Big City Book
'Landmarks' offers New York's finest architecture
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(CNN) -- New Yorkers often use a simple method of identifying tourists walking the streets of their fair city: Out-of-towners give themselves away by cocking their heads skyward, gawking at all the tall buildings.
It's an unfair -- and deadly accurate -- assumption. After all, where else can you find such an eclectic collection of American urban architecture? From the Empire State Building to the gothic American Standard Building to the Unisphere, the Big Apple deserves all the gawking it gets.
But thanks to "The Landmarks of New York III", tourists can see some of the best New York City architecture without giving themselves away on the streets of Manhattan.
Spanning New York
"Landmarks", the third edition of a book put together by Barbaralee Diamonstein, spans three centuries, offering black and white photos and histories of more than 1,000 landmarks and 70 historic districts in five New York boroughs.
In it, readers will find plenty of the traditional tourist attractions.
For instance, a page on the Brooklyn Bridge describes how the 1,595 foot span was built using the innovative pulley-and-reel system that made it possible to weave the enormous supporting cables. During the bridge's 16-year construction, over 20 people died.
Race to the sky
The construction of the Chrysler Building offers an intriguing backstory, as well. A "stunning statement in Art Deco style by architect William Van Alen," the building was for a short time the world's tallest, before the Empire State Building was completed. Diamonstein tells the story of how a secretive Van Alen achieved that goal over other architects who were also aiming to build the highest skyscraper.
And then there's the Empire State Building, symbolizing all that is New York. Designed by William Lamb and completed in 1931, the building won the "world's tallest" race that reached a frenzy in the late 1920s.
Closer to the ground, and back in time, readers get a glimpse of Castle Clinton, built in 1807. Once a fort that promised security to the island of Manhattan, the castle was converted to a gathering place for social events, and later an immigration depot where an estimated 7.5 million people were processed as they made their way to the American dream.
All things considered
Fast-forward to the 1963-1964 World's Fair and its physical center and visual logo: The Unisphere. Its structural steel cage symbolized the dawn of the space age and "a shrinking globe and an expanding universe."
But "Landmarks" doesn't focus solely on the obvious tourist attractions. Diamonstein gives careful consideration to less spectacular, but still intriguing, works that have turned New York into a patchwork of architectural style. The American Standard Building (1923-1924), for instance, receives as much attention as St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Diamonstein, the chairperson of New York's Historic Landmarks Preservation Center, originally put the book together to reflect the city's cultural, historic and architectural heritage. Now, with New York celebrating the centennial anniversary of the creation of a Greater New York among the city's five boroughs, the revised "Landmarks" offers additional sections on more than 100 newly designated landmark buildings, interiors and 12 historic districts.
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