Famous Landmarks That Have Changed Over Time

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:45:28 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: tognopop/Wikimedia

Landmark structures that were built to stand the test of time were usually meticulously preserved over the years, allowing them to appear close to the same as they did when they were constructed. These buildings, monuments and other valuable cultural assets are found all over the world and attract millions of visitors each year.

However, many famous landmarks no longer look the same, either due to a lack of maintenance, natural disasters or human intervention. These famous landmarks have changed significantly, sometimes making them difficult to recognize.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge is a famous landmark and a spectacle of engineering. Spanning 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate strait that connects San Francisco with Marin County, the bridge supports more than 112,000 vehicles per day.

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Photo Courtesy: US National Park Service/Wikimedia, RichN/Wikimedia

Chicago engineer Joseph Strauss designed the structure that took more than four years to complete. When it opened to traffic on May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspended bridge span in the world. Stringent maintenance for more than 80 years has helped the bridge resist turbulent waters, strong winds, a corrosive atmosphere and earthquake forces.

Times Square, New York City

In the city that never sleeps, Times Square is a bustling collection of Broadway theaters, cinemas, prominent restaurants and electronic billboards. Every New Year’s Eve, thousands gather to watch the magical New Year’s ball drop during the last 60 seconds before the new year begins.

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Photo Courtesy: Shorpy/Wikimedia, Coffe/Pixabay

Initially called Long Acre Square, the name was changed in 1905 when The New York Times built Times Tower, the city’s second-largest building at the time. Over the past century, Times Square has undergone numerous adjustments, including a difficult period after the Great Depression. However, it has survived and is a popular tourist destination today.

Fremont Street, Las Vegas

In the last century, perhaps no other city has changed as much as Las Vegas. From a small desert town with a population of 2,400 in 1900, the Las Vegas Valley quickly became one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States. The population now numbers more than 2.4 million.

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Photo Courtesy: that_Chrysler_guy/Wikimedia, Tim Pearce/Flickr

While the growth of Vegas can be attributed to gambling and the proliferation of casinos on the Strip, Fremont Street, the historical center and the first gambling district, has also evolved over time. Today, it’s covered with a canopy that offers an air-conditioned, seven-block pedestrian zone for visitors.

Great Sphinx, Giza

The Great Sphinx is the largest and most famous monolith statue in the world. The limestone structure sits adjacent to the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and depicts a mythical creature with a human head and the body of a lion.

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Photo Courtesy: Bernard Spragg.NZ/Flickr, ThureSUK/Pixabay

Although the precise age is not known, the drab, colorless sculpture shows the impact that centuries of desert weather and vandalism have taken on the majestic figure. The recent discovery of paint on parts of the Sphinx even suggests that it was more colorful in its original glory days, as shown by this replica built at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Beginning in 1927, sculptors spent 14 years carving the faces of U.S. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt (Teddy) and Lincoln into the side of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Chosen by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, these presidents represent the most significant events in the country’s history.

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Photo Courtesy: 2.0 Generic/Flickr, 2.0 Generic/Flickr

Dynamite was the choice for blasting the hard granite rock off the mountain. A "honeycombing" procedure followed, which allowed small pieces to be removed by hand. Thomas Jefferson was originally carved to the left of George Washington. However, the face cracked and had to be removed. It was re-carved to the right of Washington.

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Since its opening on August 6, 1791, the Brandenburg Gate has seen its share of historically significant events. It survived a conquest by Napoleon’s soldiers, who stole the most distinctive feature, the Quadriga, and carried it back to France as a victory trophy. It was later returned to Berlin after Napoleon’s defeat.

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Photo Courtesy: Unknown; Post-Work: W.wolny/Wikimedia /Flickr, Pierre-Selim Huard/Wikimedia

It was damaged during WWII and became part of the Berlin wall. Perhaps the most remembered event at the gate was Ronald Reagan’s 1987 speech in which he demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The gate ultimately became a symbol of freedom.

Madison Square Garden, New York City

When Pennsylvania Station opened in 1910, it was widely praised for its magnificent architecture. It was the largest indoor space in New York City, with sunshine flooding into the chamber through 1,500 feet of vaulted glass windows.

