We often understand and know a place by the landmarks contained within it. A lot of the landmarks that have become famous today have actually been around for centuries. Bridges, monuments, buildings, and city landscapes across the globe have withstood the test of time. Even though they’ve been around for a while, you might not recognize what they looked like when they were first built.
They don’t make landmarks like they used to anymore. Keep reading to see what the landmarks you know and love looked like back in the day.
The Lincoln Memorial
The demand to memorialize the United States’ 16th president came swiftly after his assassination in 1865. Two years later, Congress put forth bills to commission a monument in Abraham Lincoln’s honor.
It took almost 50 years before ground broke to start constructing the memorial and another ten or so until it was finally completed. It was originally intended to have six equestrian statues, 31 pedestrian statues, and a 12-foot statue of Lincoln, but instead, we have the simple, stately version that stands today. At the time of the Lincoln Memorial’s completion in 1922, the reflection pool that sits between it and the Washington Monument was still under construction.
What It Looks Like Now
The Lincoln Memorial is inscribed with excerpts from two of Lincoln’s most famous speeches: The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. He is largely regarded as a “Savior of the Union,” so it’s only right that the monument has served as a site for many protests and speeches throughout the years.
The most notable event in history to occur at the Lincoln Memorial is perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963, which he gave at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the present day, the Lincoln Memorial sees around 6 million visitors annually.
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was once known as “the wall of shame.” It was put up in 1961 to divide East and West Germany. It stood fast in its spot for nearly three decades.
The wall was heavily guarded, and intended to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany, and potentially undermining the socialist state. Before the wall was built, around 3.5 million East Germans made the crossing over to West Berlin. The wall wasn’t all that tall, but it stood as a stark reminder of how divided the country had become.
When The Berlin Wall Came Down
By 1989, people had had enough. Social change was brewing in Europe and revolutions in Poland and Hungary were already underway. Major stars like David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and David Hasselhoff urged the government to take down the wall.
The German government yielded to the pressure and announced that all GDR citizens would now be able to freely visit West Berlin. Immediately, people began climbing over the wall and crossing the border. People took it upon themselves to tear down parts of the wall which officially fell in October of 1990.
Las Vegas Back In The Day
The Las Vegas Strip is what anyone thinks about when they think of Sin City. But before there was the Strip, there was Fremont Street, which has been around since Las Vegas’s founding in 1905. Fremont Street was the pioneer of anything that happened in Vegas.
In 1925, it became the first paved street in Las Vegas and received the city’s first traffic light in 1931. Though gambling has long been established before it was legal, Fremont Street was one of the first places in Nevada to gain a gambling license. Fremont Street was the hub for Vegas activity back in the day, but now it looks nothing like it did back then.
Fremont Street Is Brighter Than Ever
This is what Fremont Street looks like in the present day and as you can see, it’s more or less a walkway than it is a street. The Golden Nugget obviously got a bright, shiny face lift, but the most striking development is the barrel vault canopy that cloaks it.
It is the main attraction of the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall with an array of attractions for those who are knowledgeable enough to venture off the strip and into Downtown Las Vegas. Nightly light and sound shows are displayed on the LED canopy above the street, a multi-million dollar installment that has revived business in that area.
The Flatiron Building
This is a picture of New York City’s Flatiron Building in 1903, as evident by the horse-drawn carriages and literal street sweepers in the photo. At the time, the building had been up for about a year and was intended to serve as offices for Chicago contracting firm, George A. Fuller Company.
The building is widely believed to have taken its name from its distinctive shape, but the name has been applied to the area before the building even went up. A triangular space of land was contained by Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 22nd and 23rd Streets.
Those Precious Triangular Offices
Today, the Flatiron Building is surrounded by more imposing skyscrapers that lend themselves to lower Manhattan’s skyline. The 22-story building still serves as office space and is currently home to several publishing companies.
