If you’re like most New York newcomers, every time you step out of the subway, you need a good minute or so to get yourself oriented. Are the streets going upwards? If so, you’re going north. Downwards? South.
It’s actually pretty simple but if the streets are far apart or you can’t see a street sign from where you are, it can get kind of confusing. A great tip for quickly gauging your location (and finding North, South, East or West) is to scan the skyline and locate a building that you know the general address of. (e.g. If you’ve just gotten out of the R train at 28th street, look for the Empire State Building – if it’s in front of you, you’re walking North).
Below are a few of New York City’s most famous skyscrapers. Anyone who aspires to call themselves a New Yorker should be able to pick out at least these eleven buildings from the NYC skyline.
One World Trade Center
Previously known as Freedom Tower, 1WTC is being constructed in the Northwest corner of the World Trade Center Complex.
As of May 2012, it surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York City and upon its completion in 2013, it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest building in the world.
The Empire State Building
The Empire State building is hands down New York City’s most famous building.
Located on the intersection of 5th Avenue and 43rd Street, it’s a 102 story art deco skyscraper that was the world’s tallest building from its completion in 1930 to the completion of the World Trade Center’s North Tower in 1972.
After 9/11, it regained its status as New York City’s tallest building, which it kept for ten years until it was surpassed by the new 1WTC.
The Chrysler Building
Located at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, the Chrysler Building is tied with the New York Times Building as the 4th tallest building in New York.
It was completed in 1930 and, before the completion of the Empire State Building, it enjoyed a brief stint as the world’s tallest building. Standing at 1048 feet tall (77 floors), it’s the world’s tallest brick building.
The Woolworth Building
Standing at 792 feet (57 stories), the Woolworth Building is one of the oldest, tallest and most famous skyscrapers in New York City.
This neo-gothic skyscraper has been named a National Historic Landmark.
40 Wall Street
The enormous skyscraper at 40 Wall Street was completed in 1930 and briefly surpassed the Chrysler Building as the world’s tallest building.
Not to be outdone, the Chrysler building had a 125-foot stainless steel spire installed to its top and reclaimed the title.
Architects for the Chrysler Building argued that the spire didn’t count because it wasn’t functional and that 40 Wall Street was technically still the tallest because it contained the world’s highest usable floor.
They threw flames back and forth until 11 months later when the Empire State Building was completed.
40 Wall Street was once known as the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building but was bought by Donald Trump in 1995 and renamed the Trump Building.
The Seagram building is located at 375 Park Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Street.
It’s the headquarters of the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram’s & Sons and is hailed as a masterpiece of corporate modernism. It was completed in 1958 and towers at 516 feet tall.
The MetLife Building
The MetLife Building is located at 200 Park Avenue.
Upon its completion in 1963, it was the largest commercial office space in the world and was hugely unpopular with New Yorkers due to its proportion and overall gaudiness. It was originally called the Pan Am Building but changed its name in 1992 after being bought by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
The MetLife Building sits atop Grand Central Station. It was originally called the Pan Am Building but today the enormous Pan Am letters have been replaced by MetLife.
The UN Secretariat Building (the UN Headquarters)
Constructed in 1952, the UN Secretariat Building houses all of the administerial functions of the UN, as well as the offices of ambassadors and delegates.
It’s located on the corner of 46th Street and 1st Avenue on United Nations territory.
The GE Building
The GE Building is an art deco skyscraper that forms the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan.
Rockefeller Center is also the home of the Radio City Music Hall, the famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink.
It’s famous for housing the television network NBC. Its nickname, 30 Rock is derived from its address – 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Like the Empire State Building, it boasts an observation deck, promoted as “Top of the Rock.”
The GE Building was completed in 1933 and stands at 840 feet.
The famous Photograph Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper by Charles C. Ebbets was taken during its construction.
The Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building, named for its distinctive shape, is one of the most well-recognized buildings in New York City.
It’s located on 175 Fifth Avenue, at the intersection of Broadway.
When it was completed in 1902, at just 285 feet, it was one of the tallest buildings in New York City.
70 Pine Street, the American Radiator Building, The Chanin Building, Citigroup Center, The Daily News Building, The Equitable Building, Hearst Tower, Lever House, Municipal Building, Park Row Building, the Trump Tower, the Waldorf Astoria, the New York Times Building, Sony Tower, Time Warner Center and The Lipstick Building.
If you’re interested in New York City’s architectural history, a great place to check out is the Skyscraper Museum.
Located at 39 Battery Place in the Southwestern tip of Manhattan, it’s open Monday to Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm. The entry fee is $5 for adults and $2.50 for students.
Full of pictures, timelines, and diagrams, it’s a great place to learn about the historical forces that have shaped New York City’s skyline.