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Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress digital ID hhh.ny0411/Wikimedia, GothEric/Flickr

The majestic building was mostly demolished in 1963 to make room for Pennsylvania Plaza and a new entertainment venue, Madison Square Garden. Today, trains still run under the Garden through the subterranean labyrinth that makes up the current Penn Station. Maybe passengers can hear the cheer of basketball fans or the iconic lyrics from a concert while they wait for their train.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

To declare that Dubai has gone through explosive growth would be an understatement. It went from a small cluster of settlements to a modern port, city and commercial hub fueled by the oil trade in record time. The city’s ruler once declared, "Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place."

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Photo Courtesy: Imre Solt/Wikimedia, Edgar El/Wikipedia

He demonstrated that goal by successfully transforming the city into a popular tourist destination with ultramodern architecture, luxury shopping, gourmet restaurants and a lively nightlife scene. What was once an almost barren desert is now the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.

Pompeii, Italy

Anyone who has studied Roman history knows that the ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Once a destination for Rome’s elite, the ruins remained covered until discovered by architect Domenico Fontana late in the 16th century.

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Photo Courtesy: CyArc/Wikimedia, CyArc/Wikimedia

Since that time, much of the historical site has been excavated. The volcanic damage to the city was extensive, but a few buildings were successfully restored by archeologists. A trip to the landmark and a stroll through the ancient streets and dwellings gives visitors a genuine feeling of what life was like centuries ago.

Disneyland, California

Disneyland may be the most dynamic theme park in the world, changing and adding attractions almost yearly since its opening in 1955. However, the park has been successful in maintaining the vision of its founder by keeping many of the classic attractions that made up the original venue, including Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Frontierland.

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Photo Courtesy: Knott's Berry Farm Collection/Flickr, Tuxyso/Wikimedia

The new Disney California Adventure Park was opened in 2001, and more parks are planned for the future. Disneyland attracts an average of 44,000 people every day. The park celebrated its 60th anniversary in July 2015.

Berlin Wall, Germany

When the Berlin wall was constructed in 1961, the Communist government of East Germany declared it a barrier to keep capitalism out of the Soviet-occupied zone. Of course, its more realistic purpose was to prevent East Germans from escaping to free West Germany. After Germany was divided into two states but before the wall was built, 3.6 million people fled to the west through Berlin.

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Photo Courtesy: UR Cameras/Flickr, moerschy/Pixabay

The wall extended for more than 96 miles. More than 300 guard towers and barbed wire along the top discouraged East Germans from attempting to escape. Today, only pieces of the wall remain.

Hollywood Sign, Beverly Hills

Most people know Hollywood is the movie and television capital of the world. However, few know that the district in Los Angeles was once called "Hollywoodland." The legendary sign built on Mount Lee in 1923 included the "land" lettering and was meant to attract developers to the area for real estate investments.

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Photo Courtesy: Thomas Wolf/Wikipedia

The letters of the original sign measured 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. To light up each section — first separately and then together — required more than 4,000 light bulbs. Today, the iconic sign that reads "Hollywood" is one of the most recognized in the world.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was constructed for Mausolus, the ruler of Caria (an ancient district of southwestern Anatolia), and his queen Artemisia. Measuring 140 feet tall, experts believe the tomb was built between 353 and 350 BC.

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Photo Courtesy: Jona Lendering/Wikimedia, Monsieurdl/Wikimedia

Historians believe the 3D model in the photo to be a reasonable representation of the tomb’s exterior. The mausoleum was damaged by 13th century earthquakes and then entirely destroyed by crusaders in 1522 AD. All that remains today are pillar bases and rubble that indicate the building’s former location.

Colosseum, Rome

In its prime, the Roman Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, accommodated more than 50,000 spectators and was about the size of an American football stadium. A gift to the Roman citizens, the venue was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian around 70 AD.

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Photo Courtesy: Fratelli Alinari/Wikimedia, peakpx/Peakpix

For centuries, the well-designed building was a site for entertainment, including wild animal combat, reenactments of famous battles, dramatic plays and gladiator matches. Although much of the original Colosseum has been destroyed by weather, natural disasters, erosion and neglect, it remains an essential reminder of ancient Roman history.

The Parthenon, Greece

Three temples, Athena Nike, Erechtheum and the Parthenon, grace the flat top of the Acropolis, a rocky hill in the center of Athens. The Parthenon, built in the mid-5th century BCE, is the most dominant and was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos, known as "Athena the Virgin."