According to those who work there, the Flatiron Building houses some strangely-angled offices. Despite the awkward shape, these are some of the most coveted offices in the building as they offer superb views to northern Manhattan, particularly the Empire State Building. Another quirk about the building is that the gendered bathrooms are placed on alternating floors. Men’s restrooms are on even floors, while the women’s are on odd floors.
How Oil Trade Helped Fuel Dubai
It’s hard to believe that Dubai was almost barren desert in the year 2000. But it was around this time that Dubai was on the heels of becoming the largest and most populous city of the United Arab Emirates.
In the early 20th century, Dubai’s prime location on the southeastern coast of the Persian Gulf made it a hotbed for fishing, farming, and pearl diving before its economy was primarily fueled by oil. Soon, the oil trade became the city’s main source of revenue, lending itself to much of its modern development. In this photo from 2005, you can see the beginnings of the world’s tallest building.
The Tallest Freestanding Structure In The World
This is what Dubai looked like by 2009. The Burj Khalifa is the imposing building in the midst of it all and is currently the world’s tallest building at 2,717 feet. Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, once claimed, “Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place.”
Today, the city hasn’t failed to boost this claim. Not only is Dubai home to the tallest building, but it also lays claim to the world’s tallest hotel, the world’s largest shopping center, the largest indoor theme park, and the longest fully automated metro network. Presently, much of the oil reserves are limited and in low production, but the city is now able to support itself from tourism.
The Brandenburg Gate Barely Survived
Brandenburger Tor (The Brandenburg Gate) in Berlin is one of the ultimate symbols of Germany, having withstood all of the profound moments throughout the country’s history. The gate was commissioned by Prussian king Frederick William II in 1791.
Architect Carl Gotthard Langhans designed the gate inspired by the Acropolis in Athens. The Quadriga, a sculpture of a four-horsed chariot driven by the goddess Victoria, is the gate’s most distinctive feature and was once stolen by Napoleon as a war trophy. After it was reclaimed and restored, it remained through Germany’s worst times, including Nazi rule during World War II, as you can see in this photo from 1945.
A Symbol Of German Unification
One of the most profound moments of Brandenburg Tor’s history was its service as a part of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Upon John F. Kennedy’s visit to Germany in 1963, Soviet authorities hung red banners across the gate to shroud views into East Germany.
The gate was the site of Ronald Reagan’s 1987 speech in which he proclaimed, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The appeal was met when the Cold War ended in 1989 and East and West Berliners met at Brandenburg Gate for the first time in decades. Today, the gate is a symbol of a unified Germany.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower was originally built as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. Paris hosted the fair on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and at the time, over a hundred artists submitted proposals for a monument on the Champ de Mars.
It was acclaimed bridge builder Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel who was given the honor of constructing the monument. Maurice Koechlin, one of his employees at Eiffel et Compagnie, came up with the idea for the wrought-iron tower.
A Symbol Of Paris
Just creating the iron framework for this structure took two whole years. That all happened before assembly started. Eiffel and Koechlin actually worked together on a monument before. They collaborated to create the Statue of Liberty.
When the Eiffel Tower made its debut in 1889, it was the tallest building in the world at 1,000 feet high. In 1930, New York’s Chrysler Building usurped that title. It was supposed to be taken down in 1909 but proved useful as a radiotelegraph station during World War I.
A Bridge For San Fransisco
This is what The Golden Gate Bridge looked like as it was being built. This bridge isn’t just a sight for sore eyes, it’s also extremely useful for the people of San Francisco. People who worked in the city really wanted a way to easily get from the metropolis of San Francisco to its northern suburban neighbors. Joseph Strauss, an engineer from Chicago, was hired to build the bridge in 1919, stating it would cost $30 million or less.
A lot of people were against the bridge’s construction because they thought it would take away from the natural beauty around it.
A Modern Engineering Marvel
Even though some people were against it, more people wanted to see it built, so construction on the bridge went ahead as planned. To stop workers from falling into the ocean while they were working, a net was installed under the construction site. Nineteen different workers ended up being saved by that net.
