Showcasing an unprecedented array of photographs, paintings, renderings, drawings, and other images culled from dozens of archives and individual collections worldwide, A Century Downtown ensures that no one will ever forget the vast and varied history of this famous part of New York City.
Catchphrases like “urban renewal” have a nice ring to them, but none measure up to the tectonic, often brutal metamorphoses that have remade Lower Manhattan over the last century. Downtown’s defining cataclysmic event is undeniably 9/11. Yet we often forget that the original World Trade Center grew out of the wholesale demolition of an entire neighborhood, home to more than 300 electronics businesses employing some 30,000 workers. We forget that the first “worst terrorist attack in American history”—the Wall Street bombing of 1920—claimed 38 lives and triggered a tsunami of anti-immigrant sentiment that swept Warren G. Harding into the White House. We forget that Washington Street was once home to the biggest Arab-American community in the country, known as Little Syria, eventually displaced by the transportation appetite of a burgeoning suburbia.
A Century Downtown raises these and other pivotal events—some mere footnotes to the city’s official history—into sharp relief. It’s a remarkable visual journey guided by a fascinating historical narrative that sheds new light on the evolution of Lower Manhattan over the past hundred years.
Matt Kapp is an award-winning filmmaker and writer based in Brooklyn. Most recently he wrote and co-produced the critically acclaimed documentary 16 Acres, which told the inside story of the struggle to rebuild the World Trade Center in the decade after 9/11. Among his other producing credits are Valentino: The Last Emperor and The Education of Gore Vidal. Aside from his film and television work, he was a reporter-researcher and Web contributor for Vanity Fair for more than 15 years and has written frequently for Downtown magazine. He is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a native of Burlington, Vermont.
Todd Fine is a local historian who advocates for historic preservation of the "Little Syria" neighborhood in Lower Manhattan and for the memory of its writers like Kahlil Gibran and Ameen Rihani. He is PhD candidate in history at the CUNY-Graduate Center.