Books in Review
by Adrienne Petterson 2005

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Building New York - The Rise and Rise of the Greatest City on Earth
by Bruce Marshall
Universe (Rizzoli)
ISBN 0-7893-1362-6
Published November 2005 - Hardcover - 304 pages - $49.95

The first thing you notice about this book is its size - 8.5" x 13 3/8" - it demands to be noticed.  The first picture to hit me was the Time & Life Building under construction.  It's dramatic and compelling.  The introductory text of the book is extremely interesting and provides one with a better understanding of how this magnificent city came to life.  The amazing sketch on page 13 is a superb illustration of church steeples, as is the "grid system" sketch.  What vision these pioneers had.  Even the bridges had their complex design and construction documented, thankfully.  The enormity of the buildings and bridges in New York is overwhelming and great examples are: the picture of the George Washington Bridge on page 24 (the picture on page 25 is quite magnificent too), Grand Central Station on page 35 (formerly Grand Central Depot built by Cornelius Vanderbilt), the subways, and tunnels.  Marvels of engineering in their own right and seeing the early photographs is an eye-opener.  Central Park, a highlight of Manhattan, was 843 acres and, to my astonishment, twice the size of Monaco!  You learn something new every day.  It was and still is a haven of a getaway from the city.  The book covers monuments, hotels, museums, airports, skyscrapers, amazing buildings, and the most spectacular mansions owned by the extremely wealthy, which are mind-boggling, grand and way beyond anything nowadays.  Sadly, so many of those beautiful buildings were razed and replaced.  A tragedy.  There are so many styles, designs, facts and figures, plus the history behind these sumptuous buildings, you'll never tire of paging through this masterpiece.  A nice touch I thought, was to add the names of the designers, architects, and/or engineers as well as the completion date.
Conclusion - This is a treasure of a book, especially for those who love city buildings, the architecture, and their historic background.

"I'm a writer who got interested in New York; not a New York historian who got to write about it.  So my commentary on these exciting photographs from the Getty Images archive reflects an outsider's wonderment at the creation of the most spectacular city on earth.  Socially-minded visionaries and ruthless robber barons, eccentric engineers and fearless riveters, ambitious architects and vote-seeking politicos all play parts in the story.  And they mostly performed in the age of photography.  No other great city has so immediate a record."  Bruce Marshall


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