Over the four years it took to complete the bridge, there was only one major casualty. In 1937, a scaffold fell through the net, killing 10 workers. At 1.7 miles long and 90 feet wide, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most impressive, and one of the most photographed bridges in the world.
The Gateway Arch
Located in St. Louis, Missouri, the Gateway Arch is officially the tallest arch in the world. Standing at a bassive 630 feet, the arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. He designed the plans in 1947, construction began in 1963, and it was completed in 1965.
Designed with stainless steel, the arch represents America’s westward expansion, and was officially dedicated to the American people. The building of the arch cost an equivalent of $77.5 million today. Some citizens were concerned of all the public money that was being used to fund the project, but those backing it said it would stimulate the economy and revive the riverfront.
Still A Piece Of History
While some saw it as a frivolous project, the Gateway Arch still stands and is well-respected today. City planners carefully considered the arch when developing plans around it, making sure not to block or obstruct the view.
The arch became a national landmark in 1987 and in 1974 ranked fourth on the list of “most-visited man-made attractions.” Everything from lighting to security is carefully planned for the arch that holds great meaning to many Americans.
The World Trade Center
Although the World Trade Center consisted of seven buildings in lower Manhattan, it was the iconic Twin Towers that stood out in the New York City skyline. The concept of the World Trade Center was first proposed in 1943, but it wasn’t until David Rockefeller encouraged the project that it went through.
Many engineers and construction firms came together to put the plans into fruition. Elevators were a concern at the time, with a building so tall, as well as resistant to wind. Construction began on August 5, 1966, and was completed on April 4, 1973.
September 11, 2001 was the fateful day that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center would be targeted and destroyed by terrorists. The September 11th attacks killed 2,606 people in and around the towers in the Financial District, as well as the lives of 157 people on board the two aircraft.
The devastating attack sent shockwaves throughout the country, while also inspiring Americans to come together to support one another. Loved ones lost and the disappearance of the towers from the skyline is a constant reminder to many of that tragic day. A memorial has since been created at Ground Zero to honor the victims and the heroic efforts of firefighters and other first responders.
Everyone knows Hollywood, but did you know that it used to be called Hollywoodland? The famous Hollywood sign, located on Mount Lee was erected in 1923. The purpose of the sign was to attract developers to the area to build real estate, while the Los Angeles area was still up-and-coming. Boy, did it work.
Harry Chandler, who was also the owner of the Los Angeles Times, used the sign along with his slogan for the area, “[a] superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.” Each letter was initially 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall and required 4,000 light bulbs. Each section, “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” “LAND,” lit up at different times, then as a whole.
Now It’s Just Hollywood
Today, the sign is more iconic than ever. Chandler’s ploy to market the land worked like a charm, and the area is now one of the most recognized in the world, as the center of the entertainment industry. Since its original creation, the “land” was dropped from the sign, and the letters have changed a bit, to 44 feet tall and a total of 352 feet long.
By 1978, the sign was in bad shape. Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner played a big role in restoring the sign. He was one of nine donors who came together and contributed $27,777.77 each to fund the project for a total of $250,000.
Disneyland, Circa 1955
It’s hard to imagine a world without Disneyland, but that’s the world people lived in before 1955. Walt Disney was inspired to create a theme park based on his films after he visited Griffith Park in Los Angeles. He wanted families to be able to walk right into the magic that he made with his movies.
Incredibly, it only took a year for the original park to be built, from 1954-1955. Walt got some funding from ABC and the rest is history.
Disneyland has only gotten more magical since it opened in the ’50s. It’s continued to showcase the very best of what entertainment technology has to offer. While the park has gone through its many changes and restorations, the staff at the Disney company made sure to keep Walt Disney’s original vision alive.
An average of 44,000 people visit the park every day, attracting between 16 million and 18 million visitors each year. It really is the happiest place on earth.
