Software engineer Dan Vanderkam has embedded a collection of historical photos from the New York Public Library into an awesome interactive map of old New York. If you’re a history nerd, or you just love New York, prepare to waste your entire afternoon (or weekend) on this site.
Here’s how it works: Click on the map’s dots to pull up sepia-hued shots of dusty street corners and men strolling around in top hats and Times Square before the neon billboards took over. Each photo is tagged by year and includes a brief description of the location. There’s the Central Park Mall, teeming with roller skaters in 1933, when roller-skating went from mildly popular sport to craze. There’s the corner of Broadway and Morris, lined with street car tracks decades before the Wall Street Bull turned it into a bizarro tourist destination.
Vanderkam previously created a version of the project in San Francisco, and what’s striking about both sites is how little, ultimately, the cities have changed. Sure, New York’s infrastructure has transformed dramatically. The elevated tracks have given way to underground tunnels, and the street cars have disappeared only to be replaced by a (decidedly less charming) fleet of buses and taxi cabs. But the vibrant shots of public life–people at outdoor concerts, ice skaters in Central Park–reveal that though technology and fashion may have grown up, the city’s adventurous spirit has stayed the same.