2. The New York Life Insurance Building, Manhattan – High Society Murder


The New York Life Insurance Building is a full-block sky scraper on 27th street and Madison Avenue. The last significant skyline contribution of Cass Gilbert (architect behind the Woolworth Building), its pyramidal top is constructed of 15,000 tiles of gold leaf. When it was erected in 1925, it replaced Madison Square Garden, an institution which, before moving to its present home on 34th street, hosted musical theater, the circus–and one of the juiciest murders in New York history.

Stanford White was at the peak of his career. The designer of many landmarks, including the Washington Square Arch and the Fifth Avenue homes of the Astors and the Vanderbilts, he was also a libertine who enjoyed the company of that quintessential turn-of-the-century arm candy, the chorus girl. Tops in this category was Evelyn Nesbit, billed “the most beautiful girl in the world.” There was only one problem: she was married.

And not just to any quiet old shlub, either. “Mad” Harry Thaw was a millionaire who got his kicks tying up women and whipping them. Nesbit ran away and ran away, but Thaw kept the gifts flowing and eventually she caved and married the mad steel heir. She carried on trysting with White, however, until one day in 1906 when Thaw discovered a love note. That very same evening, he saw White at the Winter Garden Theater at Madison Square Garden. Thaw spent the entirety of Mam’zelle Champagne pacing nervously back and forth. Then, just as the revue was ending, he walked up to White and, in full view of hundreds of people, shot him three times in the face.