouched. A century later, the Dutch there founded the trading outpost of New Amsterdam, which commenced the written history of New York — as well as the aggressive development that would eventually come to characterize the city and its culture. New Amsterdam became New York in 1664, one of the many historical events that scroll past in the window at the video’s lower-left corner. At that point in time, the population had grown to about 3,600, a figure counted at the bottom of the frame. Yet even as we see streets roll out, buildings rise, and trees sprout rapidly around us over the next 150 or so years of our stroll, and even after New York becomes America’s largest city in 1790, we must bear in mind that its century hasn’t even begun. It’s something of an irony that the hugely destructive Great Fire of 1835 precedes a developmental push that makes the city, even to our twenty-first-century eyes, look almost modern. Later in the nineteenth century, we witness the appearance of Central Park and the introduction of motorcars; by the turn of the twentieth, New York’s population approaches three and a half million. Walking down Wall Street (and into the Great Depression), we pass just-materializing landmarks that remain iconic today, like the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and — after a somewhat dramatic fast-forward in time — Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Minoru Yamasaki’s ill-fated World Trade Center. We’re now well into the New York of living memory, and even when the animation has passed the creative decrepitude of the seventies and eighties and arrives at the city as it was last year (population: 7,888,120), we sense that its evolution has only just begun…”

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