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A History Of New York City Skyscrapers (With Bibliography)

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A History of New York City Skyscrapers

Whenever anyone thinks of New York City one of the first things that come to mind is the tall extravagant skyscrapers located in this city. Since the late nineteenth century New York has been home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. For many tourists that come to New York City, the first thing they want to see is the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

One of the first skyscrapers built in New York City was the World Building, which many people know as the Pulitzer Building. Joseph Pulitzer was the original owner of this building; he was publisher of the famous magazine the New York World. Pulitzer is a great example of how diverse this city is, because he was the owner of the World Building and he is not even a Native American. Pulitzer was born in Hungary, and immigrated to the United States in 1864. He arrived in Castle Garden penniless, and by 1890 he was the owner of the World Building.

The architect for the World Building was George B. Post. The construction for this building began on October 10th, 1889, and the building was finished and opened for operation almost one year later on December 10th, 1890. This was an amazing feat considering the specifics of this building. This was the first building in New York to surpass 284 feet. The New York World Building was the tallest skyscraper built for major newspapers and magazines in the late 19th century. The World building was 18 stories high and 309 feet tall. Unfortunately the World Building was destroyed in 1955 for an expanded automobile entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. The New York World building set the pace for many of the future skyscrapers that were built in New York City. Like some other New York City skyscrapers The New York World building is gone, but it is not forgotten. This is a term that this current generation can grasp when it comes to New York City skyscrapers.

After the Pulitzer Building was built in 1890, the Manhattan Life Insurance Company decided that they also needed a high-rise building. In 1892 the Manhattan Life Insurance Company help a nation-wide competition to see who would be the architect for there new building, at 64-66 Broadway across from Trinity Church. Two men by the name of Kimball and Thompson won the competition and there job was to build the tallest structure in New York at the time. This building contained a number of engineering firsts. This was one of the first cases of a building being heated and cooled through electric ventilation. When finished in 1894 this building stood at an outstanding 348 feet tall. The Manhattan Life Building was featured in the New York Times in October of 1893; this building was described as "the tallest in the world, a giant among the office buildings of New York, eighteen stories for the fine new structure of the Manhattan Life Insurance Company." (N.Y. Times, p. 17)

Like many of the great buildings of the late nineteenth century, the Manhattan Life Insurance building didn't stand for a very long time. Competition was very high during these times and this building was demolished in 1930. The Irving Trust Bank bought over this land and created the Irving Trust Company Building in 1931. They demolished the 348 foot Manhattan Life Insurance building, put up a 50 story 654 foot tall building. This building became famous for its address One Wall Street. In 2001 this building began to have some problems with the limestone exterior but the Hoffman Architects were brought in, and they created a plan to preserve this building. This building is still currently standing at One Wall Street, but many people now know this building as the Bank of New York Building. This building is still standing on to this day; it is one of the most important financial buildings in downtown Manhattan.

Following the construction Manhattan Life Insurance Building was the St. Paul building which was built in 1898. This building was named after the historic St. Paul's Chapel which was located across the street. Construction for this building started in 1895, and it was finished by 1898. The S. Paul Building stood at 315 feet tall. The architect and engineer for this building was George B. Post, the same man who put up the World Building. This building was located on Broadway, and Ann Street. This building was eventually demolished in 1958. Many critics called the St. Paul Building the least attractive design of all the New York skyscrapers.

Just one year after the St. Paul Building was opened; the Park Row building was opened on Ann Street and Park Row. The construction of this building started in 1896, and this building took only three years to complete. In the 1890's advances in steel-frame construction opened up new opportunities for developers. Before steel frame construction, buildings with more than eight stories had to have very thick lower floors for support. We have to accredit the steel construction of this building to R.H. Robertson. Mr. Robertson said that when he was drawing up the plans for this building he wanted to make it look smaller what it actually was. This building is 391 feet tall and it was the tallest building in New York City in 1899, before the Park Row Building was put up the Manhattan Life Insurance Building held the title for the tallest building. This building has 26 floors, and a semi-circle bay of 10 elevators. In 1899 about four thousand people worked in the Park Row Building. The Park Row Building is still standing today. The Park Row Building is located at 15 Park Row, across the street from City Hall. There were a number of reports of future renovations that will be done to Park Row Building.

The Park Row building lived a short destiny when it comes to being the tallest skyscraper in New York City. The Singer Building was built in 1908 on 149 Broadway at the corner of Liberty Street. The first design for this building was estimated as a thirty five story tower. The company decided that such a building would be too small so they decided to double that height with a tower of almost 600 feet, and sixty stories. The engineers of this building were Semsch, Boller, Hodge, and Armstrong. The president of the Singer Sewing Company Fredrick Bourne and Ernest Flagg who was a famous architect joined their ideas to build this extravagant building.

In 1902, the Singer Company was the leading manufacturer of sewing machines, churning out an estimated 500,000 a year. They encouraged Ernest Flagg to help enlarge the original building while also purchasing additional properties to the north and west. At the time Flagg was originally opposed skyscrapers. He was seeking to reform the building design and lobbied for structures that would stand no more than 10 to 15 stories high. He was a very humble man; he didn't want large buildings to cast shadows on the nearby streets.

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