Early American Skyscraper

The early skyscraper constructed in Manhattan, New York was named the ‘Singer Tower’, for the well-known sewing machine company. It was a 612-foot structure, completed in 1908 and the tallest in the world. The architect was Ernest Flagg, with the unique feature of light entering into the center of the skyscraper. He included Old World craftsmanship with the most modern of designs for the turn of the 20th century. Construction started in 1897. When completed its weight was 18,365 tons and could withstand a wind pressure of 330 tons. Much of the building was assembled away from the sight of the building (there just wasn’t enough working space for construction).

The newest building, a skyscraper had more than 14,000 electric lights and could serve up to 5,000 office workers. There was central heating, cooled air, ice water dispensed from taps and a mini power plant in the basement. Along with the window frames, the stair railing was elegant style designs of leaves and scrolls. Also in the interior design was used 38 tons of bronze. It was also fireproof.

The building featured a switchboard to handle all incoming and outgoing phone calls and 16 high-speed elevators. The power source for the building’s steam plant was converted from coal to oil in 1921, making the Singer Building the city’s first office building to use oil as a fuel.

After opening in 1908 it was showcased in the city, but then other taller buildings were constructed. There was the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower (aka Met Life Tower) which set a new record at 700-feet-tall and was completed in 1909 in Manhattan. Then in 1913, the Woolworth Building was built at 792 feet.

There was a publicity stunt in 1911, with the aviator, Harry Atwood, flying a plane around the Singer Building and crisscrossing over Manhattan.

Everyone knows of the famous Chrysler Building at 1,046 feet and built in 1930 and the Empire State Building at 1,250 feet tall and built in 1931.

United States Steel purchased the Singer building site in 1964 after the attempts to relocate the New York Stock Exchange failed. United States Steel intended to build a new 54-story building in place of the Singer Building and the City Investing Building, which later became known as One Liberty Plaza. In 1968, the Singer building, considered to be functionally obsolete, was demolished. At that date, it was the tallest building to be destroyed. The World Trade Towers in 2001 would surpass that record.

Photo: Turn of the 20th century – Singer Tower in Manhattan, NY.

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