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Photo Courtesy: marion Doss/Flickr, Sam Valadi/Flickr

Although the majestic, rectangular-shaped, white marble structure has suffered damage from fire and earthquakes over the centuries, the basic building structure has remained intact. Visualizing the original structure requires some imagination, but at least efforts are being made to maintain the Parthenon in its present condition.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The ultimate manifestation of Khmer genius, Angkor Wat is an inspirational temple and the largest religious monument in the world. Initially built for the Hindu god Vishnu during the Khmer Empire, it was later converted to a Buddhist temple.

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Photo Courtesy: CC0 Public Domain/maxpixels, Engin_Akyurt/Pixabay

The temple is now a source of intense Cambodian national pride. As a result, the monument has remained in uninterrupted use since its construction in the first half of the 12th century. Despite its continuous service, the lavish structure that was once covered with artwork is now mostly stone ruins with sections covered by overgrown trees.

Coba Nohoch Mul, Yucatán Peninsula

The pyramids built by the Maya civilization between 200 and 900 AD differ from those constructed by the Egyptians, although they are similar in appearance. Built as religious complexes, the Mayan structures demonstrate a variety of designs and styles. Egyptian pyramids were built to serve exclusively as tombs.

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Photo Courtesy: JLS Creation/Pixabay, willysilvaquesada/Pixabay

As shown in the graphic, Mayan pyramids were constructed using stacked platforms featuring a central staircase climbing up to a small temple at the top. What remains of Nohoch Mul are 120 well-worn steps that include a rope to make the climb and the descent safer.

Stonehenge, England

Although Stonehenge may look like a mere collection of big rocks placed in a circle, it is perhaps the world’s most famous — and most mysterious — prehistoric monument. Although its purpose is unknown, plenty of theories have been offered by historians.

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Photo Courtesy: Lothar Wilhelmy/Wikimedia, garethwiscombe/Wikimedia

Is it a formation that was used to study the movements of the sun and moon? Did a race of giants position the stones, or did aliens use their superior technology to create the formation? Maybe it was an ancient concert hall with excellent outdoor acoustics. Some have even suggested it was built as an ancient team-building exercise. Regardless of the purpose, Stonehenge has remained mostly intact for centuries.

Statue of Liberty, New York City

A gift from the people of France to the U.S. following the American Revolution, the Statue of Liberty is a massive neoclassical sculpture that resides in New York Harbor. Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the robed statue with a raised torch and stone tablet measures more than 305 feet tall.

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay/Pexels, Tim Pearce/Wikimedia

The figure is made of more than 200,000 pounds of copper. When Lady Liberty arrived in the U.S., she was the bronze color of copper, like a penny. However, thanks to time and exposure to the elements, the copper oxidized, giving the statue its iconic blue-green color.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

The Eiffel Tower served as the entrance and main exhibit of the 1889 Paris Exposition (World's Fair). It was erected to memorialize the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution and to demonstrate France's industrial competence.

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Photo Courtesy: tognopop/Wikimedia

Located on the Champ de Mars, the structure is an iron lattice tower named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed it. The tower stands 324 meters to the very tip and took a little more than two years to complete. Initially built as a temporary structure, it remained as a radiotelegraph station and survived to become the most iconic symbol in the Parisian skyline.

The Louvre, Paris

The Louvre is arguably the most significant art museum in the world. It hosts more visitors each year than any other museum and offers a collection that includes works of art from ancient civilizations to the mid-19th century. The museum is housed in a castle that was constructed several thousand years ago.

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Photo Courtesy: Benh Lieu Song/Wikimedia, Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Louvre building complex underwent a significant remodeling project intended to improve the museum’s accessibility and make it more accommodating for visitors. The remodel included adding the Louvre’s controversial glass pyramid that was widely criticized as a structural design that was inconsistent with the ancient Louvre architecture.

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace was built in the 1700s and has been the official London residence of Britain's monarchy since 1837. Tourists flock to the site by the thousands to watch the Changing of the Guard ritual that takes place every morning. Household Troops have guarded the monarch and the royal palaces since 1660.

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Photo Courtesy: Diliff/Wikimedia, Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

While the Palace has been maintained in the excellent condition you would expect of British royalty, it suffered some damage during World War II. When Germany bombed London, Buckingham Palace took several direct hits. However, it was restored to its former pristine condition and remains a major British landmark.

Space Needle, Seattle

Most current Seattle residents can’t remember what the skyline was like before the Space Needle was built. Just short of 60 years old, it’s the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River.

