Skyscrapers of New York City


Skyscraper is a very tall, multistoried building. The name appeared in the 1880s. The key technological development for the rise of skyscrapers was the passenger elevator, before that the construction of buildings, with more than five floors, was not practical and the tallest structure in New York City was the spire of Trinity Church (284 feet), completed in 1846. There were, however, a few buildings in New York with six floors above ground. The first one was probably the Adelphi Hotel in Bowling Green, erected about 1829. There were also the Holt's Hotel (opened in 1831), Astor House (1836), St. Denis Hotel (1853) and Gilsey Building, completed in 1854 on Broadway.

From 1853 to 1856, the wooden tower of Latting Observatory (315 feet / 96 m), built as part of the 1853 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, adjoining the New York Crystal Palace, was the tallest structure in New York.

In 1857, the first passenger elevator carried customers up to the fifth floor of the Haughwout Building, a department store on Broadway. It was too slow, though. The six-story Fifth Avenue Hotel, completed in 1859, was the first hotel in the United States to be equipped with a hydraulic passenger elevator.

Most of the New York City's first skyscrapers were built along Broadway and Park Row (see early skyscrapers in NYC). The first one depends on the criteria adopted, but a race to build increasingly tall buildings began around 1868, when the Grand Hotel was completed with six above-ground stories plus a two-story mansard roof. The construction of the 130-foot-high Equitable Life Building began in the same year and it was completed in 1870, with seven above-ground stories.

About 1873, another skyscraper was completed: the Old Mutual Life Building, also with seven above-ground stories plus a clock tower. In February 1875, the Western Union Telegraph Building, ten stories tall, was completed. The Tribune Building, in Park Row, was opened with nine floors in April of the same year, but without its clock tower. The 12-story Hotel Chelsea opened its doors in 1884 but it was just 140 feet high. In 1888, the Cathedral of Saint Patrick became the tallest structure in New York City (100.4 meters / 329.6 feet), after adding its spires.

The first skyscraper to use a steel frame system of construction was the Tower Building, at 50 Broadway, completed in 1889. A much taller edifice was completed in 1890: The World Building, in Park Row. Its pinnacle above dome reached 350 feet (110 m).

More: Early skyscrapers in New York City

There followed a kind of competition for the construction of taller buildings, some were the tallest in the world, for some time, and the most famous of them was the Empire State Building, opened in 1931. It was the tallest building in the world until 1970, when it was surpassed by One World Trade Center.

In 2021, the tallest buildings in NYC are:

1 - One World Trade Center, 541 m (2014).

2 - Central Park Tower, 472 m (2021).

3 - 111 West 57th Street, 435 m (2021).

4 - One Vanderbilt, 427 m (2020).

5 - 432 Park Avenue, 426 m (2015).

6 - 30 Hudson Yards, 387 m (2019).

7 - Empire State Building, 381 (1931).



Antique photos of NYC








Singer building NY






Canyon of skyscrapers on Broad Street, Lower Manhattan. Vintage postcard by Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co., postmark 1957.


Municipal Building images


Shelton Hotel


Manhattan skyscrapers


NY Hotels


Hudson Yards


The iconic Chrysler Building, completed in 1930, was the tallest building in the world for a few months, before the Empire State Building. Photo about the 1990s.


Times Square


New York Skyline images


NY Early Skyscrapers


Gothic Towers


Waldorf Astoria New York


Financial District


United Nations Buildings





40 Wall Street


Park Row images


Modern Manhattan skyscrapers at dusk, in 2018, with a focus on the 4 Times Square Building (with H&M clothing store signs) and the angled Bank of America Tower (Photograph in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).



American International Building


Sherry Netherland


Ritz Tower


Woolworth Building


Skyscrapers at Hudson Yards (photo courtesy of Hudson Yards).


Aerial view of the Financial District in the 1990s.


Empire State Building


Chrysler Building images



World Building


Copyright © Geographic Guide - Historic Buildings in NYC.



Empire State images


Rockefeller Center


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Historic Buildings




Skyscrapers of New York City