Oldest Skyscraper in New York City

10 Oldest Skyscrapers in New York City

The most populous city in the United States, New York, has one of the most recognizable skylines worldwide. With over 274 skyscrapers with an average height of 500 ft. The Big Apple has over 6,000 high-rise buildings in total. NYC is the second global destination, after Hong Kong, to accomplish such a feat.

And while we can talk about some of the world’s tallest buildings – the One World Trade Center rising 1,776 feet is the first on the list – New York City is also home to some of the oldest skyscrapers in the country.

Some of the oldest buildings were constructed in Manhattan at the end of the 19th century. 

Because of this, we wanted to take a trip down memory lane and explain the beauty behind the ten oldest skyscrapers in New York City! Enjoy!  

10. American Tract Society

Date of Construction: 1896
Height: 338 ft.
Location: 96-100 Broadway, Manhattan
Still Standing: Yes

American Tract Societyphoto source: Geographic Guide

Also known as the Bank of Tokyo, American Surety or Tract Building has been standing in Manhattan Financial District since 1896. The building was designed by American architect Bruce Price in a Neo-renaissance style inspired by Italian classicism. 

The skyscraper was completed with 21 office stories in 1896, with two floors added in 1920, reaching a height of 338 feet. It is one of the earliest New York buildings to consist of a layout of steel curtain wall construction and steel framing. The interior redesign occurred in 1973 for the Bank of Tokyo. 

Did You Know?

Because of its importance to the city, it was designated a city landmark in 1997 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building is next to an Episcopal Church called Trinity Church, founded in 1697. 


9. Manhattan Life Insurance Building

Date of Construction: 1894
Height: 348 ft.
Location: 64-70 Broadway, Manhattan
Still Standing: No

Manhattan Life Insurance Buildingphoto source: Free Library of Philadelphia

The Manhattan Life Insurance Building has been standing tall at 348 feet since 1894. Like the previous skyscraper on the list, this building was also located in the Financial District. Sadly, it was demolished in 1964 to make way for another building. 

The architecture took inspiration from French neoclassicism, particularly the Beaux-Arts style. With its short but rich history, the building was sold twice, the first time to an artist, Frederick Brown, who resold it to Manufacturer’s Trust Company in 1928.

Did You Know?

Manhattan was the first building in New York City to pass 330 feet in height. After the two initial sales, the building was sold to Central Union Trust Company for around $4 million. The company did not stay in the building too long before moving to 1 Wall Street, Manhattan.


8. Hotel Gerard

Date of Construction: 1893
Height: ~150 ft.
Location: 123 West 44th Street
Still Standing: Yes

Hotel Gerardphoto source: Daytonian in Manhattan

Also known as Hotel Langwell and Hotel 1-2-3, Gerard is New York’s historic site, designed by George Keister. The building was constructed as a 13-story German Renaissance and Gothic-style building, with salmon-colored bricks and limestone design elements.

The hotel had 362 rooms in the beginning as it was the tallest building in the area. Unfortunately, the fire in 1916 wiped out half of the hotel, causing $10,000 in damage. But Gerard reconstructed it again, continuing with its work. The city added it to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. 

Did You Know?

Hotel Langwell was a popular place for celebrities such as actors Albert Phillips, Arthur Burckly, and Josephine Williams. Colonel Richard Henry Savage and his Mrs. celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in the banquet hall in 1898. 


7. New York World Building

Date of Construction: 1890
Height: 350 ft.
Location: 53-63 Park Row, Manhattan
Still Standing: No

New York World Buildingphoto source: Wikipedia

New York World, also known as the Pulitzer Building, was a part of the former “Newspaper Row” in NYC. The construction that started a year earlier was completed in 1890 in a Renaissance Revival style, similar to the American Tract Society Building, gathering inspiration from Italian modes.

The building owner was a newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, who bought the World as a second-rate newspaper. Not satisfied with this, Pulitzer did everything to compete with some of the most prominent papers at the time, making it one of the most known sensational newspapers, popular with immigrants. 

Did You Know?

Pulitzer Building was demolished in 1956 to make room for the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. And while the fire destroyed everything in the building, the Colombia University School of Journalism preserved a large piece of stained glass from the foyer. 


6. New York Times Building

Date of Construction: 1889
Height: 212 ft.
Location: 41 Park Row, Manhattan
Still Standing: Yes

New York Times Buildingphoto source: Wikipedia

This building shouldn’t be confused with The NY Times Building on 8th Avenue, one of the top ten tallest buildings in New York. The one on our list was the original headquarters of the New York Timesconstructed in 1889 by George B. Post. It is the last remaining building in the so-called “Newspaper Row.”

