From 1909 until 1931 a series of skyscrapers were built which claimed the title of the world’s tallest building. Skinny, masonry skyscrapers dominated the skyline. The Singer Building was first. Then came the Metropolitan Life Clock Tower near Madison Park. Then came the Woolworth Building. Next were 40 Wall Street, The Chrysler Building, and of course the Empire State Building.
1955 6 (23) New York by Michael Cairns, on Flickr
throughout the 40s skyscraper construction declined due to the war and its aftermath. In the 50s metal and glass facades began to appear, especially on ‘wedding cake’ style buildings.
New York / 750 3rd Avenue from 46th to 47th Street, west side. May 14, ca.1958 by cobravictor, on Flickr
Manhattan’s skyline developed into the incredible density we recognize today between the 60s and late 70s. Modernism birthed massive boxy skyscrapers which occupied lots of space in midtown and downtown. One Chase Manhattan Plaza, The Panam/Metlife Building, the Twin Towers, and the Citigroup Center were the icons to emerge out of this period.
aerial view of midtown manhattan looking south above 59th street february 1975 by eralsoto, on Flickr
In the 1980s crisis struck - massive crime rates and depopulation plagued the city. Despite this, development continued in Manhattan. Changes to the skyline became harder to notice because of the density which had already been created. Battery Park City was a notable exception - an entire neighborhood built on landfill next to the WTC.
NY twin towers 1982 by Werner Bayer, on Flickr
The 1990s were a rebounding period. Crime rates declined by the middle of the decade and gentrification began in earnest - particularly in Times Square. If you were to see the skyline then, you would only notice the absence of a few towers.
Lower Manhattan, 1990 by Phillip Capper, on Flickr
NYC Midtown Skyline by ll1861, on Flickr