What’s a warplane doing on this office tower?

Unless you live or work at least 26 stories above the Financial District, you’ve probably never seen this British World War I fighter plane perched on the roof of the office tower at 77 Water Street.


But it’s been there for more than 45 years, and it was the idea of the building’s owner, the William Kaufman Organization.

The company decided to put this unusual “crowning jewel” on the top of the building, complete with an Astroturf runway and landing lights, just before it was completed in 1970.

Waterstreetwarplane1969The aircraft “serves as an endless source of delight and fascination for visitors who catch a glimpse of the unusual object adorning the roof.”

And though it looks authentic in photos, it’s actually a “sculptured steel replica” of a World War I Sopwith Camel fighter plane.

77 Water Street sounds like a fun place to be a desk jockey. Inside the lobby is a “wood-framed, turn-of-the-century-style” candy store.

[Top photo: Rob Bennett for the Wall Street Journal; bottom: William Kaufman Organization]

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3 Responses to “What’s a warplane doing on this office tower?”

  1. Sean Munger Says:

    Reblogged this on http://www.seanmunger.com and commented:
    Ephemeral New York always has something quirky and interesting to show us about New York City. Today it’s a replica WWI fighter plane parked on top of a skyscraper. Yes, you read that right! This was just too good not to share!

  2. SteveW Says:

    I believe it’s supposed to be an SE5a. The “machine gun” on top of the wing is pretty unique.

  3. Graham Summers Says:

    SteveW, sorry my friend but it is a Sopwith Camel. Some had the machine on the top of the wing for anti-zeppelin operations for example. There is a Camel with this gun configuration preserved in London in the Imperial War Museum.

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