Cities and localities are often identified by their signature structures and architectural masterpieces. Buildings define the history of cities and stand as the proof of their progression through time. New York today is known for its remarkable architectural accomplishments and beautiful skyscraper landscaping. The buildings are commonly tall and often termed as skyscrapers because of their height. One of the very first of such buildings was the Singer Building that once held the record of tallest building of the world.
47 stories high, the Beaux Art building was considered an architectural giant in 1908 when it was completed and opened to public. Though the record was short lived and held only till 1909, this building made a mark for itself. It was located in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District on 149 Broadway at Liberty Street. At 612 feet tall, it was a class apart due to its unique structure and height.
Being a signature landmark in downtown Manhattan, the Singer building was solely designed on the belief of its architect, Ernest Flagg that buildings that are more than 10 to 15 stories tall, should be set back from the streets (which later became a zoning law in New York City). This idea led him to design the Singer Building in a way that its stories were not evenly distributed vertically. The tower shot upwards from the base of its foundation, which created narrow ravines on the streets below.
This structure was the headquarters of Singer Sewing Machine company until 1961, when they decided to relocate to Midtown Manhattan. The building was bought by Mr. William Zeckendorf, who was the chairman of Webb and Knapp, a real estate development firm. His idea was to shift the New York Stock exchange to this building, but the architectural uniqueness of Singer Tower did not allow for this. The structure had compact office space, while the Stock Exchange required more open space due to the continuous expansion and scope of the businesses. Hence this plan could not be realized. Later on in 1964, this building was acquired for demolition by United States Steel. They also bought the City Investing Building. The demolition of these two buildings and merger of the area led to development of Liberty Plaza, as we know it today, on an area of 37,000 square feet per floor.
The New York Times had written a review on the architectural standing of Singer Tower, a critique of Christopher Gray. He said of the building to have a “celestial radiance”. The marble columns and intricate plasterwork were also a beautiful statement of the building along with trimming of the columns with bronze beading.
In 1968, the Singer Building was demolished, but even so it made another record, a more enduring one, of the most peacefully demolished tallest building of the world. (Ironically and sadly, is sat next to where the original towers of the World Trade Center once stood). The Singer Building is still remembered for its remarkable architecture of the past century.