Bird's Eye View Drawings of New York City


A bird's eye view is a view from a very high place as if seen by a bird in flight. It allows a view of a very large area below the viewpoint.

Until the 18th century many cities were represented in an artistic perspective, like the Restitutio View, 1673, instead of an architectural perspective. Later, the use of camera obscura and lenses allowed artists and engineers to draw more technical and detailed cityscapes. In the late 18th century and in the first half of 19th century several skylines of New York were drawn, possibly using the camera obscura technique.

From the 1830s to the 1870s, some panoramic views of New York City were drawn from the top of high structures, like the American Museum (1837), St. Paul’s Chapel (1848, 1855), Trinity Church (1848, 1853, 1872), Astor House (1849), Latting Observatory (1855), old tower in Central Park (1859, maybe also 1873 and another in 1875 by John Bachmann) and Hotel Bristol (1879, based on photograph).

Since the mid-19th century, photography has changed the way urban spaces are recorded. Until the 1880s good quality photograph was not ease to take, but, even with poor quality, photography replaced the camera obscura as a resource and drawings were made with the help of photographs, until the early 20th century. During this time, several bird's eye view drawings of New York were published, not generally drawn to scale, possibly with the help of photography and balloons, which could be anchored, but this did not avoid vibrations that prevented good quality photographs.

Bachman appears to by the first to draw such a view by 1849, showing Lower Manhattan from Union Square and a bird's eye view of New-York & Brooklyn was published in 1850 by John Bachmann. However, the first aerial photograph taken from a balloon is considered to have been taken in 1858 by French Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, in Paris, France.

Experiments with unmanned air balloons were made in New York City since the late 18th century. In August 1819, Mr. Guillé, a Frenchman, ascended in a balloon from Vauxhall Garden to a height of 1,500 fathoms, and then he descended by means of a parachute. He landed across the East River. This was the first actual ascension of a person in a balloon in New York. In October 1825, a woman, Madame Johnson, ascended in a balloon from Castle Garden. In October 1826, French balloonist Eugène Robertson ascended in a gas balloon from Castle Garden. On September 9, 1830, Charles E. Durant became the first U.S. citizen to fly a balloon. He ascended from Castle Garden, flew about 25 miles, in three hours, and landed in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

The 20th century brought aerophotogrammetry and satellite imagery.

More: Historical maps of New York City







Old City of New York




NY Nineteenth Century


New York City Brooklyn


Central Park NY

View from Central Park looking south.


City New York


Aerial image NY


City New York


Projected bridge NY


New York City NY


Manhattan NYC


Ny photograph baloon


New York 18th century


NY globe


Broadway NY


Central Park NY 1859


Greater New York


NYC nineteen century


Manhattan 19th century

Lower Manhattan, looking south from 42nd Street, showing the Croton Reservoir and the Crystal Palace, built for the Exhibition of the Industries of All Nations, 1853/1854.



New York NY


19th century NY


Panorama New York City


City of New York in 1856. When enlarged, these bird's eye views can shown precious cityscapes with historical buildings.


City New York


New York nineteenth century


Panorama New York NY


Lower Manhattan


Bird's Eye View of New York


Old New York


NYC 19th century


New York NY


City Hall Park


Lower Manhattan 1910


More: Skylines & Bird's Eye Views of NYC, 19th Century


New York City 19th century


City Brooklyn


New York NY 19th century


New York 17th century



City New York panorama


Panoramic View NY


Lower Manhattan


NY Panorama


Bird's Eye View Drawings of New York City


Nineteenth century NY


New York view


Old City New York


New-York & Brooklyn




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