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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Postcard Thursday: When Met Life was the World's Tallest

Today's postcard shows the Met Life tower on Madison Square, which held the title of tallest building in the world from 1909 (beating out the now-demolished Singer Tower) until 1913, when it was bested by the Woolworth Tower, which remained the world's tallest until the opening of the Chrysler Building in 1930.

This postcard was actually mailed in August 1908, meaning that it was printed before the Met Life tower was actually finished, but that's par for the course--how many tchotchkes of the "Freedom Tower" were on sale before they'd even laid the foundation for WTC1?

The Met Life building was designed by Napoleon Le Brun & Sons (noted for the Gilded Age fire stations in New York), and the bulk of the work fell to sons Michel and Pierre Le Brun, who modeled the tower on the campanile in Piazza San Marco in Venice.

The building cost $6.5 million to build, and while it was praised at the time of its completion as the "most meritous work of the year" by the American Institute of Architects, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was annoyed to only hold the title of world's tallest for four years. In the late 1920s, work began on the annex building to the north, which--at least in early blueprints--would have been spectacularly tall, dwarfing the Empire State Building that was being erected at the same time. However, the Depression derailed Met Life's plans and the annex was capped at 30 stories.

The clock tower is owned by Marriott; in April 2015, an Ian Schrager-designed hotel, "New York Edition," is slated to open.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

1 comment:

Andrew Porter said...

The building was the subject of a science fiction story, "The Runaway Skyscraper," by Murray Leinster, published in AMAZING STORIES magazine in the late 1920s.

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