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Rise of the New York Skyscraper: 1865-1913 Hardcover – April 24, 1996
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A confluence of technology (the elevator), social change (the increase in the number of office workers), and geology (a downtown limited in area by surrounding water) transformed New York City from an expanse of low buildings to a forest of skyscrapers. Landau, an art history professor at New York University, and Condit, a professor emeritus of art history at Northwestern, explore the development of the skyscraper from the 1868 Equitable Building, the first to use elevators for people rather than freight, to the Woolworth Building, which was called the "Cathedral of Commerce" and for which President Woodrow Wilson traveled to New York to activate the building's lights during its grand opening.
From Publishers Weekly
"Before us is spread the most exciting, wonderful and instructive view to be had on our continent.... Certainly not elsewhere in all New York can such an unobstructed bird's-eye view be had." The New York Sun was not referring to the World Trade Center but, in 1869, to the newly built eight-story Equitable Building, the tallest commercial building of its time. It is also one of the first skyscrapers covered in this scholarly work. The raw energy and burgeoning commerce of New York in the late 19th century, the tremendous egos and avaricious appetites of the CEOs and speculators that gave rise to these monuments, along with the political and public controversy surrounding them, give this book both meat and spice. Chronicling building construction from the pre-skyscraper days of the 1860s, through the extraordinary growth period of the 1890s, it culminates with the Woolworth building and, coming full circle, with the "new" Equitable building, completed in 1915. The most fascinating details concern the unprecedented feats of engineering. The invention of the elevator, the complex foundations needed for such heavy structures, the evolution of fireproofing, the development of iron and steel structures (which lightened masonry loads and radically diminished the wall dimensions needed to support such great heights), combined with the architect's and entrepreneur's vision to make skyscrapers possible. Extensively illustrated with 206 photographs, this is a delight to read. Despite it's size it would have also been useful for walking tours, had it included a quick reference to remaining sites.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Professort Landau thoroughly discusses each tall building (usually considered to be "skyscrapers" in contemporary parlance) and their relationship within the entire milieu of the cultural scene in the latter half of the nineteenth century and pre-World War I years of the twentieth century in New York City. Thus it can be understood why the skyscrapers of New York City differed significantly from their cousins in Chicago. The engineering aspects of the buildings receive truly outstanding coverage.
I highly recommend this book not only for New Yorkers, but also for Midwesterners such as myself whose view might be otherwise clouded by the Chicago School.
Also, interestingly enough, the authors debunk the popular idea that it was Chicago where the first skyscraper was built. Armed with powerful arguments, they present the Equitable building in New York, built in 1870, as the first building to have all the characteristics that would qualify it as the first true skyscraper. Sorry Chicago! The arguments are solid...
Doug Silver, S.E.
Los Angeles, CA