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Change is the only constant. -Heraclitus
Catchphrases like “urban renewal” have a nice ring to them, but none measure up to the tectonic, often brutal metamorphoses that have remade Lower Manhattan over the last century. Downtown’s defining cataclysmic event is undeniably 9/11. Yet we often forget that the original World Trade Center grew out of the wholesale demolition of an entire neighborhood, home to more than 300 businesses employing some 30,000 workers. Once a thriving paradise for electronics enthusiasts, Radio Row was reduced to rubble to make way for Minoru Yamasaki’s gleaming, gargantuan Twin Towers in the late 1960s.
We forget that almost a century ago, the first “worst terrorist attack in American history”–the Wall Street Bombing of 1920–claimed thirty-eight lives and triggered a tsunami of anti-immigrant sentiment that swept Warren Harding into the White House. We forget that lower Washington Street was once home to the biggest Arab-American community in the country, known as Little Syria, eventually wiped off the map by the transportation appetite of a burgeoning suburbia. We forget that a century before publishing giants Condé Nast and Time Inc. moved downtown, “Newspaper Row” was home to a dozen prominent national newspapers. Or that decades before the proliferation of artisanal farmers markets, the twin pillars of downtown sustenance–Washington and Fulton Markets–offered whatever genus of fresh fish or produce one could possibly conjure.
A Century Downtown raises these and other pivotal events–some mere footnotes to the city’s official history–into sharp relief. Informing and expanding on this extraordinary imagery is a rich, multilayered narrative spotlighting the parallels, ironies and oddities of downtown’s remarkable arc.
Showcasing an unprecedented collection of historical and contemporary photographs, paintings, renderings, drawings and other images culled from dozens of archives and individuals worldwide, A Century Downtown ensures that no one will ever forget the vast and varied history of this famous part of New York City.