The History of New York in 15 Buildings

Sam Roberts

As New York celebrates its four hundredth birthday, this unique class tells the story of the city through bricks, glass, wood, and mortar, revealing why and how it evolved into the nation’s biggest and most influential city.

From nearly seven hundred thousand buildings, Sam Roberts selects fifteen that have been the most emblematic of the city’s economic, social, and political evolution. He describes not only the buildings and how they came to be, but also their enduring impact on the city and its people, and how the consequences of the construction often reverberate around the world.

A few structures, such as the Empire State Building, are architectural icons. However, students will also be guided beyond the familiar with intriguing stories of the personalities and exploits behind the unrivaled skyscraper’s construction. Some stretch the definition of buildings, to include the city’s oldest bridge and the landmark Coney Island Boardwalk. Others offer surprises: where the United Nations General Assembly first met; a hidden hub of global internet traffic; a nondescript factory that produced billions of dollars of currency in the poorest neighborhood in the country; and the buildings that triggered the Depression and launched the New Deal.