Magazine History & Collector Tips

The Tall Buildings of New York – Skyscrapers In 1898

A heavily illustrated article inside the March 1898 issue of Munsey’s Magazine caught my eye so I’ve scanned all of the images to share with you here. The unattributed article is titled “The Tall Buildings of New York” and goes on to talk about early skyscrapers at a time in which there was great wonder at the rapid progression from the 10 story skyscraper to those of 20 to 30 stories in height.

New York City Skyline in 1898

While the article concedes Chicago should be credited with the first of the skyscrapers in the 10 story Home Insurance Building built there in 1885, it concentrates on New York because the skyscraper had become imperative to the city’s continued growth. Towards the close of the 19th Century, New York was simply running out of room.

According to the anonymous author “predictions were freely made that the days of New York’s supremacy were numbered.” The demand for space had grown to such a degree that rent became prohibitive and businesses turned to other locations.

The 1898 article comes at a time where the skyscraper has only recently established its place in the American imagination. In the skyscraper “modern architecture has evolved its first great distinctive type,” comparing it to the tombs of kings constructed in Ancient Egypt and the gothic cathedrals of Medieval Europe.

People used to seeing buildings erected one floor at a time, one on top of the next, stopped in wonder as the building process reversed itself before their eyes. Now the first thing they saw were steel frames stretching into the sky; masons and bricklayers only showed up to ply their trades afterwards.

Until the development of the steel frame method buildings other than simple towers or spires could only stretch 8 or 9 floors high at most. The weight of higher levels made going any higher prohibitive.

The following 15 illustrations from the March 1898 Munsey’s article show the landmark skyscrapers of New York, 1898:

The Bowling Green Building

The Bowling Green Building, 11 Broadway. 16 stories with frontage over 120 feet. Built by W. and G. Audsley. The white granite the same used at the Grant Monument.

The Empire Building

The Empire Building, Rector Street and Broadway

The Manhattan Life Insurance Company Building

The Manhattan Life Insurance Company Building, 66 Broadway. 348 feet high, at the time only the twin spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral was higher from the sidewalk. Architects were Kimball and Thompson who also did the plans for the new Standard and Empire buildings shown on this page.

The Ivins Syndicate Building

The Ivins Syndicate Building, 13-21 Park Row

The American Tract Society Building

The American Tract Society Building, Nassau and Spruce Streets, and The Times Building, Spruce Street and Park Row

The Standard Building

The Standard Building, 26 Broadway

The Commercial Cable Building

The Commercial Cable Building, 20-22 Broad Street

The New York Life Insurance Building

The New York Life Insurance Company's Building, 346-348 Broadway

The American Surety Company Building

The American Surety Company's Building, Pine Street and Broadway. A great white building with gilt coping, named in the article as possibly the most artistic office building in New York. 308 feet high and visible from miles around as far as New Jersey and Long Island. Built by Bruce Price; Sculptor Massey Rhind helped to beautify it.

The Postal Telegraph Company Building

The Postal Telegraph Company's Building, Murray Street and Broadway

The St Paul Building

The St. Paul Building, Ann Street and Broadway

The St James Building

The St. James Building, Twenty Sixty Street and Broadway

The Constable Building

The Constable Building, Eighteenth Street and Fifth Avenue

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Thirty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue. Designed by Mr. Hardenburg, with red brick and stone walls, high Dutch roofs pierced with many windows. 'A unique and certainly an imposing specimen of skyscraper architecture.'

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's Building, Madison Square


“The Tall Buildings of New York.” Munsey’s Magazine. March 1898: 833-848.

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1 Comment
  1. Thanks for sharing these!

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