The Seattle Space Needle
It’s hard to imagine Seattle without its iconic Space Needle. Incredibly, the Space Needle wasn’t actually built until 1961. It’s the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, and designed simply with the intention of being an observation tower.
It stands at 605 feet and can withstand a 9.1 magnitude earthquake, and winds up to 200 mph. The Seattle Space Needle was designed by Edward E. Carlson and John Graham, Jr. for the 1962 World’s Fair.
What The Space Needle Looks Like Today
People still travel from near and far to visit The Space Needle to this day. It’s not quite as tall as the CN Tower in Toronto, but hey, this isn’t a competition. Its elevators quickly climb the 520 feet to the observation deck in a mere 41 seconds.
There used to be two restaurants at the top of the Space Needle. Now there’s the Pacific Northwest cuisine restaurant, which rotates a full 360 degrees every forty-seven minutes.
An Important Italian Bridge
Construction on the Ponte Morandi (Morandi Bridge) began in 1963 and opened four years later in Genoa, Italy. Ever since then, the bridge – which is a part of the A10 motorway – has served as a major link to France and the European route E80. It linked two major parts of Genoa that are separated by the Polcevera river.
The bridge was designed by Riccardo Morandi, an Italian civil engineer widely regarded for his use of reinforced concrete. The Ponte Morandi is comprised of reinforced concrete and built as a viaduct, which is a bridge that is composed of several smaller spans to form an overpass.
The End Of Ponte Morandi
Unfortunately, the Ponte Morandi wasn’t built to last. Genoan citizens discovered this on August 14, 2018, when the bridge suddenly collapsed during torrential rainfall. Almost 700 feet of the bridge collapsed onto the earth below it, including the river it was meant to cross.
There were up to 35 cars and three heavy vehicles that were traversing the bridge at the time of its collapse. 43 people were confirmed dead, while at least 15 were injured and taken to hospitals in critical condition. While many claimed a lightning strike was the cause, engineers blame the structural weakness of the bridge. The entire bridge will reportedly be demolished and rebuilt.
Shanghai Used To Be A Simple Port Town
Shanghai, China is regarded as the fastest-growing city in the world. In 1989, this was the view overlooking the Huangpu River and Shanghai’s Pudong district. If not for the river, this view is almost unrecognizable compared to how it looks today.
This was because China only started opening up economically to the world in the ‘80s. Before that, Shanghai saw around three decades of famine, drought, reform, and suppression after the Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Things began to improve during the Cultural Revolution of the ‘70s, at the end of which, Shanghai’s then-leader Premier Zhou Enlai and then-President Nixon signed the Shanghai Communiqué.
The Work Of The Future
This is present-day Shanghai. Deng Xiaoping, who was China’s leader in 1990, made it his mission to turn Shanghai into the economic and cultural hub it once was and more. According to some accounts, he declared, “If China is a dragon, Shanghai is its head.”
Indeed, Shanghai has developed phenomenally in less than 25 years. It is now a “vertical city” home to some of the tallest building in the world, including the 2,037-foot Shanghai Tower.
Rebuilding An Old Church
After World War II came to an end, citizens of Dresden began salvaging fragments of Dresden Frauenkirche for a reconstruction, though the Communist regime refused to rebuild it. Despite authoritative efforts to turn the area into a parking lot, popular sentiment led to the remnants being declared a memorial against the ravages of war in 1966.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city moved forward with reconstructing the church – a project that wasn’t completed until 2005. Despite annual attempts by neo-Nazis to march in commemoration of its destruction, they’ve recently been quelled by a human chain of thousands of protestors.
Martin Luther’s Statue Survived WWII Attacks
Martin Luther, a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, was memorialized with this statue in Dresden, Germany. The Martin Luther statue stood in front of the city’s Lutheran church, Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) originally built in the 18th century.
