By Erika Owen
July 17, 2015
29 Oct 2013, Manhattan, New York City, New York State, USA --- USA, New York City, Manhattan, Uptown cityscape from the Empire State Building at sunset --- Image by © Pietro Canali/SOPA RF/SOPA/Corbis
Credit: Pietro Canali/SOPA RF

Urban Layers—a hands-on map created by architecture practice Morphocode—is giving us a glimpse at the evolution of New York City's skyline that far beats any textbook explanation. Their interactive diagram transports you to the first known construction in NYC (all the way back in 1765) and shares how many buildings were assembled in Manhattan every year up until 2013.

Some observations: The real action picks up in the early 1800s which makes sense considering the official city grid breaking the island into 2,028 blocks was enacted in 1811, providing the organization needed to expand the city. The biggest construction spikes occur between 1900 and 1947, a time when the city was experiencing a huge population increase.

The data for this visual was provided by PLUTO and the NYC building footprints—please note that some data may be estimated. Want to do some time travel of your own? Check out the Urban Layers map.

Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.