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Thread: Donald Mackay -- Illustrator of NYC Buildings -- Dies

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    Default Donald Mackay -- Illustrator of NYC Buildings -- Dies

    Donald Mackay, Artist and Illustrator, Dies at 91

    New York Times
    January 9, 2006

    © 1987 Donald A. Mackay

    A Mackay illustration from "The Building of Manhattan."

    Donald A. Mackay, an artist and illustrator best known for drawing the evolution of Manhattan, died on Dec. 17 in Frederick, Md., where he retired in 1993. He was 91 and formerly lived in Ossining, N.Y.

    The cause was heart disease, his family said.

    Mr. Mackay crowned a long career in 1987 with the book "The Building of Manhattan" (Harper & Row). It was a meticulous evocation, in text and drawings and in great detail, of how Manhattan was built from the ground up.

    His story progresses from the mastodons, to the Paleo-Indians of about 7,000 years ago, then to the Algonquin-speaking inhabitants of the island when the first Europeans arrived to found New Amsterdam. Eventually it shows how structures like subways and ever-higher buildings gave Manhattan its modern shape.

    Chapters detail the work of architects, construction methods and vital city services.

    Mr. Mackay was a commercial artist in the 1950's when the excavation of a bank site on Wall Street piqued his interest. He followed its progress in his sketchbook and discovered a new avocation.

    "I am a goofer-offer," he told The New York Times in 1988, "and used to make thumbnail sketches of construction work going on nearby." As it happened, he had also been catching up with his forebears, who, he said, had arrived in the city in the 1640's. The two interests merged in the early 80's and, with a lot more research, produced a book.

    Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic, called "The Building of Manhattan" a "highly impressive primer for adults, a book that traces the history of building and construction in Manhattan with clear, reasoned good sense." He termed the sections on the construction of the Flatiron and Woolworth buildings and contemporary skyscrapers "better than any textbook."

    Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Donald Alexander Mackay grew up in Boston and attended the Massachusetts College of Art. He got a designer's job in the plastics division of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company but was laid off during the Depression.

    Serving in the Army during World War II, he wound up in Europe and, after a year's studies in Biarritz, France, went to work for an art studio in Greenwich Village. He met and married a fellow artist, Stella DaCosta, with whom he went to Mexico to study graphics with Alfredo Zalce; later he also studied lithography and etching at Pratt Institute.

    Mr. Mackay worked as a freelancer, contributing drawings to a number of publications and illustrating children's books. His own artwork included a series on space flight, nature subjects and illustrations of the White House and the Metropolitan Opera House.

    Mr. Mackay's wife died in 2004. He is survived by their sons, John, of Tarrytown, N.Y., and Neil, of Frederick; and four grandchildren.

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    I have a copy of The Building of Manhattan.. It is dated but still very interesting.

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