The world’s tallest building for one year only

Opened in 1908, the slender, elegant Singer Tower, headquarters of the sewing machine company, rose more than 40 stories over Broadway and Liberty Street.

A marvel in its day, it spent one year as the tallest building in the world, only to be usurped by the Metropolitan Life Tower on 23rd Street in 1909.


Tourists paid 50 cents to visit its 40th floor observation deck. It was prominently featured in postcards, like this one above.

SingertowerLOCSixty years later, it met the wrecking ball.

“High above the intersection of Broadway and Liberty Street yesterday, a demolition torch blazed against the hazy sky as a steelworker cut into a beam on the tallest building ever to be demolished,” reported The New York Times on March 27, 1968.

“Yesterday the lobby looked as if a bomb had hit it. The Italian-marble surfacing and the bronze medallions with the Singer monogram were stripped from many columns and were being offered for sale.

“Holes pocked the elaborately sculptured pendentives that support the series of domes forming the ceiling. Plaster flaked onto a floor strewn with wood, shattered brick and discarded coffee cups.”

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6 Responses to “The world’s tallest building for one year only”

  1. Frederick S. Lane Says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. You might enjoy this:

  2. chas1133 Says:

    Met Life Bldg is one of my all time fav’s…hope it stands forever…

  3. tgmccormack Says:

    Reblogged this on ISP ENG 201 READING AND WRITING NEW YORK and commented:
    Going backwards to history for a minute. I have passed this odd looking building and always wondered the story behind it. What is with the desire to have the tallest building. Clearly functionality and aesthetics are trumped by ego.

    This post comes from a great NYC blog called Ephemeral New york. It actually was one of our assigned readings. Following it may help you with your coursework.

    • Joe R Says:

      I think that ego might be part of it but you also have to include property value. Downtown Manhattan was already crowded when the Singer Building was built and if you wanted to build a large space for your company’s needs you had no choice but to build upwards.

  4. Joe R Says:

    It’s frequently mentioned that the Singer Building was the tallest building ever demolished before the catastrophe of 9/11.

  5. A close-up look down Cortlandt Street in 1908 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] we’re looking at from West Street, I believe. Not only is there no more Singer Building (brand new in 1908, demolished in 1968), but the small-scale walkups on the right (where the cigar store sign is in red) were […]

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