The History Behind NYC’s Most Famous Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers truly define the New York City skyline as each topples the other in reaching unfathomable heights. Some feel the buildings mirror the ambitions of those who live in the city. Others believe the sheer architecture design separates them from other skyscrapers in the world.

The Flatiron

The Flatiron building on Fifth Avenue is arguably NYC’s most iconic skyscraper. It’s not because of height as the building stands only 285 feet tall. No, after the completion of the construction project in 1902, many residents feared The Flatiron would topple because it narrows to six feet at each corner. The name of the triangular structure was monikered by the local New York press, who felt the building had the look of a three-sided flatiron. Today, hip-hop superstar Jay-Z owns a sports bar inside the Flatiron, and New York’s top A-list celebrities like Scarlett Johannson can be seen enjoying their evening.

The Woolworth Building

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the Woolworth Building was considered the world’s tallest skyscraper. To celebrate the opening, the Woolworth family organized an extravaganza ceremony that was highlighted by President Woodrow Wilson turning on the building’s lights from the White House. The elevators were considered to be the fastest as the interior shaft was tempered different than others used at the time. Building engineers made a tweak to the design to avoid a free-fall from ever occurring. The air cushions prevented the elevator car from gathering any speed on its downward spiral to the ground.

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building held the title of world’s tallest skyscraper for a mere 346 days before the opening of the Empire State Building. First-time visitors marvel about the simulated radiator caps that hang off the 31st Floor. They look breathtaking, especially when lit at night. The building’s Cloud Club was the first restaurant located on the top floor of a skyscraper, and home to New York City’s biggest deal-breaking power lunches. The view was so good that Jack Kent Cooke, former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins, decided to buy the building after eating inside the restaurant.

Empire State Building

Many consider the outside design of the Empire State Building was paying homage to the Art Deco community and became a major victory for modern architecture. It was the tallest skyscraper in North America until the World Trade Center North Building opened in 1970. The view from Anthony Malkin’s observation deck seems to go on forever, and you might have a celebrity like Entourage star Adrian Grenier sharing a telescope with you.

Hearst Tower

Media mogul William Randolph Hearst built a six-story structure that would become home to the country’s biggest magazine (Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, etc.) conglomerate. Later, Hearst wanted architects to use his company’s headquarters as the base to build the tallest skyscraper in New York City, but the project was never completed due to financial constraints from the Great Depression. It went unfinished until a stunning modern steel frame design was built upon the building’s original stone structure in 2006.