On November 1, 1939, prominent figures of New York City including Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and David Sarnoff, President of the Radio Corporation of America, along with 300 spectators, crowded into the unfinished lobby of the U.S. Rubber Company Building at Rockefeller Center. The crowd watched eagerly as John D. Rockefeller Jr. marked the ceremonial completion of the Art Deco complex’s construction. Rockefeller, with some assistance, wielded a 60-pound pneumatic hammer and drove in the building’s final rivet. Today, you can see that rivet, if you know where to look.
The ceremony marking Rockefeller Center’s completion was presided over by John D.’s son Nelson Rockefeller, then president of Rockefeller Center, Inc. The festivities, including a speech by John D. Rockefeller, were broadcast over the radio. Surrounded by red, white, and blue bunting hanging from the concrete walls of the building’s lobby, John D. Rockefeller spoke of the complex’s origins in “times of abnormal prosperity” and how construction “carried on throughout the long years of the depression without abatement of halting,” as reported by the New York Times.
When Rockefeller hammered in that final Rockefeller Center rivet, it marked the completion of the fourteen buildings in the original Rockefeller Center complex. The final structure, the U.S. Rubber Company Building, was right next door to the Roxy Theater. The theater is the only original Rockefeller Center building to have been demolished. It was taken down in 1954 and replaced by an annex of the U.S. Rubber Building, now known as the Simon and Schuster Building.
The last Rockefeller Center rivet, which bears Rockefeller’s engraved signature, is located inside a column in the lobby of 1230 Avenue of the Americas. Cut into a gold panel, there is a small round peephole with a button below. Pressing the button will turn on a light that illuminates the rivet inside. Made of a silver alloy, the rivet itself weighs 2 pounds! This rivet is just one of 10,000,000 used throughout the complex.
You can see the rivet up close on our Secrets of Rockefeller Center walking tour! On this tour, you’ll uncover more hidden gems such as a silver plane designed by Cartier, discover hidden symbols in Rockefeller Center’s many works of art, and so much more.
Secrets of Rockefeller Center