5. New York Life Building
The New York Life Building was Cass Gilbert’s last well-known design in New York City. Located at 51 Madison Avenue, the 33 story building opened in 1928 and is home to the New York Life Insurance Company. This same site was originally the location of the first two Madison Square Gardens.
The building features Gothic, Renaissance, and Gothic Revival architecture and spans 615 feet high. The building has a massive pyramidal gilded roof that takes up six stories of mechanical services. The original roof featured a copper and gold leaf which was replaced by golden ceramic tiles from 1966 to 1967.
The National Register of Historic Places nomination document for the New York Life building quotes architectural historian Arthur Tappan North, stating that the building’s “observance of the accepted criteria of correct designing, harmonious proportions of its mass, cultured restraint and refinement of its ornamentation, general fitness, and inspiring beauty and dignity cause it to assume its rightfully preeminent position in the never ending pageant of the world’s architecture.”