The Singer Building (1908-1968)
The Singer Building, built between 1906 and 1908, was the tallest building in the U.S. from 1908-1909. The building was located at the intersection Broadway and Liberty Street. This building housed the famous Singer Sewing Machine Company and was owned by the Singer Manufacturing Company. This record breaking building was demolished in 1968.
Backstory and Context
When the Singer Building was opened in 1908, it held the record as the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. At 612 feet tall and forty-seven stories high, The Singer Building was a landmark of downtown Manhattan. Ernest Flagg, the Singer Building's architect, originally designed the building to be a thirty-five story tower, but the Singer Company wanted that height doubled.
The entrance doorway was a 24-foot high bronze grill. Inside the marble columnns, elevator doors, stair railings, interior balconies, office doors, and many other structures were all fitted with bronze. Thirty-eight tons of bronze were used, making this the trademark of The Singer Building. The outside tower was designed with a facade of red brick and bluestone, a type of sandstone. Rising from the lower floors, the building was a narrow forty-seven story high tower. The executive offices covered the entire 34th floor, and there were many ornate rugs, custom-designed furniture, and exceptional woodwork.
Extremely tall buildings offer a stunning view, but also offer a convenient way to commit suicide. Albert Goldman, an agent for the Mutual Life Insurance Company, was one of the first to do so. A.J. Bleecker, superintendent of the building, was unnerved by this suicide and closed the tower to visitors for a few days. The second suicide was Austin Adams, a 59-year-old wheelbarrow manufacturer, who threw himself out of an office window. The tragedies of the suicides caused the Singer Building to draw unfortunate attention as it served as one of New York’s foremost tourist attractions.
On November 16, 1961, the Singer company decided to move its headquarters north to midtown and put the Singer Building on the market. William Zeckendorf bought the real estate along with the rest of the block in hopes that the New York Stock Exchange would relocate there. However, this failed because of a general lack of interest in the small square footage of the narrow tower. Many newspapers called it an “architectural giraffe." In 1964, the building was purchased by United States Steel and marked for demolition.
By the 1960s, the building was considered uneconomical because of its small interior dimensions. Although New York had created the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the building did not receive a landmark designation. In August 1967, Alan Burham, director of the Commission, stated that if the building had been made a landmark, the city would have had to buy the building or find a buyer. The Singer Building was demolished in 1968, and at that time, the Singer Building was the tallest building to ever be destroyed. The structure soon became the site of the fifty-four story, 743 foot high One Liberty Plaza.
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