The New York City that Never Was: Part I Buildings

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

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