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Manhattan: Then and Now


The New Yorker has posted a very cool slide show based on images from the Manahatta Project, organized from within the Landscape Ecology and Geographic Analysis Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society. The project is attempting to reconstruct the ecology of Manhattan as it would have been when Henry Hudson first saw it in September 1609:

"The Mannahatta Project will help us to understand, down to the level of one city block, where in Manhattan streams once flowed or where American Chestnuts may have grown, where black bears once marked territories, and where the Lenape fished and hunted."

Below, "Times Square, then and now. The area once featured a red-maple swamp frequented by beavers, wood ducks, and elk."


Mapping Manahatta [the new yorker]
The Mannahatta Project [official site]

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  1. Andy--Thanks for posting this! So cool!

    Posted by: Joe | Mar 5, 2008 2:39:36 PM

  2. Here in L.A. we are frequently maligned for our urban sprawl. And I've noticed that New Yorkers seems to take a bit more pleasure than others in this disparagement of Los Angeles. I'm wondering if all that will change now that New Yorkers see what Manhattan looked like before it was turned into America's most crowded city. Don't get me wrong...I love New York. I just think New Yorkers tend to look down their noses at Southern California, most times unfairly.

    Posted by: peterparker | Mar 5, 2008 3:11:05 PM

  3. That is EXTREMELY awesome. I have to admit I have actually wondered, many many times even, what the US looked like before colonialism. It's just too bad they can't straight-up call it the Manhattan Project... that name's been ruined forever.

    Posted by: oakling | Mar 5, 2008 3:59:39 PM

  4. PP: ah, what about LA before the cars? Manhattan comes in a nice neat little package, limited by water on all sides. LA defines sprawl, and given how new it is, might have planned better for the automobile age.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 5, 2008 4:48:23 PM

  5. Crowded doesn't necessarily mean sprawl. The urban vision is to have everything you could need in a compact little package. And Manhattan is the epitome of a successful urban project.

    After New York, San Francisco's the second most crowded city in America (16,000 persons per square mile), but it doesn't sprawl either.

    Posted by: John | Mar 5, 2008 5:13:47 PM

  6. JOHN...after seeing that computer rendering of what the island of Manhattan looked like before millions and millions of tons of concrete were poured and buildings erected, it is difficult to call it a 'successful urban project'. Yes, I understand: a dense, compact city is preferable in many ways to sprawl, primarily because it cuts down on carbon emissions emitted from millions of automobiles. But did you know that the average home emits more carbon per year than a Hummer? Frankly, neither Los Angeles nor New York are examples of responsible stewardship of the environment. But I will say this about Los Angeles: I have a decent sized yard that is FILLED with trees that suck up the carbon dioxide. How many New Yorkers can say that?

    Posted by: peterparker | Mar 5, 2008 8:26:02 PM

  7. Yeah, LA still all kinds of fug.

    Posted by: sugarrhill | Mar 6, 2008 8:18:53 PM

  8. Most people in Manhattan walk more than any one else in the country-nor do most of them own cars. By the compact construction of the city less energy is expended. Fewer washing machines. One quarter of all public transportation in this country is in New York City. Try taking a bus anywhere in Florida or california (except San francisco which is another walking city).

    Posted by: onfire | Mar 7, 2008 12:41:51 AM

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