4. & 5. The Neighbors of 30 Rock
Sixth Avenue’s “Skyscraper Alley” in Midtown is an almost unending stream of International style buildings. The 19-building complex at Rockefeller Center stands at the center of all this, where the flourishes of Art Deco meet the functional lines and geometric simplicity of the International movement. In the midst of the Great Depression, most landlords were pleased or at least amenable to Rockefeller’s offers to buy the land, except for the owners of the two townhouses on either end of 30 Rock.
A Magnolia bakery currently occupies the former Hurley’s, a bar and saloon that opened in the 1890s and later became a famed watering hole for the media industry, ironically based largely in Rockefeller Center. The saloon had also operated successfully through Prohibition where the ground level flower shop led to the more popular speakeasy below. The three Hurley brothers were hardly fazed by Rockefeller, asking for an absurdly high sum to underscore their refusal to leave. As one Hurley said “I’ve seen sonofabitchin’ Rockefellers come and sonofabitchin’ Rockefellers go and no sonofabitchin’ Rockefeller’s gonna tear down my bar.” Less theatrical but equally firm in his refusal to leave, John Maxwell simply refused to negotiate at all, whether in seriousness or not.
Forced to build above and around the two townhouses, the 70-story 30 Rockefeller Plaza remains sandwiched between two three-and-four story structures.