Skyscrapers of New York City

Antique Images


Skyscraper is a very tall, multistoried building. The name appeared in the 1880s. The key technological development for the rise of skyscrapers was the passenger elevator, before that the construction of buildings, with more than five floors, was not practical and the tallest structure in New York City was the spire of Trinity Church. In the Bowling Green, however, there was Adelphi Hotel, with six floors, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1845. The six-story Gilsey Building, 169-171 Broadway, was completed in 1854.

New York City's first skyscrapers were built along Broadway and Park Row in the 1870s (see illustration below). The race started in 1868, with the construction of the Equitable Life Building, completed in 1870, in Manhattan, with seven above-ground stories and two basement levels. It is considered to be the first skyscraper in New York.

About 1873, another skyscraper was completed: the Old Mutual Life Building, also with seven above-ground stories plus a tower clock. In 1875, the Tribune Building, in Park Row, was completed with nine floors. In the same year, the Western Union Telegraph Building, ten stories tall, was completed.

The first skyscraper to use a steel frame system of construction was the Tower Building, at 50 Broadway, completed in 1889. A much taller edifice was completed in 1890: The World Building, in Park Row.

There followed a kind of competition for the construction of taller buildings, some were the tallest in the world, for some time, and the most famous of them was the Empire State Building.



Antique photos of NYC








Singer building NY



American Tract building NYC





Canyon of skyscrapers on Broad Street, Lower Manhattan. Vintage postcard by Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co., postmark 1957.


Municipal Building images


Gillender Building


Manhattan skyscrapers


The iconic Chrysler Building, completed in 1930, was the tallest building in the world for a few months, before the Empire State Building. Vintage postcard from the 1930s.


Early Skyscrapers


New York Skyline images


Adelphi Hotel


Tribune building


Modern Manhattan skyscrapers at dusk, in 2018, with a focus on the 4 Times Square Building (with H&M clothing store signs) and the angled Bank of America Tower (Photograph in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).


United Nations Buildings


Manhattan Life Building


Old Mutual Life Building


40 Wall Street


Tower Building


Below, early skyscrapers in New York City were built along Park Row and Broadway in the 1870s (fragment of a 1875 illustration by Charles Parsons and Lyman Atwater, with additional text).


NY Times building


American International Building



Park Row images


Woolworth Building


Decker Building


Empire State Building


Chrysler Building images


Saint Paul Building


World Building


Copyright © Geographic Guide - Antique photographs of NYC.


Washington Building


Empire State images


Rockefeller Center


Flatiron images










Equitable building old





Antique photographs




Skyscrapers of New York City