The Oldest Skyscrapers in New York

The flat iron building is one of the most famous examples of New York's early skyscrapers.

New York is home to some of the tallest buildings in the world, with some rising over 1000 feet. These buildings are known as "skyscrapers". The tallest building is the One World Trade Center rising 1,776 feet. New York is also home to some of the oldest skyscrapers in the country with some of the earliest skyscrapers having been constructed in the 19th century. This article will provide an overview of the early skyscraper construction that occurred in the city.

The Oldest Skyscrapers in New York

Equitable Life Building (1870)

The Equitable Life Building was a skyscraper located in New York that housed the headquarters of The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. The building was located at 120 Broadway and rose 130 feet above the ground. Arthur Gilman and Edward H. Kendall were the architects in charge of designing it. Construction of the Equitable Life Building commenced in 1868 and ended on May 1st, 1870 making the building the oldest skyscraper in New York. The skyscraper featured seven floors and was the pioneer building to feature passenger elevators. On January 9th, 1912, a massive fire destroyed the Equitable Building (which was described as being fireproof) in a disaster that resulted in six deaths. Five years after the fire tragedy, a new building was completed on the site and was named as the Equitable Building. The building still stands to date.

The New York Tribune Building (1875)

The New York Tribune Building was a skyscraper located at the 154 Printing House Square between the Spruce and Nassau Streets and served as the headquarters of the American newspaper, The New York Tribune. The New York Tribune Building’s construction ended in 1875 making it the second earliest skyscraper in the city. The building rose 260 feet and featured 18 floors. The New York Tribune Building was demolished in 1966 for the construction of the 1 Pace Plaza building.

The Temple Court Building and Annex (1881)

The Temple Court Building and Annex is an old skyscraper located in Manhattan, New York. Constructed in 1881, the Temple Court Building and Annex is the oldest surviving skyscraper in New York. The building’s design was inspired by the Inns of Court in London and was designed by an architectural firm, the Silliman and Farnsworth. The building was owned by an Irish immigrant known as Eugene Kelly. The building is currently known as the Beekman Hotel and has undergone extensive renovation work. On November 10th, 1998, the Temple Court Building and Annex was designated as a New York City landmark.

Produce Exchange (1884)

The Produce Exchange was a 224-foot tall skyscraper was located on Bowling Green. Construction of the Produce Exchange was completed in 1884 and was then labeled by The New York Times as “the most impressive exchange structure ever seen in Manhattan.” The building was the headquarters of the New York Produce Exchange. In 1957, the skyscraper was demolished to allow the construction of the 32-story 2 Broadway building.

History of skyscrapers in New York

Before the rise of skyscrapers in the late 19th century, New York City was predominantly made up of low-rise buildings, as was the case in all cities in the United States. However, an increasing urban population and limited land resources forced real-estate investors to expand vertically and construct high-rise buildings.

The Oldest Skyscrapers in New York

RankBuilding NameDate of ConstructionLocationStill Standing?
1Equitable Life Building1870New York, New YorkNo
2New York Tribune Building1875New York, New YorkNo
3Temple Court Building and Annex1881New York, New YorkYes
4Produce Exchange1884New York, New YorkNo
5Hotel Chelsea1884New York, New YorkYes
6New York Times Building1889New York, New YorkYes
7The New York World Building1890New York, New YorkNo
8Hotel Gerard1893New York, New YorkYes
9American Tract Society Building1894New York, New YorkYes
1056 Pine Street1894New York, New YorkYes
11Manhattan Life Insurance Building1894New York, New YorkNo
12Osborne Apartments1895New York, New YorkYes

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