03/27/14 12:00pm

Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower Madison Square Park NYC Untapped CitiesThe Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower when it was the tallest building in the world. Source: Library of Congress

We all know the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building on Madison Square Park with its distinctive tower rising high on the skyline. Yet, many people don’t realize that there could have been another, very different MetLife tower if one architect’s plans had come to fruition.

Harvey Wiley Corbett was born in San Francisco in 1873 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Corbett worked as a draftsman with Cass Gilbert (architect of the Woolworth Building), but it was his collaboration with Hugh Ferriss on drawings of what a skyscraper city could look like while abiding by the 1916 Zoning Laws that made his work well known. He turned his theoretical work into reality by building incredible Art Deco skyscrapers.  (more…)

03/04/14 2:00pm

Brooklyn Museum

In 1893, McKim, Mead, & White won the design competition for what would become the Brooklyn Museum. Their design featured a Beaux-Arts masterpiece , 560 feet square, with four interior light courts. The Greco-Roman building won praise for its sculpture filled façade (noted sculptors include Daniel Chester French, Adolph Weinman, and Charles Kerk). In New York City, the Brooklyn Museum is often overlooked, despite the fact that it is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States and is well known for its Egyptian Collection.  (more…)

02/25/14 10:00am

NYC That Never Was American Museum of Natural History Untapped Cities

The American Museum of Natural History was conceived by Albert S. Bickmore, a naturalist who won the backing of wealthy and prominent New Yorkers, including J. P. Morgan, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., and Andrew Haswell Green. The museum was first organized in 1869 and commenced its life in the Arsenal two years later.

The young museum had big plans, and shortly after moving into the Arsenal it decided to move west to Manhattan Square, one of the few park areas included in the original Grid Plan. Calvert Vaux was commissioned to design the new building. Vaux’s design filled the entire square and consisted of “four great buildings 700 feet long, ornate in material and detail, and distinguished by large entrances of architectural dignity and strength,” as described by the museum’s president Henry Fairfield Osborne in 1911. The cornerstone was laid on June 2, 1874, with much pomp. The President of the United States (and three of his cabinet members), the Governor of New York, and the Mayor of New York City were present.  (more…)

01/31/14 9:00am

The design of the Woolworth Building was influenced by many different styles. The building possessed a Tudor Gothic portal and lobby-arcade decorated with Early Christian, Byzantine, and Gothic motifs. The headquarters for the company on the twenty-fourth floor was designed in the French Empire style with an Italian Renaissance private office and apartment for Woolworth in the tower.

Cass Gilbert also designed a Pompeiian pool for the building, which was never fully realized. Today the pool and hot tub are boarded up, as seen on our last Untapped Cities exclusive tour of the Woolworth Building but here’s a renderings of what it might have been and vintage photos of the pool in construction and in once.


01/29/14 2:00pm

dick grayson-batman and robin-hudson univeristy-nyc that never was-untapped cities-02Strapping young Dick Grayson sporting a Hudson sweater as he bids farewell to Bruce and Alfred. (Image from Batman #217 via iFanboy)

New York City isn’t exactly a “college town,” but for TV buffs the name Hudson University should ring a bell as the alma mater of Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show and a frequent location for murders and raunchy college parties investigated by cops on Law and Order. But if you look at a map or list of NY schools today, you won’t find Hudson at all. Filmed at many locations throughout city, Hudson University is a combination of several different buildings including schools, government buildings, and public areas. NY Times called it, “where everyone majors in murder,” but the ongoing joke dates back much further than its references on TV.  (more…)

01/27/14 12:00pm

Ramath Orah Synagogue

Matt Green, in his quest to walk every block in New York City, discovered an item that belongs in our New York City that Never Was column. Congregation Ramath Orah, located on 110th Street just east of Broadway, is an Orthodox synagogue is located in the never finished home of West Side Unitarian Church. Ramath Orah (Hebrew for the heights of light) was founded in 1941 by a group of Jews from Luxembourg fleeing the Nazis.