In 1905 after years of living in Paris, author Alvan Sanborn came home to a New York City that was as he wrote, "a wilderness of sprawling ugliness." In Lower Manhattan, new 20-story skyscrapers were ruining the view, blocking the spires of churches and the swoops of the Brooklyn Bridge. Even the city's stateliest sections lacked Paris's charm, Sanborn complained; the buildings seemed to be "turning their backs most impolitely on one another." But after a month at home in the city, Sanborn's mind changed. He realized that the American city was "in the throes of creation," growing a new body to match its growing mind.


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