Earlier this month, Blueprint NYC (produced by the Office of NYCMedia), took viewers into the five Loew’s Wonder Theatres of New York and New Jersey. Their second episode details the fascinating history of the Manhattan Municipal Building, one of New York City’s early skyscrapers built in 1914. A fun fact: the striking building was designed from a rejected sketch of Grand Central Terminal.
The Manhattan Municipal Building, one of NYC’s First Skyscrapers
The Manhattan Municipal Building was also home to WNYC Radio, the first radio station in the United States to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Adding to the building’s visual grandeur was the Statue of Civic Fame, a gilded copper monument located at the building’s summit. Often obscured from people at street level, the statue stands at 25 feet and is the third largest statue in New York City. As the video shows however, the scope and beauty of the Manhattan Municipal Building is only surpassed by its glorious history.
The vintage subway entrance below Guastavino tiled arches at the Manhattan Municipal Building
In 1893, the city of New York began renting spaces for government offices but it soon became clear that a city-owned building would be a more practical financial option over the long run. 12 architectural firms submitted designs for the future building and William Kendall, a skilled architect who worked for McKim, Mead and White, was selected to design the building. The Arch of Constantine also served as a model for the facade of the Municipal Building. The building’s terra-cotta vault was inspired by the Palazzo Farnes and its columned entrance was possibly modeled on Bernini’s Colonnade, at St. Peter’s
The arch of the Manhattan Municipal Building. See more of the grand arches of NYC. Image Source: Loakie
Work on the Manhattan Municipal Building commenced on December 28, 1909. Immediately, construction of the building was marred with serious obstacles. A thick sheet of bedrock was located 209 feet below the building’s intended site. The majority of skyscrapers in the city are built above a thick sheet of granite directly underneath the city’s surface. Siting the Manhattan Municipal Building where the bedrock sloped downward proved to be a risky move. In order to remedy this issue, construction workers used pressurized water cylinders to excavate the dirt below and replace it with concrete.
When the Manhattan Municipal Building was completed in 1914, it cost an estimated $15 million dollars. Standing at 25 stories and 580 feet, The Manhattan Municipal Building was the fourth tallest in New York City at the time, behind The Woolworth Building, The Met Life Tower and The Singer Building.
The Statue of Civic Fame Located At the Top of The Manhattan Municipal Building. Image via Flickr by Bobcatnorth
Today, the Manhattan Municipal Building is home to over a dozen public agencies, 33 elevators, 73 restrooms, 2,000 windows and around 3,000 employees. It is also a city and national landmark.
Next, read on for the Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Terminal.