1920s skyscrapers towering over Times Square

With so many skyscrapers in the city topping out with more than 70, 80, even 100 floors, the tall buildings shown in this photo of Times Square look pretty puny.


But they impressed New Yorkers at the time, and the caption on the back of the card boasts about them. “This aerial photograph of the Times Square section of New York shows many of the skyscraper office buildings located in the heart of New York,” it reads.

“Among the best known are the Times Building, the Bush Terminal Building, recently completed Loew’s State Theatre, and the famous Hotel Astor on Broadway.”

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3 Responses to “1920s skyscrapers towering over Times Square”

  1. Jon Phillips Says:

    I am guessing the text for this postcard dates before 1926 and the completion of the Paramount Building at 445′ in height at 43-44th Street at 1501 Broadway. At that point the Paramount was the tallest building in Times Square and certainly worth a mention. It houses the Paramount Theater on the ground floor at the corner of 43rd Street and Broadway. It made a good deal of revenue with its observation deck drawing tourists and visitors who gladly paid to access the view of the entire city and Hudson River. Even though they were only 45 stories up (the tallest building at that time was still the Woolworth Building at 77 stories.

    The actual offices consisted of 33 floors which included office for the Paramount Headquarters where Adolph Zukor had his chairman of the board office for Paramount Pictures. And in later years ABC Broadcasting and Paramount records when anti-trust settlements split up the giant consortia of Paramount films, theaters, radio, television and records. (In 1966 ABC departed for its “Black Rock” building on Sixth Avenue).

    In 1932 when the Empire State was completed, it dwarfed all neighbors, even the Chrysler building completed in 1929. At that point the Paramount Observation deck ‘went dark’ and stopped taking customers because customers stopped coming and it was less expensive to shut it down.

    When I was a little boy both my parents worked in the Paramount Building (and I have fond memories of flying paper airplanes saying, (“help I’m stuck on the roof of Paramount Building” with ‘Kilroy’ type cartoons, some of which made it over to the lower roof and set backs of the Times Building). On Thanksgiving Days the (then) Chemical Bank (now Chase) on the second floor toward the corner of 44th Street, used to open its doors to let extremely excited and sugar charged little children including myself come watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades there, from its two story high commercial grade heavy plate windows. It was truly a “Wow!” factor P.O.V. as the curve of Broadway and the Macy’s workers struggling with ropes to keep the giant balloons from careening into the surrounding walls of the architecturally created canyon was most exciting. It was also nice not getting frozen solid on those not-uncommon Thanksgiving Days when New York anticipated the coming of Winter with below freezing temperatures.

    The Paramount Building was in an amalgam of styles; Deco (the main building and entrance and Neo-Renaissance (the theater). The Chicago Firm of Rapp and Rapp were selected as the architects, perhaps in part because Adolph Zukor had just taken over Barney Balaban and Sam Katz’s Chicago based midwest theater empire. The Thompson-Starrett Construction Company built the Paramount (as richly described in Skyscrapers by Col. William A. Starrett, 1928 Charles Scribner and Sons). And Paul Starrett complained more than once at the building’s love of gilt and Hollywood glitz in the taste of Adoph Zukor, who was a forerunner of “too much is never enough” as later taken up by Trump Tower.

  2. Jon Phillips Says:

    P.S. To clarify for non New Yorkers, The Woolworth Building is far south near the tip of Manhattan. For visitors to Times Square, until the Empire State’s arrival, the Paramount was the best vantage point for taking in the NY skyline. Way prior to that, there was an observatory needle near where now stand the NY Public Library at 42nd Street, which prior to being constructed was an elevated holding reservoir providing water to Lower Manhattan.

  3. Tom B Says:

    Thanks Jon for that description. I’ve seen pictures where the clock on the Paramount Building was visible from every where. Now you can hardly see the clock unless your right in Times Square looking up.

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