Croton Reservoir, 1855


“New York from Latting Observatory” by William Wellstood, 1855.

This spectacular view of lower Manhattan in 1855 shows the Croton Reservoir and Crystal Palace on what is now the site of the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Across the street from the reservoir was Croton Cottage, a tavern that served ice cream and refreshments while providing billiards and a few hotel rooms. It was a popular spot with people who came to walk around the top of the Croton Reservoir. The building was burned down during the draft riots in 1863.

The Latting Observatory was a wooden tower, built as part of the 1853 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, adjoining the New York Crystal Palace. It was located on the north side of 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues across the street from the site of present-day Bryant Park. The tallest building in the United States during its brief existence, and described afterwards as “New York’s first skyscraper”, the building’s base featured shops, while steam elevators allowed visitors to access the three landings, where telescopes allowed tourists to peer over their surroundings.

The Wellstood print is for sale at Graham Arader Galleries.


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