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lakegz Apr 11, 2009 10:10 PM

What happened to 1 Penn plaza?

NYguy Apr 24, 2009 5:04 AM

Ghost Buildings of 1929

DEEP-SIXED The Watergate apartments, left, were planned for Midtown, on the banks of the East River. Center, a colorful 40-story building on West Street was to have housed financial workers. Right, Metropolitan Life had designs on the clouds.

April 23, 2009

ALL over New York, projects that broke ground with irrational exuberance are topping out in uncertain conclusion. But others that are only in the planning stages have gone to the back burner, perhaps never to surface again.

When the stock market crashed in October 1929, many ambitious plans that would have changed the face of New York simply vanished.

For real estate developers, 1929 seemed like a slot machine stuck in the pay position. In Manhattan in 1928, plans were filed for 14 buildings of 30 stories or higher, but by the next year the number was 52. Only with the passage of time did it become clear that of these 52, just 19 would be built.

This ambitious cohort included designs that were indeed completed, like the Waldorf-Astoria and the Empire State Building. But it also encompassed major projects in unexpected locations, like a 40-story apartment hotel designed by Emery Roth for the northwest corner of 106th Street and Central Park West, an area of third-rung apartment houses.

Other buildings of 40 stories or more were planned for 70th and West End Avenue; 85th and Central Park West; 87th and Park Avenue; 90th and East End Avenue; and 105th and Broadway.

Of the many fallen visions, three stand out in particular: an East River idyll, a richly colored West Street enclave and a Madison Square tower that was to have been the tallest in the world.

Early in 1929, a syndicate including Douglas Elliman and the architect-developer Eliot Cross announced plans for the blockfront on the East River from 48th to 49th Streets, to be known as Watergate. Working with Rosario Candela, the group proposed an asymmetrical assemblage of Gothic-, Tudor- and Venetian-style towers, with its own garage underneath a 10,000-square-foot waterfront courtyard.

A medieval-style drawbridge at river level dropped to a boat landing for co-op owners, and a bridge was to connect the swanky complex to Beekman Place, to the north. A warehouse for The New York Times was part of the design.

In April, a group headed by Albert Mayer, an architect and planner, acquired a swath of West Street south of Rector Street for a mixed-use development of offices and apartment houses.

Calling itself Downtown Homes, the consortium proposed an initial 40-story building of 428 apartments and 255 bachelor rooms, with a gym, banquet hall and handball courts. The idea was to accommodate the rapid increase of financial district workers in the growing crop of skyscrapers downtown.

The blocky tower was to have a white brick top with a gold cap, illuminated at night. But even more spectacular was the body of contrasting sections of red and buff, designed by the architects Thompson & Churchill. They are now known for the voluptuously pink faience tile entrance of their Hotel Lowell, at 28 East 63rd Street, built in 1927.

Henry S. Thompson of Thompson & Churchill told The New York Times in 1929 that he was introducing the cascade of color to fight what he called “the monotony of flat surfaces” common in emerging modernist designs.

In September 1929, news got out that the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was considering a 100-story tower on the block just north of its distinctive campanile of 1909, at 24th and Madison. The company released a drawing by its architects — the skyscraper advocate Harvey Wiley Corbett and Dan Everett Waid — showing a faceted, somewhat oval column, made up almost entirely of glass and metal.

Mr. Waid told The Times that the tower would eschew all “extraneous ornament or embellishment which has not a rational meaning and practical use” and that it would be “unhampered by archaeological precedent.”

All three projects foundered at various points after the stock market crash that October. Mr. Cross’s Watergate simply vanished; the site is now occupied by the cool, glassy United Nations Plaza apartments of 1966.

Excavation for Mr. Mayer’s visionary Downtown Homes did begin in December but got no further, and the site was sold in a foreclosure in 1932 for $250,000. It is now the location of the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

In November, Frederick H. Ecker, the president of Metropolitan Life, said that Mr. Corbett’s designs were tentative. The 28-story building now on the site went up in 1938.

The theory in the real estate industry was that happy days would soon be here again because the stock market had drained investment capital that might otherwise have gone into bricks and mortar.

