Before Bryant Park, There Was NYC’s Doomed First Skyscraper | Pound Ridge Real Estate

19 images

This little-known piece of old New York was the city’s very first skyscraper. Exactly 160 years ago this summer, the so-called Crystal Palace opened to awed crowds. Its footprint took up nearly one square block on Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 41st Streets, with a cross-shaped floorplan and a central dome that soared so gracefully it seemed it were destined for a Parisian train station rather than a temporary exhibition space. An octagonal tower built at the side of the main hall, called the Latting Observatory, was somewhere between 300 and 315 feet tall, depending on who you asked, unseating the previous record-holder, Trinity Church, whose spire reached a mere 290. It was inaugurated on July 14, 1853, with President Franklin Pierce presiding and an abundance of fireworks and general pizzazz. Inspired by a structure in London, New York would not be outdid. According to the Times, “for a time, no visitor to New York or from neighboring cities or suburban districts considered his life complete without a visit.” In a manner of speaking, it symbolized the irrepressible antebellum feeling of American exceptionalism. “It was a thing to be seen once in a lifetime,” wrote Horace Greeley, “As we grow in wealth and strength, we may build a much greater Crystal Palace.”

  • The whole thing was the work of an ambitious engineer, Christan Detmold, with knowledge of the vagaries of iron and glass and how to weld them together to make something majestic.




read more…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.