The church’s dome stood as a distinct mark in Dresden’s skyline until World War II, when Anglo-American allied forces attacked Dresden with firebombs in 1945, killing 25,000 people. The resulting pile of rubble would remain untouched in the city center for 45 years, about half of which was spent under the Communist regime in East Germany.
Along The Seine
The 1900 World Exposition attracted more than 48 million visitors to Paris France for the Quai des Nations. The event showcased buildings representing countries throughout the world — including the United States, the Ottoman Empire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and Macaco shown in the photo from left to right, respectively.
While the buildings were gorgeous, they weren’t built to last and were demolished shortly after the exhibition ended. When you see what the area looks like today, it’s hard to believe it’s the same place.
The Quai des Nations
If it weren’t for the Eiffel Tower in the background, you might not realize this is the same location along the Seine. Although beautiful, the majority of these structures were demolished following the 1900 World Exposition since they were constructed with cheap materials and would have cost too much to maintain.
Besides the Eiffel Tower, the Passerelle Debilly (located on the right) is the only monument from 1900 World Exposition that remains intact to this day. The area has largely been left an open-air area, with construction kept to the minimum.
This Polish Apartment Was Nearly Demolished
This devastating photos captures the ravages of World War II and the widespread devastation it caused. Taken at the corner of Ratajczaka and Św. Marcin Streets in Poznań, Poland, this apartment complex was nearly demolished by the Nazi regime.
More than six million Polish citizens died during World War II, which amounted to nearly one-fifth of the entire Polish population. In addition to violent attacks on their homes such as the one pictured above, many died in camps and prisons.
It’s Still Standing
Now more than seven decades after the end of World War II, this gorgeous structure stands tall. If not for the prior photo, many would never realize that this gorgeous facade was once nearly completely destroyed.
After six devastating years, the turmoil finally came to an end on May 8, 1945. It was on this day that the Germans surrendered to the Allied Forces. By now, Hitler was dead and many of the concentration camps had been liberated. People could finally work to rebuild, but surely they would never forget.
The Azure Swimming Pool
The Azure Swimming Pool was one of three popular indoor swimming spots in the town of Pripyat, Ukraine. The indoor pool was built in the 1970s and was a hot spot for the once-bustling town that many young people called home.
But the Azure Swimming Pool would become part of the most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history on April 25, 1986. It was on this day that the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant experienced an explosion, leaving some areas of the town uninhabitable for thousands of years.
No More Swimmers
Following the Chernobyl disaster, several buildings in the town remained open so workers still involved with the plant could use them. The Azure Swimming Pool was one of them. It remained open through 1998 and was considered one of the cleanest parts of Pripyat.
Today, the Azure Swimming Pool has sat abandoned for 20 years as Pripyat is uninhabitable. Due to the long-term effects of radiation exposure, it is still unknown how many people perished due to the event. It’s estimated that by 2065 the death rate could reach six figures.
The Dharahara Tower
The Dharahara Tower was built in 1932 by Mukhtiyar. The stunning monument reached nine stories high at its location in the center of Sundhara in Kathmandu. The tower, which was the tallest building in Nepal, had a spiral staircase with a cool 213 steps for visitors who wanted to take the semi-challenging hike up to the top.
The trek was arguably worth it as the eighth floor contained a circular balcony with stunning panoramic views of the Kathmandu Valley. The Dharahara Tower faced numerous challenges through the years including powerful earthquakes in 1834 and 1934, but the structure remained in tact. But the Dharahara Tower wasn’t as lucky in 2018.
The Tower After The 2015 Earthquake
Although the Dharahara Tower has withstood earthquakes before, the tower wasn’t so lucky in April 2015. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the area and caused most of the tower to collapse, save for the base.
The powerful quake and subsequent collapse trapped several people in the rubble, ultimately claiming the lives of 60. The following year, the government decided to rebuild the tower, making sure it is earthquake-resistant. Construction began in June of 2018.