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Photo Courtesy: InSapphoWeTrust/Flickr, seattlemunicipalarchives/Wikimedia

Built with modern engineering techniques, the Space Needle reaches a height of 605 feet and resists winds up to 200 mph as well as earthquakes up to a 9.1 magnitude. The towering structure attracted 2.3 million visitors for its grand opening at the 1962 World’s Fair. Visitors can ride the elevator to the observation deck at the top in a mere 41 seconds.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Reaching the top of the Gateway Arch by tram is no simple task. Visitors must climb more than 96 steps, stand and wait for 30 to 60 minutes and refrain from using the bathroom for quite some time since there are no restrooms at the top. However, for those who make it, the reward is a view to the east and west that stretches up to 30 miles.

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Photo Courtesy: Missouri State Archives/Flickr, Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia

At a height of 630 feet, the structure is the tallest arch in the world. In 1974, it placed fourth on the list of Most Visited Man-Made Attractions. It became a national landmark in 1987.

Chernobyl Swimming Pool, Pripyat, Ukraine

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant became an infamous unintentional landmark on April 25, 1986, when an explosion resulted in high levels of radiation exposure throughout the surrounding area. Some areas in the nearby town of Pripyat will remain uninhabitable for thousands of years.

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Photo Courtesy: Timm Suess/Wikipedia, Darek83/Wikimedia

One of those areas includes the Azure Swimming Pool. Built in the 1970s, it was one of three popular indoor swimming spots in the once bustling town. However, now the ruins of the pool lie within the exclusion zone. It’s illegal to live there, yet nearly 150 people still call it home.

World Trade Center, New York City

No one will ever forget that fateful day on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, altering the New York City skyline forever. Although the World Trade Center was composed of seven buildings, the two iconic towers rose above most of the surrounding buildings and were identifiable from any part of the city.

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Photo Courtesy: Cathy Baird/Wikipedia, JeffMok/Wikimedia

The missing landmark towers created an eerie void in the city for quite some time, but a new tower at One World Trade Center was erected and opened in their place in 2014. The New York skyline was once again graced with a landmark skyscraper.

Dharahara Tower, Nepal

Kathmandu is famous for its many temples, including Pashupatinath, perhaps the country's most valuable Hindu temple. The noisy and vibrant capital city, Nepal, also has several important monuments as well as one historical landmark that is no more.

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Photo Courtesy: Francisco Anzola/Flickr, Parazlaure/Wikimedia

The spectacular Dharahara Tower, built in 1932, rose nine stories high, making it the highest structure in Nepal. A spiral staircase led visitors up the 213 steps to the top, where a circular balcony provided a magnificent panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley. The structure remained intact through multiple powerful earthquakes but collapsed when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the area in 2015.

Morandi Bridge, Genoa, Italy

Highway bridges are built to allow vehicle transportation over an otherwise impassable object, like a river, bay or another highway. They are practical engineering marvels that can also become popular landmarks for the pleasing view they add to the landscape.

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Photo Courtesy: Bruno/Wikimedia, Alessio Sbarbaro/Wikimedia

The Morandi Bridge in Genoa was one of those landmarks. It served as a critical link from Italy to France and other parts of Europe via route A10 and connected two sections of the city that were separated by the Polcevera river. However, on August 14, 2018, the landmark bridge came crashing down during a severe storm. The remaining structure has since been demolished.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Although Congress passed bills to commission a monument in Abraham Lincoln’s honor two years after his death, it took nearly 50 years for the monument to break ground. The original design was a bit exaggerated with 31 pedestrian statues, six statues with an equestrian theme and a towering 12-foot-high statue of the president.

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Photo Courtesy: adampaulclay/Pixabay, Unknown/Wikimedia

The final version was more subtle, but it did include a reflection pool that extends to the Washington Monument. Many significant events have been held at the Lincoln Memorial over the years. Perhaps the most notable was Dr. Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

Taj Mahal, India

The Taj Mahal is a massive mausoleum made of white marble constructed in the mid-1600s by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. When the Mughal Empire fell in the late 19th century, the tomb fell into disrepair. However, just before 1900, Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy of India, ordered the Taj Mahal to be restored.

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Photo Courtesy: wellcomecollection/Wikimedia, Dhirad/Wikimedia

The mausoleum is considered a hub of Muslim art in India and an admired masterpiece of the world's heritage. Currently, the Taj Mahal is well maintained and hosts millions of visitors yearly, but it still suffers damage each year, primarily from pollution.