How Columbus Circle almost became Hearst Plaza

For miles up Broadway, New York pays tribute to its greatest newspaper and media figures, from Newspaper Row near City Hall to Herald Square, Greeley Square, and Times Square.


William Randolph Hearst (right) must have realized this after he came to town in the 1890s.

HearstbuildingAlready a San Fransisco newspaper baron, he arrived to take over the New York Journal and build a media empire here too.

But waging war with against other papers with his sensationalist journalism wasn’t enough. He also began buying real estate at sparsely populated Columbus Circle, near the New York Journal offices (at left, in 1912).

His intention: to add to the map of the city something called “Hearst Plaza,” which would be the headquarters for his growing company and would rival Herald Square and Times Square in size and prestige.

Williamrandolphhearst“William Randolph Heart envisioned a headquarters building as early as 1895, and began purchasing huge amounts of property—in and around 57th Street and Eighth Avenue in the Columbus Circle area,” states the Hearst Corporation website.

He finally broke ground for a Hearst headquarters building on 57th Street and Eighth Avenue in the 1920s.

“The selection of this site was directly related to the commercial and cultural development in the Columbus Circle area and to Hearst’s intention to establish Hearst Plaza in the area.”

HearsttowerThe headquarters (above), a six-story Art Deco beauty with allegorical figures representing art and culture, opened in 1928.

But what happened to the great plans to turn Columbus Circle into a monument to his empire?

The Depression hit, and then World War II, both of which made a huge dent in the Hearst Corporation’s bottom line.

Columbus Circle didn’t need the Hearst name to thrive; it went on to become a bustling commercial center and gateway to the Upper West Side.

Hearst headquarters was built to support a skyscraper on top, in anticipation of the development of Hearst Plaza.

Newyorkjournal1898Yet wasn’t until 2006 when a skyscraper was actually completed there—the glass trapezoidal Hearst Tower (above).

Hearst did make one other contribution to Columbus Circle: he made the call for funds to build the Maine Monument, completed in 1913, honoring the battleship that exploded in 1898 off Cuba.

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5 Responses to “How Columbus Circle almost became Hearst Plaza”

  1. Pete Louys Says:

    I read this same story in House of Outrageous Fortune, the book on 15 Central Park West that came out this spring.

  2. Punto Says:

    Actually, the Hearst Building is not on Broadway & 57, but a short block west at Eighth Ave. The old photo shows that it is on a square corner and not on a diagonal which would be the case with Broadway,

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks for that–I should know, since I worked for Hearst for years!

  4. Edward Collier Says:

    Are there any records or blueprints of the interior of the Hearst building that used to stand at what is now Columbus Circle? Specifically the European chapel inside for employees…
    Thanks in advance for your time and energy in this regard!
    Respect and Gratitude,
    Ed Collier

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Do you mean the Hearst building on Eighth and 57th, the one that’s now topped by the Hearst Tower?

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