Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower

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Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Met life tower crop.jpg
(1911)
Alternative names Met Life Tower
Metropolitan Life Tower
Record height
Tallest in the world from 1909 to 1913[I]
Preceded by Singer Building
Surpassed by Woolworth Building
General information
Type Commercial offices
Location 1 Madison Avenue[1]
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°44′28″N 73°59′15″W / 40.74124°N 73.9874°W / 40.74124; -73.9874Coordinates: 40°44′28″N 73°59′15″W / 40.74124°N 73.9874°W / 40.74124; -73.9874
Construction started 1893
Completed 1909
Owner Marriott International
Height
Roof 213.36 m (700.0 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 50
Design and construction
Architect Napoleon LeBrun & Sons
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Architectural style Italian Renaissance Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 78001874
Significant dates
Added to NRHP January 29, 1972
Designated NHL June 2, 1978
Designated NYCL 1989
References
[2][3][4][5][6]

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, also known as the Metropolitan Life Tower or Met Life Tower, and currently being converted into the New York Edition Hotel, is a landmark skyscraper located on Madison Avenue near the intersection with East 23rd Street, across from Madison Square Park in Manhattan, New York City. Designed by the architectural firm of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons and built by the Hedden Construction Company, the tower is modeled after the Campanile in Venice, Italy.[7] It was constructed in 1909 and served as world headquarters of the company until 2005. It was the world's tallest building for three years, until 1913, when it was surpassed by the Woolworth Building.[8] Currently, the hotel to be located in the clock tower portion of the building has the address 5 Madison Avenue, while the office building covering the rest of the block, occupied primarily by Credit Suisse, is referred to as 1 Madison Avenue.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978,[5][9] and a New York City landmark in 1989.[10]

Architecture[edit]

The top of the Met Life Tower in fog at night

The tower was a later addition to the original 11-story, full-block Metropolitan Life Home Office building (the "East Wing"), which was completed in 1893 and was also designed by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons.[11] Plans for the tower were first announced in 1905.[12] In 1953-57, the original Home Office building was replaced with the current building, designed by D. Everett Waid. Then, between 1960 and 1964, the Tower itself was modernized by Lloyd Morgan and Eugene V. Meroni.[11]

There are four clock faces, one on each side of the tower, located from the 25th to 27th floor. Each clock face is 26.5 feet (8 m) in diameter with each number being four feet (1.2 m) tall. The minute hands each weigh half a ton. The original tower was sheathed in Tuckahoe marble, but during the 1964 renovation plain limestone was used to cover the tower and the East Wing, replacing the old Renaissance revival details with a streamlined, modern look. Much of the building's original ornamentation was removed.

Restoration[edit]

A three-year exterior restoration project, which saw much of the building covered in scaffolding, ended in 2002 and added a new, computerized, multicolored nighttime lighting system, much like that of the Empire State Building; the colors change to denote particular holidays or important events. The gilded cupola at the very top of the building serves as an "eternal light" which stays illuminated even after the rest of the lighting system has been turned off for the night. The building figured prominently in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's advertising for many years, illustrated with a light beaming from the top of its spire and the slogan, "The Light That Never Fails".

Current status[edit]

In March 2005, SL Green Realty Corp. bought the tower, intending to convert it to apartments. In May 2007, the tower and adjacent air rights were subsequently sold for $200 million to Africa Israel Investments.[13] In 2011, Tommy Hilfiger and a partner signed a contract to buy the building for $170 million, planning to transform it into Hilfiger's first hotel, with luxury condos. However Hilfiger backed off the project in September 2011.[14] Africa Israel then sold the tower to Marriott International in October 2011 for $165 million. Marriott announced in January 2012 that they are converting the tower to the New York Edition Hotel.[15] "Edition" is Marriott's boutique hotel line, run in association with Ian Schrager.

The three Edition hotels, in London, Miami and New York, were sold by Marriott in January 2013 for $815 Million to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.[16] The New York property will be conveyed to its new owner on its completion in 2015. Marriott will continue to manage the hotels under long-term contract.

The North Building and Met Life Tower seen from across Madison Square Park

Metropolitan Life North Building[edit]

By the late 1920s, the 1909 Met Life Tower and the 1919 North Annex were becoming too small to house the continuously growing activities of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Looking to expand, the company considered building on a full block site between East 24th and East 25th Streets.

Ecole des Beaux Arts-educated architect Harvey Wiley Corbett left his position on the Rockefeller Center design team in order to take up this project in 1928. The final design for the new building was proposed as a 100-story, telescoping tower.[17] However, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 caused the company to scrap plans for a giant skyscraper and instead built only a portion of the proposed tower. What stands of the North Building today, completed in 1950, is what was to be the 32-story base for the 100-story tower, built with the structural strength and number of elevator shafts (30) needed for a later completion.

The primary tenant of the Metropolitan Life North Building today is the investment banking arm of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse refers to the building as Eleven Madison Ave, or EMA.

The Metropolitan Life Home Office Complex, was added to the National Register on January 19, 1996.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The clock tower is mentioned in the opening of Murray Leinster's 1919 story "The Runaway Skyscraper," the clock running backwards indicating that the skyscraper was traveling in time.[18]
  • In the animated TV series Futurama, the tower is seen in the future as wider and its face replaced with a digital clock.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

The Tower from below

Notes

  1. ^ NYC GIS map
  2. ^ Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower at Emporis
  3. ^ Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower at SkyscraperPage
  4. ^ Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower at Structurae
  5. ^ a b "Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-15. 
  6. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  7. ^ "Before This Seven-Day Wonder in Construction Is Completed It Will Be Overtopped by the Tall Tower of the Metropolitan Life.; A Reminder of Venice. How the Tower is Built. The Struggle with the Wind. Differs from Other Skyscrapers. An Extraordinary View." The New York Times, December 29, 1907. p. SM5
  8. ^ "Met Life Tower Named A New York Landmark", The New York Times, June 14, 1989. p. B4
  9. ^ George R. Adams (January 24, 1977). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower. National Park Service.  and Accompanying 6 photos, exterior and interior, from 1950-1976 PDF (1.28 MB)
  10. ^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York:John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.79
  11. ^ a b Mendelsohn, Joyce. Touring the Flatiron. New York: New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1998. ISBN 0-964-7061-2-1, pp.22-23
  12. ^ "500-Foot Tower To Replace Church". The New York Times. June 21, 1905. p. 14. "Metropolitan Life's Plans for a New Structure; Parkhurst's Church There; The Company Will Raze It and Erect There One of the Tallest Buildings In the World." 
  13. ^ "Clock Tower at Five Madison Goes for $200 M". The New York Observer. May 15, 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  14. ^ "Marriot Buys the Clock Tower". StreetBeat. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  15. ^ "Five New EDITION Hotels Announced for Gateway Cities" Marriott press release (January 19, 2012)
  16. ^ http://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article75700.html
  17. ^ "Madison Sq Tower to Rise 100 Stories". The New York Times. November 3, 1929. p. N1. "Metropolitan Life Will Erect the Tallest Office Structure for Own Use on Whole Block. Unusual Design is Drawn Accommodation for 30,000 Workers --Moving Stairs Planned for the First Thirteen Floors. Will Occupy Entire Block. Light Value Stressed." 
  18. ^ Webster, Bud (2013). Past Masters, and Other Bookish Natterings. West Warwick, RI: The Merry Blacksmith Press. p. 164. 

External links[edit]


Records
Preceded by
Singer Building
Tallest building in the world
1909–1913
Succeeded by
Woolworth Building
Tallest building in the United States
1909–1913