5. The original building was named for Pan American World Airways
Pan American World Airways was the largest international air carrier of the U.S. for much of the 20th century. Founded in 1927 by two former U.S. Air Force majors, Pan Am pioneered jet aircraft and computerized reservation systems, and it even had a near-monopoly on many international routes. In 1970, for example, Pan Am flights went to 86 countries and carried 11 million passengers. Pan Am enjoyed great success while headquartered at the Park Avenue building. But after 15 years, the company considered moving away, and after facing huge financial losses during a recession in the early 1980s, the company put the building up for sale. Pan Am moved its headquarters to Miami and would close down just a few years later.
Some other early tenants in the building included Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Alcoa, Reader’s Digest, Chrysler, and the National Steel Corporation. MetLife, which took over the building in 1981, still has its head office and boardroom in the building.