Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

Density and Class in Early Manhattan

A new study maps the borough’s rapid development and changing land-use patterns.
relates to Density and Class in Early Manhattan
Library of Congress

New York is America’s largest and most dynamic city. But how did it transform during the 19th century from a small mercantile city to an industrial powerhouse?

A recent study from Gergely Baics and Leah Meisterlin at Barnard College provides a detailed look at Manhattan’s rapidly evolving land-use patterns in the mid-19th century—after its infamous grid was laid out, but before the onset of modern zoning. What is especially intriguing about the study is its use of GIS and other modern analytic techniques to examine archives from the extensive holdings of the New York Public Library—specifically, the Perris Fire Insurance Atlas—for more than 60,000 residential, commercial, and industrial buildings during the early 1850s.