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Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center Paperback – November 30, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I can only speak for myself but I imagine that it's hard for anyone who has lived in New York in a time when Rockefeller Center has always existed to appreciate the level of diplomacy, architecture, finance, and artwork that went into creating the complex, not to mention the somewhat scandalous occurrences, but Okrent captures it with a snappy prose style that also manages to blend in some fine observations and humorous analogies. Especially due to the continued presence of the Center, it is gratifying to be able to put into modern context the various descriptions and details and visualize them as they exist today.
The history of the Rockefellers, while obviously much broader and filled with much more intriguing information than is relevant here, is nonetheless captured more than adequately, particularly John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his second son Nelson. More than just the account of a building project, the book also marks the transition between old-time New York society of the Gilded Age and the modern New York of the twentieth century. The chapter regarding the controversial Diego Rivera mural seeks to set the record straight on a story that has taken on it's own life over the years and the characters who have previously been given short shrift finally get their due.
Perhaps it's fitting that the seminal word on the complex should come from the Gershwins - "They all laughed at Rockefeller Center, now they're fighting to get in." And we still are. Great book for fans of history, New York, architecture, or just plain good writing.
Seven decades removed from the event -- with Rock Center holding such an iconic place in the Manhattan skyline -- this reader was especially struck by Rock Center's seemingly star-crossed beginnings: its architecture universally excoriated (Lewis Mumford being among the most vociferous early critics, until suddenly and inexplicably reversing course); opening night at Radio City Music Hall an unmitigated flop; the sparsely-trafficked retail concourse derided as "the catacombs;" a controversial Diego Rivera mural providing a public relations black-eye, etc. With its leasing program stalled in the Depression-ravaged economy, the Rockefellers desperately slashed office rents from $4 to $1 per sq ft, under-cutting the market. Their tactic of buying-out the existing leases of companies being courted to lease space at the Center -- not uncommon in today's marketplace -- drew the opprobrium of rival property owners, including a lawsuit from August Heckscher (whose grandson would go on to be a high profile Parks Commissioner).
"Great Fortune" is laden with rich anecdotes and compelling, larger-than-life characters like the mercurial John R. Todd (managing agent and construction manager and grandfather to the future New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd-Whitman); the lead architect with a penchant for fast living, Raymond Hood, and, of course, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his ambitious second son, Nelson, first among equals of the Rockefeller's third generation.Read more ›
Okrent balances the creative and financial details of the project with the personalities involved. Woven into the story are biographical details of many of the principle and some tangential characters. These include John D. Rockefeller, Jr., his sons Johnny and Nelson Rockefeller, who would become president of Rockefeller Center, developer John R. Todd, architects Raymond Hood, Harvey Corbett, Wallace Harrison, Reinhard, and Henry Hofmeister, the flamboyant designer of Radio City Music Hall's theater Samuel Lionel "Roxy" Rothafel, RCA president and inventor of commercial radio David Sarnoff, and more. The book is dense with detail about who did what and why, and we stories like the straight scoop on the infamous Diego Rivera mural intended for the RCA building.
Most of the book concerns the first phase of the complex, 1931-1936, but the second phase, 1936-1939, is also covered.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a complete history of the development of one of the most challenging Real Estate projects ever undertaken. Mr. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Xavier Atlas
Having a lifelong interest in architecture I have been fascinated by the cultural significance of Rockefeller Center since way back. Read morePublished on February 16, 2014 by Hopeless with computers
More than merely (!) an epic of Rockefeller Center, this work combines social history of NYC in the '20's , 30's and '40's, with a broad and fascinating survey of American... Read morePublished on September 5, 2013 by Kindle Customer
Having lived in NYC for 25 years, I found this a particularly enriching history of one of the central areas of the city and one of the central families. Read morePublished on July 18, 2013 by B. Young
This highly engrossing history of the creation of Rockefeller Center is full of surprises
and fascinating portraits of all the people involved creating this iconic... Read more
This book held my interest for the first 90% or so, which is about how the Center came to be. I was amazed by what I learned, and just how complex the story really was. Read morePublished on June 16, 2013 by Stephen
This is a wonderful book filled with history, personalities, and gossip. It has a great, complex narrative but despite the complexity of the story there is no confusion--the... Read morePublished on May 21, 2013 by Robert Ginsberg
Really superb book. Actually, it's so dense I haven't finished it yet...but every bit and more fascinating than I expected.Published on May 19, 2013 by Challen Armstrong