Posts Tagged ‘Mohawk ironworkers’

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.