Tower Building (New York City)

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Entrance to the Tower Building
Shortly after completion
Shortly before demolition

The Tower Building was a structure in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York City, located at 50-52 Broadway on a lot that extended east to New Street.[1][2] It was arguably New York City's first skyscraper,[3] and the first building with a steel skeleton structure.[1] Architect Bradford Gilbert filed plans for its construction on April 17, 1888, it was completed on September 27, 1889 and demolished beginning in 1913.[1][2]

Though it was 108 ft (33 m) deep, the building had just 21.5 ft (6.6 m) of frontage on Broadway, necessitating its novel design.[1] Chicago's Home Insurance Building (completed 1884) was the first to use structural steel, but that building did not fully support its masonry elements on the steel frame.[4][5] On the narrow lot, a conventional design with load-bearing masonry walls would have left little room on the ground floor, but architect Gilbert asked, "Why can't I run my foundation far up in the air and then begin my building?"[5] Gilbert's design came from a railroad bridge turned on its end.[6] Cast iron columns about 20 feet (6.1 m) apart formed the skeleton, and the walls of each floor hung on a "shoe" instead of transmitting the load to the wall of the floor below.[7] The resulting structure was 128 feet (39 m) in height, and 11 stories high.[8] Gilbert made models to convince the city to permit the construction of his unusual design.[9] It was quickly followed by taller steel-skeleton buildings, including the Columbia Building in 1890.[7]

The Tower Building was sold by John N. Stearns in 1905, along with two adjacent buildings, for a reported price of about $1.5 million.[10] In 1909, Morris Building Company, a holding company of Standard Oil Company, purchased it in foreclosure for $1.68 million.[8] No longer profitable by 1913 due to its lack of tenants, it was vacated in December of that year and demolition began.[8] Demolition was complete in 1914; at this point the tallest building in New York, the Woolworth Building, was 792 feet (241 m).[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Bronze Tablet Placed on the Tower Building, New York" (PDF). The New York Times. September 3, 1899. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Warren, Charles Peck (May 2, 1915). "Excessive Height a Trying Problem" (PDF). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  3. ^ Gray, Christopher (May 5, 1996). "Streetscapes/The Tower Building;The Idea That Led to New York's First Skyscraper". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  4. ^ "Home Insurance Building". Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Birkmire, William H.; Gilbert, Bradford Lee; Barrett, James (August 19, 1899). "Disputes of Architects" (PDF). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  6. ^ Gray, Christopher (July 1, 2007). "The Architect Who Turned a Railroad Bridge on Its Head". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "City's First Skyscraper Now Being Razed While New Giant 800 Feet High is Planned" (PDF). New York Sun. January 4, 1914. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "First Skyscraper to Be Torn Down" (PDF). The New York Times. October 29, 1913. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  9. ^ "The Tower Building". New York Architecture. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  10. ^ "First Skyscraper Sold" (PDF). The New York Times. May 12, 1905. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 29, 2014.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°42′24″N 74°00′44″W / 40.7067°N 74.0123°W / 40.7067; -74.0123