Old New York In Postcards #27 – The 10 Tallest Buildings In 1939

Skyscraper Race – The 10 Tallest Buildings In New York City In 1939

When the Park Row Building was completed in 1899, the 31 story office building was the highest in New York and the world at 382 feet. Less than seven years later it was no longer the tallest, with the Singer Building soaring 211 feet higher than the Park Row.

Today the Park Row Building, converted to residences, is not even among the 100 tallest buildings in New York. And the Singer Building was demolished over 55 years ago.

The constant desire by developers to top one another has continued and accelerated in the past dozen years.

The skyline is being overtaken by mostly nondescript glass boxes dwarfing other buildings and eclipsing many of the classic New York skyscrapers.

As of 2022 the ten tallest buildings in New York are:

Rank   Name                                 Height Stories Year Completed Address
1         One World Trade Center 1,776    94        2014                     285 Fulton Street
2         Central Park Tower          1,550     99        2021                     225 West 57th Street
3         111 West 57th Street       1,428     85        2022                     111 West 57th Street
4         One Vanderbilt                 1,401      73       2020                      1 Vanderbilt Avenue
5         432 Park Avenue              1,397      85       2015                      432 Park Avenue
6         30 Hudson Yards              1,270     103     2019                      500 West 33rd Street
7         Empire State Building      1,250     102     1931                      350 Fifth Avenue
8         Bank of America Tower   1,200       55      2009                     1101 Sixth Avenue
9         3 World Trade Center      1,079       69      2018                      175 Greenwich Street
10       The Brooklyn Tower         1,073       73      2022                      9 DeKalb Avenue (Brooklyn)

Recently looking at the 1939 World Almanac there was a list of the tallest buildings in New York.

Here are the top ten from that list-

All heights listed are the Almanac’s figures which may differ from modern estimates.

1. The Empire State Building is located on the site of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. The Empire State is still the most famous building in the city. At 1,248 feet it was the tallest building in New York from 1931 until the twin towers of the World Trade Center were completed in the 1970s.  Including its television tower, the Empire State Building is 1,472 feet high. This monumental ladder for King Kong is the only building from the 1939 list that is still among the current top 10, at number seven. Check out all those facts on this postcard.

2. Chrysler Building –  Iconic in its styling, the 1930 Chrysler Building rises 1,046 feet and is 77 stories. At 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, its proximity to the Empire State Building has always drawn comparisons between the two art deco landmarks. Beauty is within the eye of the beholder, but the Chrysler Building is on a lot of lists as the most beautiful skyscraper ever built.

3. 60 Wall Tower – also known as The Cities Services Building is shown in the center of this postcard. Its skyscraper rival to the left is the Bank of Manhattan Building (see number5). At 950 feet high the 1932 Cities Services Building by architects Clinton and Russell, Holton and George is now called 70 Pine Street and was converted to residential use in 2016.

4. Rockefeller Center’s main building is the RCA Building or 30 Rockefeller Plaza, now renamed the Comcast Building. Designed by Raymond Hood, the 850 tower opened in 1933.

5. The Bank of Manhattan Building or 40 Wall Street, aka the Trump Building. The 838 foot skyscraper was erected in 1930 for the Manhattan Company. It remains a commercial building.

6. The Woolworth Building – Financed entirely in cash from store magnate Frank W. Woolworth, the Cass Gilbert designed skyscraper at 233 Broadway stands at 792 feet. From 1913 -1930 it was the tallest building in the world. The landmark on Broadway between Barclay Street and Park Place is now mixed use with commercial and residential tenants. With lofty asking prices for the apartments, only a handful of tenants have moved in since residential conversion in the 2010s.

7. Metropolitan Life Insurance Building – The insurance company headquarters was located for years at 1 Madison Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets. Completed in 1909 it was briefly the world’s tallest building at 700 feet until the completion of the Woolworth Building. Metropolitan Life’s original 1893 building is to the right of the tower. Over the years, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building has had many owners, occupants and renovations. The upper tower portion is now a hotel.

8- 500 Fifth Avenue – The art deco skyscraper at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue is 697 feet high. It was built by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon the architects of the Empire State Building and completed the same year, 1931.

9 – City Bank Farmers Trust Building – Located at 20 Exchange Place is a 56 story, 686 feet high sleek tower. The back of the postcard notes that the building “has the unique distinction of being in the center of eight streets leading to all parts of the financial district.” The building, completed in 1931, is now almost entirely residential and named after its address.

10- Chanin Building – At 122 East 42nd Street along Lexington Avenue, the Chanin stands at 680 feet. The building is named after its developer Irwin Chanin. According to the back of this postcard there are two facts that I did not know. “The 50th floor contains a fully equipped theatre.” And, “the observation promenade more than 650 feet above street level, affords a 35-mile view of the greatest city and adjacent territory in Long Island and New Jersey.”

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