Skyscrapers of New York
New York’s hundreds of famous and impressive skyscrapers, both historical and modern, combine to form the world’s best-known skyline
New York, the world’s first modern metropolis, led the way in the development of the skyscraper throughout the 20th century. High land values and demand for real estate in Manhattan lead to developers constructing ever-taller towers. Successive leaps in height were taken by the Woolworth Building, Empire State, and World Trade Center, as buildings fought for the honor of calling themselves New York’s, and the world’s, tallest building.
With over a century of high-rise architectural heritage, it is no surprise that New York City has an impressive array of skyscrapers spanning the entire history of the modern city’s most important structure. New York’s numerous skyscrapers boast a variety of architectural styles as historical, steel-framed, and stone-clad towers stand side by side with modern glass skyscrapers.
There are two main groupings of tall buildings in New York. Lower Manhattan is often-photographed skyline is perhaps the more famous, however, midtown actually contains more towers and is home to many unmissable skyscrapers.
Lower Manhattan’s Best Skyscrapers
- 15 Park Row- 30 Stories, 391 ft. Reigned as the world’s tallest building for nine years, from 1899 until 1908.
- 40 Wall Street- 70 Stories, 927 ft. Briefly held the title of world’s tallest building in 1930.
- America International Building-66 Stories, 952 ft. Also known as 70 Pine Street, this building is currently the tallest in Lower Manhattan.
- Woolworth Building- 57 Stories, 792 ft. The tallest building in the world for 17 years, between 1913 and 1930.
Midtown Manhattan’s Best Skyscrapers
- Bank of America Tower- 54 Stories, 1200 ft. One of the newest additions to the city’s skyline, this building is the second tallest in New York.
- Empire State- 102 Stories, 1250 ft. The world’s most famous skyscraper, the tallest building in the world for 41 years and is currently the tallest building in New York.
- Chrysler Building- 77 Stories, 1046 ft. This Art-Deco, car-inspired building is often regarded as the most beautiful in the city.
- Flatiron Building- 22 Stories, 285 ft. Originally known as the Fuller Building this building takes its name from its distinctive shape.
- Metropolitan Life Tower- 50 Stories, 700 ft. The tower that contains four giant clocks was the world’s tallest building from 1909 to 1913.
- Rockefeller Center- 70 Stories, 850 ft. The observation deck, known as “Top of the Rock” provides a panoramic view across Manhattan and is one of the best places to see the Empire State from.
- Seagram Building- 38 Stories, 515 ft. Mies van der Rohe’s functionalist masterpiece has influenced skyscraper design for decades.
- UN Headquarters- 39 Stories, 510 ft. Designed by an international team of architects this building houses the United Nations.
- Waldorf Astoria- 47 Stories, 625 ft. When opened in 1931 this was the tallest and largest hotel in the world.
The Empire State Building
11 months after the completion of the Chrysler Building the argument over criteria became irrelevant, as a new NYC construction became the undisputed tallest building in America, and the world. Opened in 1931, the 1,250 ft Empire State Building is possibly the world’s best-loved, and most famous skyscraper. It would hold the honor as the world’s tallest building for a massive 41 years until yet another taller Manhattan building took the title. The 1,368 ft, 110-storey World Trade Centers would be the last of NYC’s skyscrapers to hold the title of world’s tallest building.
40 Wall Street vs. The Chrysler Building
27 years after its completion, two buildings raced to surpass the Woolworth Building, and win the honor of becoming the world’s tallest building. The first to be completed was the Bank of Manhattan Building at 40 Wall Street. This 927 ft, 70-story, building, however, would only hold the title for less than two months before a 125 ft controversial spire was constructed on top of the Chrysler Building.
Inclusive of the spire there was no doubt that the 77-floor 1,046 ft. Chrysler Building was the tallest structure in the world, however, the designers of 40 Wall Street contested its claim to be the world’s highest building. As Chrysler’s spire is wholly ornamental and not accessible, they claimed that 40 Wall Street with its higher usable space was the taller building.
Although the earliest skyscrapers were built in Chicago, the demand for real estate and high land values in Manhattan caused the height of buildings in Manhattan to rise and overtake those of the Second City. The construction of a 386 ft high, 30-floor, Park Row apartment in 1899 would be the start of NYC’s dominance of the world’s tallest buildings.
The Park Row apartment, which is sometimes known as the Ivins Syndicate Building, reigned for nine years before it was overtaken in 1908 by the 612 ft, 47-floor, Singer Building. However, this building would only hold the title for 18 months before a clock tower was added to the New York Metropolitan Life Insurance Building. This 700 ft, 50-story, tower modeled on St Marco’s in Venice, would hold the title for the next four years.
In 1913 the title would move across Manhattan to Woolworth Building. Standing 792 ft tall the “Cathedral of Commerce” would remain as the tallest building in the world until 1930 when it was surpassed by three buildings in rapid succession.
History Of The World’s Tallest Buildings In New York
- 1899- Park Row, 391ft.
- 1908- Singer Building, 612 ft.
- 1909- New York Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, 700 ft.
- 1913- Woolworth Building, 792 ft.
- 1930- 40 Wall Street, 927 ft.
- 1930- Chrysler Building, 1,046 ft.
- 1931- Empire State, 1,250 ft.
- 1972- World Trade Center, 1,368 ft.
The completion of the Sears Tower in Chicago in 1973 would return the honor to the original home of the skyscraper where it would remain for the next 23 years before it left the US, possibly forever.
While New York’s skyscrapers can no longer claim to be the world’s tallest, many of the city’s record-breaking, historic towers still stand as celebrated architectural achievements and they still combine to form the world’s most famous skyline.
Future Of The Skyscraper In New York- The Freedom Tower
Manhattan’s skyline has been constantly evolving for over a hundred years and will continue to do so as New York continues in its tradition of constructing spectacular skyscrapers. The catastrophic events of 9/11 not only resulted in a tragic loss of life but also deprived New York of one of its greatest landmarks.