Park Row was the home of the Times until 1903, when the headquarters moved to the One Times Square building. After that, New York Times Building was purchased by Pace University, which has used the building for classrooms and offices since 1951. 

Did You Know?

41 Park Row Building was designated a New York City landmark in 1999 and property under Fulton-Nassau Historic District, a district created in 2005 by the National Register of Historic Places. 


5. Osborne Apartments

Date of Construction: 1885
Height: 162 ft.
Location: 205 West 57th Street, Manhattan
Still Standing: Yes

photo source: flickr

An apartment complex with a common name in the entertainment world, Osborne Building, has been standing on 57th Street since 1885. The estate was bought by businessman Thomas Osborne, wishing to make an upper-class apartment building. 

And what a success it was. The apartments were expensive, with 15-foot ceilings, mahogany wood, and bronze fireplaces. The design mixed Italian Renaissance with Romanesque style. It hasn’t changed its purpose over the years, as you can still purchase flats for around $495,000

Did You Know?

The host of Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne, bought an apartment in 1988. The Osborne had welcomed the rich and famous for years. The United States Senator John Coit Spooner was an early resident, followed by entertainers Imogene Coca, Philip T. Dodge, and Fernando Sanchez. 


4. Hotel Chelsea

Date of Construction: 1884
Height: 180 ft.
Location: 222 West 23rd Street, Chelsea, Manhattan
Still Standing: Yes

Hotel Chelseaphoto source: Hotel Chelsea

“A decadent palace of peculiarity,” the Chelsea Hotel has been the home of numerous artists, actors, musicians, and writers since its opening in 1884. The hotel was built in Victorian Gothic style, starting as an apartment complex before switching to a hotel for short-term residents. 

The building was designed by Philip Hubert of the Hubert, Pirrson & Company, but it had to be closed after bankruptcy. The hotel was reopened in 1905 and had been working ever since. It was designated an NYC landmark in 1966 due to its historical importance. 

Did You Know?

Writers Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas, Arthur C. Clarke, and Charles R. Jackson, actors and film directors Stanley Kubrick, Uma Thurman, Elliott Gould, and Jane Fonda, and musicians Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, and Madonna all lived in this hotel over the last century. 


3. Temple Court Building

Date of Construction: 1883
Height: 678 ft.
Location: 3-9 Beekman Street, Manhattan
Still Standing: Yes

Temple Court Buildingphoto source: flickr

Known as 5 Beekman Street today, the Temple Court was constructed in Neoclassical and Renaissance Revival style in 1883. The architects of the Temple were inspired by the Temple of Jerusalem, restored on paper by James Fergusson in 1878, adding two pyramidal towers at the corners of the building.

One of the more notable spaces inside was the central court which had a glass skylight and hollow bricks, guaranteeing that the structure was fireproof. The 51-story building has been designated an NYC landmark since 2005.

Did You Know?

Five Beekman Street and the surrounding area were known as the NYC theater district at the beginning of the 18th century. The first theater, built in 1761, hosted the very first presentation of Hamlet in the United States. This skyscraper hosts a restaurant by Tom Colicchio today.


2. New York Tribune Building

Date of Construction: 1875
Height: 335 ft.
Location: 154 Printing House Square, Manhattan
Still Standing: No

photo source: NY Times

One of the oldest skyscrapers in NYC is the building of the New York Tribune, lasting from 1875 to 1966, when it was demolished to make room for the 1 Pace Plaza building. This building hosted the conservatism newspaper New York Tribune until the publication ceased in 1983. 

The Tribune building belonged on the “Newspaper Row” on the Printing House Square, where newspaper publishers were packed closely. A fire that broke out in 1888 destroyed the Tribune’s ninth floor and an old oil portrait of newspaper editor and publisher Horace Greeley.

Did You Know?

The building had a rather negative reception, followed by controversy even before the beginning of construction. But the structure has also been described as one of the three influential skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan. 


1. Equitable Life Insurance

Date of Construction: 1870
Height: 350 ft.
Location: 120 Broadway
Still Standing: No

Equitable Life Insurancephoto source: Daytonian in Manhattan

The oldest skyscraper in NYC, Equitable Life Insurance, was demolished in 1912. The construction of the Equitable Life Building began in 1868 and was completed in 1870 for the headquarters of the financial and insurance company Equitable Life Assurance Society of the US.  

Equitable was the world’s first building featuring passenger elevators, thanks to the company’s president Henry Baldwin Hyde who decided to install them despite the protests. In addition, the building also had electric lighting, which was a rarity at the time of construction. 

Did You Know?

The Equitable skyscraper burned down in 1912, killing six people. Equitable Life insurance is still insuring the financial lives of individuals and companies all around America. But they are operating from a new building that is less expressive than the original. 

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