Early Photographs of the World’s Most Famous Landmarks

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One of the most iconic landmarks in the United States, the Statue of Liberty towers 305 feet above Liberty Island in the New York Harbor. Before Lady Liberty — built by the French over the course of nine years — was given to the United States, however, her head was put on display in a park at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair to raise funds for her body’s completion. Luckily, photos of this display — as well as images of her torch-bearing arm on display in Madison Square Park — still exist today. (Look at these other photos from American life in the 19th century.)

Early photographs of famous monuments and buildings can help keep the history of these cultural sites alive. 24/7 Tempo assembled a list of some of the most important and visually stunning monuments and landmarks around the world from a number of sites, including CNN, Travel & Leisure, Architectural Digest, Britannica, The Culture Trip, and Wonders of the World. Then we sought out memorable early photographic images of the key examples we found.

Because the older landmarks, such as Stonehenge and the Colosseum, were already in a state of disrepair by the time photography was invented, the earliest photos we have of these ancient sites may still leave much to the imagination as to their previous splendor. (To see some examples of better-preserved ancient architecture, check out Europe’s most beautiful castles.)

Many of the newer monuments — such as the Sydney Opera House and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar — are still in good condition, but like all things, they will inevitably decay over the centuries, so having a photographic record of them in their relative youth will be appreciated by future generations.