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What 10 Famous Landmarks Looked Like 100 Years Ago
From ancient creations to modern cultural icons, see how time has changed some of the world’s most beloved landmarks.
It’s hard to believe this is Times Square, sans the electric lights and vibrant billboards, but the area has changed significantly since this photo was taken in 1921. Before it was one of the most sought-after advertising spaces in the world, One Times Square was home to the New York Times starting in 1905; the square is actually named after the newspaper. The Times moved to West 43rd Street less than a decade later and stayed there until moving to Eighth Street in 2007, leaving its expensive Times Square real estate largely empty even after it was sold to new owners. Even today, the iconic building’s profits come almost exclusively from advertising, and it’s also where you see the ball drop every New Year’s Eve.
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The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, in time for the World’s Fair in Paris that it was originally constructed for. It was supposed to be temporary but was kept to be used as a radiotelegraph station. Since then, it’s endured as the most iconic symbol in the Parisian skyline. If you look closely in the photo from 1900, you can see the Palais de Trocadero, which held its spot from 1878 until 1937, when it was replaced by the Palais de Chaillot for the World’s Fair of that year. The new palace has remained ever since, taking the place of the Palais de Trocadero in the second photo.
The Taj Mahal
You almost wouldn’t recognize the Taj Mahal in the first photo. Even though the spectacular mausoleum was constructed in the mid-1600s, as a final resting place for Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s late wife, it fell into disrepair toward the late 19th century, as the Mughal Empire weakened and eventually fell. When Lord Curzon became the British viceroy of India just before 1900, he wanted to focus partly on the preservation of Indian art and culture and ordered the Taj Mahal to be restored to the marvel we see today. Now, it welcomes millions of visitors each year, but still faces threats of damage, mainly from pollution.
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The “Shrine of Democracy” took over a decade to finally be completed, starting in 1927 and ending in 1941. Workers used dynamite to carve sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s design into the site in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Despite the dangerous nature of the work, not a single person died throughout the course of its making. The faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln stand at about 60 feet tall. In the above picture, you can see it in 1938, a time when work was still being carried out to finish this iconic landmark.
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Buckingham Palace has been a fixture in London since it was built in the 1700s, but it faced some tough times years ago during World War II, along with the rest of the country. London was bombed by Germany in the Blitz, and not even the royal family was safe. Buckingham Palace took several direct hits, and the above photo shows some of that damage near the Victoria Memorial. It’s since been restored to its pristine condition and has endured as a major British landmark.
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Statue of Liberty
This icon of the New York Harbour has been one of the most recognizable symbols of America for over a century. In this old rendering of the Statue of Liberty from around 1900, you can see guests in the torch. Nowadays, no one can visit the torch, but you can still check out the view from Lady Liberty’s crown. Interestingly, the torch was actually replaced by a new one in 1986. You can still see the old one in the lobby of the monument.
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The Hollywood Sign
This Los Angeles staple was built in 1923 by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler to advertise his real estate development. Yup, this iconic sign was actually just an ad. Exposed to the elements up on that hillside, it’s had to be restored and replaced on several occasions. The sign did originally read “Hollywoodland,” but when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce restored the rest of the sign in 1949, they opted to drop the last four letters.
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The Great Sphinx
Though it is unknown exactly what year the Sphinx in Giza was erected, it is estimated to be roughly 4,500 years old and remains one of humanity’s most impressive achievements even today. But visitors couldn’t always revel in its glory; for many years, it was buried in Saharan sand, with only its head visible. According to the Smithsonian, the first attempt to dig it out in 1817 failed. The monument was fully excavated by Egyptian archaeologist Selim Hassan in the late 1930s.
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Golden Gate Bridge
It’s hard to imagine San Francisco without this Art Deco icon—but it’s actually not even a century old yet! This photo from 1936 shows the bridge under construction. It took about four years to complete from start to finish, finally opening in 1937. Nowadays, the bright red suspension bridge is a fixture of the Bay Area.
The castle housing this world-famous museum was once a fortress when it was built thousands of years ago. Later it became home to French royalty and heads of state before becoming the cultural institution we know today. The famous image that comes to mind is the Louvre’s glass pyramid in the centre of its courtyard, but surprisingly, it was not built until 1989. Widely criticized at first for its difference in appearance from the ancient Louvre, architect I.M. Pei’s structure is now an essential part of the museum—one that visitors come from far and wide to see.
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Originally published as What 10 Famous Landmarks Looked Like 100 Years Ago on ReadersDigest.com.