In December, Alfred E. Smith, the former New York governor, told The Real Estate Record and Guide that “I haven’t much use for pessimists who say we are building too fast.” He was involved with the construction of the Empire State Building.

And in January 1930, Roland F. Elliman, vice president of Douglas L. Elliman & Company, assured The Times that the real estate industry in New York was far too prudent for speculative ventures.

In any event, he said, fail-safe protection was provided by “the conservative policies of lending institutions, whose executives refuse to make loans in excess of conservative valuations.”

yascool May 30, 2009 4:44 PM

hey photolither land wht do you want exactly ^^ come on man i feel you

full emotion of feeling .

Patrick Nov 24, 2009 3:30 AM

The building was so large that is was built in 3 phases, which is why it started in 1928 and finished in 1950, pretty interesting, check it out:



Pictures from the wonderful Eralsoto:

J.M. Dec 7, 2009 7:59 PM

It'd sure be interesting to see how they would have lit this at night.

scalziand Dec 9, 2009 11:11 PM

Wow. I never knew that the stump itself was built in phases.

Dylan Leblanc Dec 9, 2009 11:59 PM

jee, that's really interesting Patrick!!

MolsonExport Dec 17, 2009 5:37 PM

Amazing that even with such extreme truncation, it is still such a beautiful building.

zdk May 3, 2010 8:25 PM

sort of reminds me of a steroid version of Pitt's cathedral of learning:

JDRCRASH May 4, 2010 3:41 PM

The water gate apartments look interesting. You wonder how attractive Manhattan would look if the FDR and Henry Hudson weren't built.

gramsjdg Jan 15, 2011 11:21 PM

This building to me is what New York is all about. BUILD IT!!! (or finish it). Maybe we could start a petition. There has got to be at least one developer who has entertained the idea recently. It would bring the tallest roof height in the US back to NYC, yet still would be respectfully lower (overall) than 1 WTC.

Roadcruiser1 Jan 16, 2011 2:12 AM

I think if this building can reach 110 floors it can only reach a height of anywhere in the 1,600 foot tall section with a mast on top. I highly doubt it would be the tallest building in America it would be the 2nd tallest, and if they do ever build the Chicago Spire it would be the 3rd tallest. Though this building has a lot of potential. Maybe if the economy gets better someone would complete it. It's one of my favorite never completed building, and every time I look at it I hate that the building never reached it's maximum height. Plus you could have the other floors as hotel, and residential spaces, and you could have a Windows on the World styled restaurant at the top, a sky lounge, a bar, a indoor observation deck, and an open one that is similar to the Top of the World observation deck at the WTC on the roof. With modern day mast, and telecommunications equipment you can make room for it on the top without worrying about radiation like at the North Tower.

Roadcruiser1 Feb 23, 2011 5:53 PM

I posted this in another thread, but it works here too.

What it would have looked like if it was completed.
What it looks like now.

hunser Feb 23, 2011 5:59 PM

it's a great loss. :(

sweet-d Mar 22, 2011 11:22 PM

Wow if this had gotten finished it would have been a beautiful tower. It still's beautiful at the size it is now.

Tower X Apr 16, 2011 3:53 AM

would've been great to see that built, but i still prefer the ESB.

And aren't they going to build something on top of it? Wasn't it called the garden tower or something like that?

djlx2 Apr 16, 2011 6:27 AM


Originally Posted by hunser (Post 5176099)
it's a great loss. :(

I read that it's appealing to some tenants because they don't have to wait quite as long for the elevators. I'm not sure about the garden on top. I'm sure it would add something to the aerial view.

scalziand Apr 17, 2011 9:08 PM


Originally Posted by Tower X (Post 5243425)
And aren't they going to build something on top of it? Wasn't it called the garden tower or something like that?

That would be built next door at One Madison Ave.

gramsjdg Apr 21, 2011 4:43 AM

Egads! that's fugly. I had almost forgotten about that one...

Kanto May 11, 2011 9:23 PM

This building is amazing. Just think of it, a building from 1933 that would be taller than 1WTC :multibow

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