The WPA Guide to New York City

“One of the ten best books ever published about New York.” —The New York Times, February 5, 1995

“Useful, broadly informative, and amazing.” —The New York Times, July 23, 1939

This tour guide for time travelers offers New York lovers and 1930s buffs an endlessly fascinating look at life as it was lived in the days when a trolley ride cost five cents, a room at the Plaza hotel was $7.50, Dodger fans flocked to Ebbetts Field, and the new World’s Fair was the talk of the town. The New York of 1939 was a city where adventures began “under the clock” at the Biltmore, and the big liners sailed at midnight. The Yankees were on their way to four in a row, and Times Square was truly the crossroads of the world.

In many ways, New York is unchanged. The great apartment buildings of the late twenties and early thirties—the Century, the San Remo, and the Majestic—and the Manhattan skyscrapers—Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building—still speak eloquently of the heroism of urban life. Perhaps the book’s most surprising feature is that it can still be used as a guidebook, revealing layers of the immediate and distant past with unparalleled clarity while providing a constant challenge to the contemporary observer to look for traces of a city that is no more.

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