- Times Square wasn’t tourist-friendly until the 1990s.
- Ellis Island is now an immigration museum where people can research their family history.
- After the Twin Towers were destroyed in the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, One World Trade Center was completed in 2014.
- Grand Central Station has remained intact thanks to protective legislation.
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Nearly 65.2 million tourists visited New York City in 2018, according to Travel Pulse, and that number keeps growing.
There’s no shortage of sites to see in the city that never sleeps – even if some of them are tourist traps. And while some of New York City’s most famous attractions have changed drastically since the early 1900s, others have remained largely the same.
Here’s what 12 New York City landmarks looked like back in the day.
The Statue of Liberty is an iconic symbol of freedom in New York Harbor.
Over 4.5 million people visited the Statue of Liberty in 2016.
Hurricane Sandy did serious damage to Liberty Island in 2012, flooding 75% of the island and closing it for several months.
Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954.
A 17-year-old girl named Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island in 1892. She and her two brothers had arrived from County Cork, Ireland.
Ellis Island is now a museum where people can research their family’s history.
The database contains information about people who passed through Ellis Island up until 1924.
The Empire State building was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1931.
The Empire State building is 1,250 feet tall and has 102 stories. Its 200-foot antenna was added in 1950.
It attracts around 3.5 million visitors every year.
- Mihai Simonia/Shutterstock
The building is also a mainstay in pop culture thanks to movies like “King Kong” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Central Park opened in 1858, and horse-drawn carriage rides have been offered there since 1863.
It’s still one of the best ways to see the park.
Horse-drawn carriages offer special rides for proposals and other special occasions.
Times Square wasn’t always tourist-friendly.
It got its name when The New York Times moved its offices to the area in 1904. Even when they relocated in 1913, the name stuck.
In the aftermath of The Great Depression, it became known as a major center for drug trade, prostitution, and criminal activity. Rolling Stone called it “the sleaziest block in America” in 1981, according to the landmark’s official website.
Now, it’s a hub of Broadway shows and public transportation.
- Andrew F Kazmierski/iStock
In the 1990s, the combined efforts of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and investments by Disney in the area transformed it into a top tourist destination. Local New Yorkers do their best avoid its congested streets full of slow-walking visitors and costumed characters at all costs, but tourists love it.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Ave opened in 1880.
Before its current location, the museum was located at the Douglas Mansion on 14th Street.
Several additions to the building have been made over the years.
- Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock
New wings of the museum house Impressionist art, Renaissance sculptures, and contemporary works.
Dinosaurs have always been a draw at the American Museum of Natural History.
The Hall of Late Dinosaurs opened in 1939 with an enormous tyrannosaurus rex skeleton as the main attraction.
The museum now houses a cast of a 122-foot-long dinosaur, one of the largest ever discovered.
Known as a titanosaur, the fossils were discovered in Argentina in 2014.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was a small affair in the 1930s.
Workers used to collect their paychecks at the Christmas tree during the Great Depression. The first tree in 1931 was 20 feet tall.
Today, the star-studded tree lighting ceremony is broadcast around the world.
- Brad Barket/Stringer/Getty Images
In 2018, the 72-foot tree contained over 50,000 lights and was visited by around 750,000 people every day during the holiday season.
It took 14 years to build the Brooklyn Bridge, from 1869 to 1883.
At 1,595 feet long, it was the longest bridge in the world until 1890, when the Forth Bridge was completed in Scotland.
The Brooklyn Bridge has earned the nickname “Times Square in the Sky” for its massive crowds, according to the New York Times.
- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Grand Central Station was built in 1913.
Its architectural marvels include a 125-foot ceiling with a mural of constellations and an ornate clock surrounded by sculptures of eagles and Roman gods.
It has been protected by the Landmarks Law passed in 1965.
After the old Penn Station was demolished in 1963, the Landmarks Law was passed to preserve historic buildings in the city.
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were a prominent part of New York City’s skyline.
- REUTERS/Enrique Shore
“The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were a familiar sight to New Yorkers,” Brittany Fowler wrote in Business Insider. “For decades, you looked up, and they were there. It was a reassuring sight.”
After the towers were destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2011, One World Trade Center was completed in 2014.
- Phil Dolby/Flickr
One World Trade Center is 1,776 feet tall – a reference to signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
- Read more:
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- The 16 worst tourist traps in New York City and where to go instead
- I’ve lived in New York City my entire life – here are the best places to actually eat
- 26 stunning photos that show how much city skylines have changed over the years
Before the neighborhood of Hudson Yards was built, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s rail yards took up 28 acres on Manhattan’s west side.
In order to build Hudson Yards, a platform was constructed above the 30 Long Island Rail Road train tracks.
Hudson Yards is now the most expensive real-estate development in US history at a total cost of $25 billion.
- Business Insider/Jessica Tyler
The neighborhood includes an office tower at 55 Hudson Yards, a performance venue called The Shed, and a 150-foot tall honeycomb structure known as the Vessel. The entire 28-acre project is set to be completed in 2024.