A Sight You’ll Never See – The Singer Building At Night – 1913
Here is the Singer Building Tower in 1913 with its office lights ablaze in a photograph taken by Underwood and Underwood. The adjacent smaller towers to the right belong to the City-Investing Building.
For less than a year between 1908 -1909, the Singer Building, designed by Ernest Flagg, was the tallest in the world. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Building completed in 1909 took the tallest title away.
This magnificent New York City skyscraper vanished less than 60 years after its completion. Despite being one of the masterpieces of the city’s skyline, the Singer Building was demolished in 1967-1968. The building was never even proposed for landmark consideration.
Alan Burnham the president of the newly created Landmarks Preservation Commission, explained to a New York Times reporter as the building was coming down, “If the building were made a landmark, we would have to find a buyer for it or the city would have to acquire it. The city is not that wealthy and the commission doesn’t have a big enough staff to be a real estate broker for a skyscraper.”
The bland looking U.S. Steel Building would rise in its place. Most New Yorkers accepted the fate of the Singer Building with shoulder shrugging resignation as a sign of progress. The few who openly complained were ignored. One letter writer to the Times, Eleanor S. Johnson accurately called the demolition, “another blot on the sorry record of New York City’s preservation of its heritage.”
Considering the Singer Building provided an innovative solution to early steel skeleton construction, Johnson noted ” What an irony that it should be a steel company that has ordained its destruction!”
How true and how sad.