Skip to main content

Miniature Manhattan Up Close

June 2024
1min read

A SERIES of remarkable dioramas show a hard-working, well-worn city at street level

A fascinating complement to the sweep of Moses’s Panorama can be found in the work of Alan Wolfson, who for nearly twenty years has been building painstaking miniatures that reveal the humble underpinnings of those skyscrapers —a seedy world of bars and hot dog joints, X-rated movies and strip shows. Wolfson, out in California making models for movies, felt the tug of his native Brooklyn, and eventually built from memory a tiny subway station. Thus launched, he has gone on creating New York environments at a pace of about a half-dozen a year, putting gumdrop-sized half-empty cartons of Chinese food on a desk in a private detective agency, pasting minute pinups to the wall of a desolate Times Square hotel room, managing, with a combination of reporting and imagination, to imbue every one of his cityscapes with the sad poetry of the familiar.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.