The Latting Observatory
This hand-colored 1855 lithograph by Benjamin Franklin Smith shows the view from the Observatory of the Latting Tower looking south over the Croton Reservoir and the Crystal Palace. It clearly shows the rapidly expanding city, with many of the blocks in the foreground being relatively sparsely settled and increasing density further downtown. The smokestacks on the Hudson and East rivers show the concentration of industry along the shores. Reproductions of this and other bird's eye views of New York helped the public to understand the scale of the metropolis and the changes to the rapidly expanding city. This particular view is unusual, since it is the first bird's eye view drawn from a public site. Ascending the Latting Tower allowed people to see the changes in the city with their own eyes rather than by purchasing a print. In the foreground are the Croton Reservoir on the left and the Crystal Palace on the right. These two spectacular constructions are emblematic of New York in the 1850s. The reservoir brought an abundant, reliable water supply to the growing city, allowing it to continue its northward march across Manhattan island. The Crystal Palace heralded New York's entry into the great international exhibitions that London had initiated a few years earlier. The smokestack in the center left foreground is probably associated with the steam elevators that hoisted passengers up the Latting Tower. The lithograph was issued with a black and white numbered key that identified over a hundred buildings by name.