Union Square is a historic intersection and surrounding neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City, located where Broadway and the former Bowery Road – now Fourth Avenue – came together in the early 19th century. Its name denotes that “here was the union of the two principal thoroughfares of the island”.
When John Randel was surveying the island in preparation for the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, the Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) angled away from the Bowery at an acute angle. Because it would have been difficult to develop buildings upon this angle, the Commissioners decided to form a square at the union. In 1815, by act of the state legislature, this former potter’s field became a public commons for the city, at first named Union Place. Union Place originally was supposed to extend from 10th to 17th Streets. Several city officials objected that Union Place was too large and requested that it be “discontinued”, and in 1814, the New York State Legislature acted to downsize the area by making 14th Street the southern boundary.
It was under these constraints that architect Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi submitted his designs which were approved. A fountain was built in the center of Union Square to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct, completed in October 1842. In 1845, as the square finally began to fill with affluent houses, $116,000 was spent in paving the surrounding streets and planting the square. Union Square would also live up to its name in the spirit of the people, becoming one of the most well known meeting places for the masses, which are inevitable since the 4, 5, 6, L, N, R, and Q trains converge in the sprawling train station below.
Its iconic statue of President George Washington on horseback has long been one of the most identifiable landmarks, and a symbol of the freedom to congregate under the banner of american liberty.
An aerial view of people, horses and wagons crossing Union Square Park.
A group gathered around the newly constructed monument of George Washington in Union Square, dedicated in 1856 the the oldest sculpture in any NYC Park.
An aerial photograph shows a large crowd of spectators enjoying a parade on Broadway.
A view of 14th Street and 4th Avenue looking northwest over the Washington's Equestrian Statue at Union Square, New York City.
Photograph by George Stacy showing the bronze sculpture of George Washington by John Quincy Adams Ward, originally installed at Federal Hall National Memorial.
Aerial view of Union Square on an overcast morning. The streets are sparsly dotted with pedestrians and street cars.
A photograph shows a famous intersection of downtown Manhattan, lined with trolleys and a vastly different urban landscape.
A northeast view of Union Square and 4th Avenue crowded by trolleys and pedestrians during peak hours.
Instantaneous Panoramic View of Union Square, flanked on the right side by the famous electric trolley cars that once served as mass transit.
Print shows portion of a St. Patrick's Day parade at Union Square with a float in the center bearing a bust of Daniel O'Connell.
Views of Union Square, including the park, equestrian statue of George Washington, and the rustic buildings which once inhabited the neighborhood.
A drawing which shows a night of celebration in Union Square on July 4th, 1876, exactly 100 years since the nation's founding.
An elevated view of celebrations at Union Square Park on Decoration Day, or as we would currently know it, Memorial Day.
Aerial photograph above Union Square filled with people and horses and the Lincoln Statue in the foreground.
Photograph of the Decker Building overlooking Union Square. The structure was completed in 1892 for the Decker Brothers piano company, and designed by John H. Edelmann.
Photograph of a hansom driver standing in front of horse and cab.
Photograph of a man selling flowers to customers, framed by large bouquets against the iconic backdrop of the surrounding buildings.
A woman buys flowers from a vendor in Union Square, surrounded by local children.
Construction worker perched 5 stories above the ground during the construction of a new building at Union Square.
Rapid transit construction work at Union Square at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 14th Street, New York City, June 8, 1901
A close-up view of the Union Square Fountain with the Metropolitan Building in the background.
Unemployed men and boys meet in Union Square, which as the name implies was a common meeting point for both celebrations and protests.
Children trying to catch goldfish in the remaining puddles of Union Square's Fountain.
Two young messenger boys converse in front of a carriage near Union Square. Most of the messengers worked for telegraph companies or pharmacies.
Photograph shows overhead view of crowds tightly packed into Union Square for May Day.
Photograph of a crowded scene at Union Square for May Day - an ancient festival of spring celebrated by European cultures.
Photograph of 11 year old Tony, who shines shoes in Union Square making anywhere from $2 to $4 per day.
Learn all about NYC’s distant past as "Mannahatta" or the "Island of Many Hills".
Research the natural forces that shaped the environment, along with the people who formed the landscape and culture.
Welcome to the History of New York City - A Unique Online Gallery of NYC's Origins, Curated and Digitally Restored by Fine Print New York.
We're opening our archives to present this Collection of Vintage Photos, Historical Images and Rare Lithographs. This Exclusive Series of High Quality Art Prints are only Available for Purchase Exclusively on this Site.
Joseph Gornail, printer/photographer and founder of Fine Print New York. Joseph grew up in SoHo, Manhattan and is part of a long lineage of NYC printers, learning the family trade from his grandfather. While working for Dolo Records/Stretch Armstrong in 1996, Joseph founded All City Marketing & Printing, and in 1999 Co-Founded the legendary street wear company "Orchard Street " with lifelong friends Benjamin Holloway and Greig Bennett. Fine Print NYC was established in 2004 with a Nike project being the launchpad for a commercial printing company that has not only survived, but thrived in the digital age.
Steven Garcia, designer/illustrator and creative director of Fine Print New York. Born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Steven attended Fashion Industries High School and F.I.T. before building a successful career at Saatchi & Saatchi for as a professional retoucher and storyboard artist in 1995. Steven started ShinyDesign in 1998 and partnered with Fine Print in 2004 as the exclusive design firm for the company. Steven has independently worked on major advertising campaigns for many brands over the years, such as Snapple, The Waldorf Astoria and Sony to name a few.
Together, Joseph & Steven are responsible for the curation and direction of the History101.nyc project, which has been under development since 2006. They have a long history of collaborating together, going back as far as 2001 when Joseph was gallery manager and Steven was a curator at The New York City Urban Experience, an art gallery & museum that was located at 85 South Street and owned by Mike Saes of the Nike Bridge Runners and True Yorkers.
We cover a great portion of the city's history, ranging from its earliest days as New Amsterdam to the late 1980s. Artists are currently working on photos from the 90s to present day,
Here's a current list of what is covered:
There are currently 714 photos, lithographs, illustrations and maps on this site. Each one has been digitally restored and cleaned up by hand, which makes this collection truly unique.
Digital licenses are available for educational institutions (schools, universities, non-profit organizations). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss conditions for licensing.
NOTE: Any form of commercialization or redistribution of these images, either as tangible goods or third party licenses, is expressly forbidden.
History101.nyc is an ad-free and non-profit learning resource. We do not sell prints of these images. All operational costs are covered by Fine Print NYC
Absolutely! Feel free to send us an email with a preview of the image and we will let you know if it's a good fit for the archives.
We welcome any feedback that you may have. If it proves to be historically accurate the changes will be reflected on the site shortly after our correspondence.
We have collaborated with NYC's Municipal Archives, The Tenemant Museum, Bronx Historical Society and a number of prominent NYC photographers to produce a series of limited edition postcards which free of charge, but only available via street distribution, primarily in Manhattan.
Yes, we can repair, restore and cleanup your old family photos, slides and negatives. You can either send us the digital files or the original photos to be professionally scanned.
We can restore just about any level of damage or signs of aging, within reason. As long as most of the photo is intact we cn work with it. The one flaw we cannot fix is source material that is blurry. A poorly take photo can only be improved so much.
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History101.NYC is an ad-free learning resource available to the public at no charge.
This project is dedicated to exploring New York’s fascinating heritage through the restoration of vintage photographs and prints.