In an article titled Lower Manhattan: Where New York Was Born, TIME magazine rounds up dozens of vintage and historic photographs of New York City in a short slideshow.
Here, LIFE.com pays tribute to New York—specifically, to the storied landscape of Lower Manhattan, where 400 years ago New York was born—in photographs made in the decades before the Twin Towers anchored the foot of the island. Wall Street, Battery Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Trinity Church, the Statue of Liberty and the vast, shimmering harbor—they're all here: landmarks that, despite everything, retain their place in the collective imagination, captured by some of the finest photographers of the 20th century.
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