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Frontispiece from King’s Dream of New York:

In 1908, Moses King published King’s Dream of New York, which depicted what the city could look like in the future. Illustrated by Harry Pettit, the book portrayed a fantastic future for the city which included the creation of many levels of roadways and walkways to service the multitude of pedestrians and automobiles that would occupy the future New York. This idea quickly captured the imaginations of architects, planners and engineers. In fact, few people realize that Grand Central Station embodies many of these ideas, with a conduit of traffic wrapping around the second level of the building.

Many such architect dreamers have yearned to leave a lasting mark on New York City. While the lucky few are able to realize their dream, an untold number never get that chance. Some of their plans never saw reality due to red tape or funding issues, while others remained on the drawing board because the city was not ready for their grandiosity. This is the first in a series of articles relating to  architectural  ideas that never took hold or were never completed in New York City. Presented below, in Part I, is a collection of images that represent New York City buildings that never were. In later articles, we will show you roadways, railways, bridges and universities, that were designed for New York and never constructed.

In May 1908, two unkown American Businessmen  traveled to Spain to meet with the renowned Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi (In the novel The Gaudi Facade by J. S. Raynor, the author hypothesizes that Edward T. Carlton, an American hotelier, and William Gibbs McAdoo, the president of the New York and New Jersey Railroad Company were the American Businessmen that met with Gaudi). Gaudi  (1852-1926) studied architecture in Barcelona, where he was surrounded by neo-classical and romantic designs. Gaudi became famous by reinterpreting these designs and working in the Art Nouveau and Art Moderne styles, and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is considered to be his greatest work.  The American Businessmen  sought to add a building based on Gaudi’s unique vision to the New York City skyline. He was asked to design a hotel that would be situated in Lower Manhattan. Gaudi designed multiple sketches of an 980 to 1,100 foot high hotel called the Hotel Atraccion (Hotel Attraction). It contained an exhibition hall, conference rooms, a theater, and five dining rooms, symbolizing the five continents. Had the hotel been built, it would have been the tallest building in New York City, and therefore in the United States. Sadly, this building would never be built (except in an alternative version of New York depicted in the television show fringe). Carlton wanted the hotel to serve the City’s wealthiest and most elite clientele. Gaudi’s remained true to his communist ideals, and he abandoned the project. According to another version of the story, Gaudi fell ill in 1909 and that brought about the end of the project. All that survive are conceptual sketches by Juan Matemala. But most importantly, its memory survives. Gaudi’s building was featured in an episode of the television show Fringe and the design for his hotel was submitted for the contest to decide what should be built in Lower Manhattan on the site of the World Trade Center.

Conceptual sketches by Juan Matemala of the Gaudi hotel :

A rendering of New York City with the Gaudi hotel if it had been built (courtesy of  Fringefiles):

In 1927, Frank Lloyd Wright designed three to four apartment buildings to be located in the East Village. At least one of the buildings would have been eighteen stories and two of them fourteen. He had been commissioned by the Reverend William Norman Guthrie of St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, an unlikely patron given the location of the proposed towers. The octagonal towers, with alternating vertical and horizontal facades, cantilevered floors, and copper and glass exteriors, would have risen over the grave of Peter Stuyvesant in St. Mark’s cemetery and in place of 19th century row houses on East 10th and Stuyvesant Streets. The apartment towers would have been revolutionary for being constructed without any structural steel support and for attempting to bring part of the suburbs into the city. The “towers in the park” idea was heavily influenced by Le Corbusier. The project was scrapped as a result of the Depression. While, they were never built in New York, Wright used his designs as the basis for the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

A rendering of Wright’s proposed glass tower (source: modernmechanix):

 

 

An aerial perspective of the proposed towers that is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art                    (Source: MoMA):

In 1929, the Regional Plan  Association  released its first Regional Plan for New York and its Environs. The plan proposed to demolish the  tenements  that  littered  the area and called for the creation of a grand  corridor  along Chrystie-Forsyth. The Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway was designed to maximize light and air by incorporating low rise buildings, parks, and adequate spaces between the skyscrapers. The parkway was designed with rows of beautifully designed art-deco  skyscrapers.

The Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway and its grand Art-Deco buildings (source: nottingham.ac.uk):

In 1923, the  Reverend  Christian Reisner of the Methodist Church in Washington Heights conceived  of a grand church complex to be located at Broadway and West 173rd Street. Reverend Reisner developed a 40-story church which would have contained a 2,000-seat nave, a five-story basement, a swimming pool, a bowling alley, and would have been topped off with a 75-foot-high rotating cross. John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated $100,000 for the church’s construction. Like the other buildings, the Depression stopped Reverend Reisner from realizing his dreams.

The proposed Broadway Temple United Methodist Church:

This proposed Municipal Building from the 1960s would have brought about the demolition of the landmarked Surrogate’s Courthouse, Tweed Courthouse, Emigrant Savings Bank, and the New York Sun (A.T. Steward Department Store) buildings:

Another redevelopment plan for Manhattan’s downtown Civic Center:

Another proposed municipal building that was never built:

John D. Rockefeller Jr. proposed this new civic center which included a space for the Metropolitan Opera. When the stock market crashed the Metropolitan Opera was unable to secure funding for a new building. As a result, Rockefeller redesigned his civic center into the Rockefeller Center we know today:

Joesph Urban submitted this design in 1927 to a competition for a new Metropolitan Opera House. Urban’s design situated the opera house at the base of a  skyscraper:

The Grand Central Terminal today we see today was designed by Reed and Stem and  Warren and Wetmore, but here is  McKim, Mead, and White’s proposed Grand Central Terminal:

Grant’s Tomb was envisioned with a grand staircase leading down to the Hudson River. Today of course, the West Side Highway cuts through this:


This proposed building was entitled “The Fashion Building” and was to be built on Fifth Avenue. It was designed by William Bergen Chalfant for Amos Parrish & Co in 1930:

This 150-story structure would have been known as the Broadway-Church Building, bounded by Broadway, Church, Duane, and Worth Streets:

These are the proposed designs for the Irving Trust  Building at 1 Wall Street. The building that was eventually constructed became later the Bank of New York and since 2007 it has been the BNY Mellon Building:

The Barclay-Vesey building, headquarters of the New York Telephone Company, was designed by Ralph Walker of McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin, who was strongly influenced by Eliel  Saarinen in a Mayan-inspired Art Deco style. But this is an alternative design:

Two proposed renderings of the Chrysler Building lack the  ornamentation  for which the Chrysler Building is now famous:

This design by Emery Roth for the National Penn Colosseum was never built:

A 1920s proposal for Governor’s Island that was never built:

Proposed in 1926, the Larkin Building would have contained 110 stories and was to be located on West 42nd Street (the McGraw Hill Building currently occupies the site):

The Coney Island Globe Tower was  conceived  of in 1906 as the largest steel structure ever erected. Samuel Friede designed the 700 foot high globe whose 11 floors were to be filled with restaurants, a vaudeville theater, a roller skating rink, a bowling alley, a slot machines, an Aerial Hippodrome, four large circus rings, a ballroom in the world, an observatory, and weather observation station. Public money poured into the project with claims of 100% returns on investments. After two years of almost no construction, the Globe Tower was revealed to be a grand fraud.

An amusement park  reminiscent  of  Venice was planned for, but never built in, Jamaica Bay:

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The New York City that Never Was Series:

The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings

The New York City that Never Was: Part II Bridges

The New York City that Never Was: Part III Roadways and Railways

The New York City that Never Was: Part IV  A Visionary Dream of the 1916 Zoning Resolution

The New York City that Never Was: Part V The New York Public Library

31 Comments

  1. What happens to your trailer when it is not in use though.
    Also the horse box hire business should work with an insurance group which
    will replace your old horse box in case of a “no blame” accident.

    This can absolutely be cherished by many people who always continue touring.

  2. [...] The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings [...]

  3. [...] some ideas, perhaps?) / 12 horrible plans for New York that (thankfully) never happened. See also, the New York that Never Was, at Untapped. Related, Sergey Semonov’s beautiful, ultra-composited and corrected aerial [...]

