Posts Tagged ‘building the Empire State Building’

New York on the rise during the skyscraper era

June 17, 2013

With the Freedom Tower finally topped by its spire, it’s an appropriate time to look back at the early 20th century and see how the city’s most iconic tall buildings appeared during construction.

Did New Yorkers circa 1900 have any idea that the 22-story building (below) rising on the flatiron-shaped plot at Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and East 22nd Street would become one of the first skyscrapers?


It’s not quite what we think of as skyscraper today, but for 1902, it’s pretty impressive—as is the lower Broadway construction project destined to become the Woolworth Building (below).


It turns 100 this year, a beauty with an innovative steel-frame structure. And at 782 feet, it’s still one of the 50 tallest buildings in the country.


Without its clock tower, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower (above), built between 1927 and 1929 off Flatbush Avenue, looks even more phallic than usual.

It went residential in the 2000s, but in this Brooklyn Historical Society photo, you can see an elevated train track behind it.


Last but not least is this image above of a half-built Empire State Building.

Three thousand workers put it together in just one year and 45 days—making it the world’s tallest building from its opening in 1931 to 1972, when the World Trade Center took that title.

The Mohawk Indians who put up the city skyline

March 10, 2010

The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, the George Washington Bridge—the most iconic structures of New York’s skyline were built in part by Mohawk ironworkers.

They arrived in the city from upstate and Canada in the late 1800s to take on some of the most dangerous jobs in construction, working hundreds of feet in the air putting up frames for skyscrapers and bridges. 

They kept coming as the city grew vertically, with about 800 settling off Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn and Bay Ridge, according to a 1957 New York Times article.

Mohawk ironworkers continued to work the skyline. They helped build (and cart away) the World Trade Center; more recently they moved steel at the Time Warner Center.

As for the myth that they they had no fear of heights, the Indians interviewed in the Times piece shot that down.

In the mid-1880s, they explained, their fathers and grandfathers were hired to build a steel bridge near a reservation upstate. They earned a rep as skilled workers, then came to New York to ply their trade during the 20th century building boom.

The above photo, from 1971, comes from a recent Smithsonian exhibit.