Old Western Union Telegraph Building on Broadway


The old 10-story above ground Western Union Telegraph Building at 195 Broadway, corner of Dey Street, was an early skyscraper in the City of New York, completed in February 1875, renovated from 1890 to 1892 and demolished about 1914.

The Company was founded in Rochester, N.Y., in 1851, as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. In 1856, after the acquisition of other independent lines, it reorganized to become the Western Union Telegraph Company.

In 1861, the corporate headquarters moved to 145 Broadway, New York City. Later, this site was occupied by the Washington Life Building, completed in 1898. Today, the area is part of Zuccotti Park.

Plans to construct a new headquarters were announced in 1872. Previously the site was occupied by the old Franklin Hotel and other buildings (illustration on the right). The new building was designed in the French Second Empire style by George Browne Post (1837-1913), with modifications by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (1847-1918). The Western Union Telegraph Building was completed on February 1, 1875. There was a 3-story mansard roof and the basement was half a level below Broadway. It was 230 feet tall (70 m) at the top of its clock tower, being one of the tallest buildings in the City.

In 1877, a time-ball system was created. A ball was dropped from the top of the building at noon, triggered by telegraph from the National Observatory in Washington, D.C. It inspired the traditional New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square.

In 1890 a fire destroyed the upper stories, which were redesigned by Hardenbergh, rebuilt without the mansard roof and expanded by 1892. The company also had several other offices throughout the city.

In 1908 AT&T acquired a controlling interest in Western Union.

The old Western Union Telegraph Building was demolished between 1912 and 1914. A new 29-story office building, for both companies, known as the Western Union Building, was erected at 195 Broadway, opened in 1916 and completed in 1922 (see image below). In 1930, another Western Union Building was completed at 60 Hudson Street.


Western Union Telegraph Building





Antique photos of NYC


Western Union


The Western Union Telegraph Building on Broadway. Illustration published about 1875 (The Hatch Lith. Co. 32 & 34 Vesey St., N.Y. from Museum of the City of New York).


Franklin Hotel


NY Early Skyscrapers


Old Broadway


Telegraph NY


Dey Street NY


Below, the Western Union Building, at 195 Broadway, opened in 1916 and completed in 1922. Vintage postcard by American Art Publishing Company, postmark 1921. Looking south on Broadway.


Western Union Broadway


195 Broadway NY


Looking down on Broadway from the old Post Office. The Western Union Telegraph Building is under construction (center background), about the early 1875 (Popular views, New York City, from the New York Public Library).


Construction Broadway


60 Hudson Street


Old Western Union Telegraph Building on Broadway


Former buildings on the site of the Western Union Telegraph Building on Broadway. Franklin Hotel is on the corner of Dey St. Frangment of an llustration published about the 1860s / NYPL.


Historic Buildings


Copyright © Geographic Guide - Early Skyscrapers, City of New York.