  4. Risenc says:

    Great list. Not to be a pedant, but Ralph Walker was influenced by Eliel Saarinen, the father of Eero, who after all was still a wee lad at the time Walker made this design …

  5. Stephanie says:

    A fascinating, now out-of-print book is Rebecca Read Shanor’s “The City that Never Was”. It discusses, in detail, many of these “never was” projects. Interesting that one of them has finally seen the light of day–the FDR memorial on Roosevelt Island.

  6. [...] to a pulsating vision of layered transportation systems that would inform later images like King’s Dream of New York and reach cinematic apotheosis in the buzzing dystopian city of Fritz Lang’s [...]

  7. [...] to a pulsating vision of layered transportation systems that would inform later images like King’s Dream of New York and reach cinematic apotheosis in the buzzing dystopian city of Fritz Lang’s [...]

  8. [...] The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings Commented [...]

  9. [...] The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings 22 comments [...]

  10. Roland Comte says:

    Thanks for your answer. Of course, it will help to clear this enigma. Many persons have accused Juan Matemala to be the true author of the drawing of the Hotel Atraccion. Sincerely yours. Roland (France)

  11. Roland Comte says:

    Hotel Atraccion – Gaudi

    Thanks for your site.
    I visited recently the Gaudi Center in Reus, near Tarragona (Spain) and I was surprised by this fantastic project made by Gaudi for Manhattan in 1908. At the Gaudi center, they pass an extract of Fringe where we can see the virtual images of this never realized project. Are you sure of the names of the persons you cite as meeting Gaudi in Barcelona ? Can you precise me where your informations come from because many persons would be very interested by these precisions ?
    Sincerely
    Roland (France)

  12. [...] The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings 14 comments Recent [...]

  13. Dave says:

    Spectacular! I wouldn’t have minded seeing FLW-designed high-rises in NYC. Every one of these is beautiful.

  14. [...] is the fourth installment of the series, the New York City that Never Was  [Part I: Buildings, Part II: Bridges, Part III: Roadways and [...]

  15. [...] illustrations de ce qu’aurait pu ou dàƒ » devenir être New York dès la fin des années 20 ( Partie 1,   Partie 2,   Partie [...]

  16. [...] illustrations de ce qu’aurait pu ou dàƒ » devenir être New York dès la fin des années 20 ( Partie 1,   Partie 2,   Partie 3). Antonio Sant'Elia "Cittàƒ   Nuova"/ "Cittàƒ   Nuova" [...]

  17. Pavel says:

    a very interesting article, thanks

  18. [...] While some of them  succeeded  in bringing their designs to life, many of their greatest  buildings and bridges  never left the drawing board. In addition to buildings and bridges, numerous roadways [...]

  19. This is amazing! It’s hard to imagine the New York City skyline different from what it is today. We wouldn’t have minded seeing the Gaudi Hotel become a reality. Architecturally, his work was genius.

    • michelle young says:

      Makes you wonder if they are taking enough risks with the architecture of the city these days doesn’t it?

      • Agreed! We would love to see more interesting architecture and design in New York. New York by Gehry is pretty nice. Perhaps there will be some interesting new structures to go up during the waterfront rejuvenation project that was recently passed.

  20. [...] The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings [...]

  21. Georgia says:

    Fantastic kickoff for the series. My jaw dropped at the Chrystie-Forsyth parkway rendering. Would LES and Chinatown even exist there today?

    • benjamin waldman says:

      The LES and Chinatown that we know today would definitely not have existed had the parkway been built. It is likely that they would have been left to decay like similarly situated neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn that had highways constructed through them. A NYC guidebook from the late 1970s described one of them as looking like Berlin after World War II. At the same time, it is impossible to say if any benefits of the proposed parkway would have outweighed the substantial costs.

  22. Janos says:

    I’ve always wondered what the story was with that Grant’s Tomb staircase. It feels so idisjointed, as the traffic circle around the tomb creates a second disconnect.

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