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The Equitable Building is an office skyscraper located at 120
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between Pine and Cedar Streets in the
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of
Lower Manhattan Lower Manhattan, also known as Downtown Manhattan or Downtown New York, is the southernmost part of Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally as ''The City'', is the most densely populated and geographically smallest of the five boroughs ...

Lower Manhattan
in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
. The skyscraper was designed by Ernest R. Graham in the
neoclassical Neoclassical or neo-classical may refer to: * Neoclassicism or New Classicism, any of a number of movements in the fine arts, literature, theatre, music, language, and architecture beginning in the 17th century ** Neoclassical architecture, an arc ...
style, with Peirce Anderson as the architect-in-charge. It is tall, with 38 stories and of floor space. The building's articulation consists of three horizontal sections similar to the components of a
column A column or pillar in architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Par ...

column
, namely a base, shaft, and
capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minusc ...

capital
. The Equitable Building replaced the Equitable Life Building, the previous headquarters of the Equitable Life Insurance Company, which burned down in 1912. Work on the Equitable Building started in 1913 and was completed in 1915. Upon opening, it was the largest office building in the world by floor area. The Equitable Building hosted a variety of tenants and, by the 1920s, was the most valuable building in New York City. The Equitable Life Insurance Company, the building's namesake, occupied a small portion of the building until it moved out during 1960. The owner ,
Silverstein Properties Silverstein Properties, Inc. (SPI) is a family held, full-service real estate development, investment and management firm based in New York City. Founded in 1957 by Chairman Larry Silverstein, the company specializes in developing, acquiring, and ...
, purchased the Equitable Building in 1980 and renovated it multiple times. Upon its completion, the Equitable Building was controversial because of its lack of setbacks, which in turn does not allow sunlight to reach the surrounding ground. This contributed to the adoption of the first modern building and
zoning Zoning is a method of urban planning Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design A design is a plan ...
restrictions on vertical structures in Manhattan, the
1916 Zoning Resolution The 1916 Zoning Resolution in New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthl ...
. The building was designated a
National Historic Landmark A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. governme ...
in 1978 and was designated a city landmark by the
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is the Government of New York City, New York City agency charged with administering the city's Historic preservation, Landmarks Preservation Law. The LPC is responsible for protecting New ...
in 1996. It is also a contributing property to the Wall Street Historic District, a NRHP district created in 2007.


Site

The building occupies the entire block bounded by Broadway to the west, Cedar Street to the north, Nassau Street to the east, and Pine Street to the south. The dimensions of the block are irregular. The building has a
frontage Frontage is the boundary between a plot of land or a building and the road onto which the plot or building fronts. Frontage may also refer to the full length of this boundary. This length is considered especially important for certain types of ...

frontage
measuring approximately on Broadway, on Cedar Street, on Nassau Street, and and on Pine Street. The plot is shaped like a
trapezoid In Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's meth ...

trapezoid
, with the Nassau Street and Broadway frontages being almost parallel. The plot covers about ; according to the
New York City Department of City Planning The Department of City Planning (DCP) is the department of the government of New York City A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, a ...
, the building has a lot area of . There are numerous buildings and structures immediately adjacent to the Equitable Building.
Zuccotti Park Zuccotti Park (formerly Liberty Plaza Park) is a publicly accessible park in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, ...
is located to the northwest, while
140 Broadway 140 Broadway (formerly known as the Marine Midland Building or the HSBC Bank Building) is a 51-story International Style office building on the east side of Broadway between Cedar and Liberty Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do ...
is to the north and
28 Liberty Street 28 Liberty Street, formerly known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza, is a 60-story International Style (architecture), International style skyscraper in the Financial District, Manhattan, Financial District of Manhattan in New York City, between Nass ...
is to the northeast.
Federal Hall National Memorial Federal Hall is a historic building at 26 Wall Street Wall Street is an eight-block-long street in the Financial District This is a list of financial districts in cities around the world. Background A financial district is usually a ...

Federal Hall National Memorial
is to the southeast and 14 Wall Street and the
American Surety Building The American Surety Building (also known as the Bank of Tokyo Building or 100 Broadway) is an early skyscraper at Pine Street and Broadway in the Financial District of Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally as the City and the urban cor ...

American Surety Building
are to the south. Across Broadway to the west and southwest are the
Trinity and United States Realty Buildings The Trinity Building, designed by Francis H. Kimball and built in 1905, with an addition of 1907, and Kimball's United States Realty Building of 1907, located respectively at 111 and 115 Broadway in Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally a ...
.


Design

The Equitable Building, an
early skyscraper The early skyscrapers were a range of skyscraper, tall commercial buildings built between 1884 and 1945, predominantly in the American cities of New York City and Chicago. Cities in the United States were traditionally made up of low-rise building ...
, was designed by Ernest R. Graham of D. H. Burnham & Company (later
Graham, Anderson, Probst & White Graham, Anderson, Probst & White (GAP&W) was a Chicago, Illinois, Chicago List of architecture firms, architectural firm that was founded in 1912 as Graham, Burnham & Co. This firm was the successor to D. H. Burnham & Co. through Daniel Burnham's s ...
), with Peirce Anderson as the architect-in-charge. In contrast to the contemporary
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower (colloquially known as the Met Life Tower and also as the South Building), is a skyscraper occupying a full block in the Flatiron District of Manhattan in New York City. The building is composed of ...
,
Singer Building The Singer Building (also the Singer Tower) was an office building and early skyscrapers, early skyscraper in Manhattan, New York City. Serving as the headquarters of the Singer Corporation, Singer Manufacturing Company, it was at the northweste ...
, and
Woolworth Building The Woolworth Building is an early American skyscraper designed by architect Cass Gilbert Cass Gilbert (November 24, 1859 – May 17, 1934) was a prominent American architect. An early proponent of Early skyscrapers, skyscrapers, his works ...

Woolworth Building
, the Equitable Building was designed as a bulky mass, rather than a "slender, romantic tower". This was affected by the fact that the other three buildings were corporate symbols from renowned architects, while the Equitable Building was a speculative development whose designer had little experience in New York City. The ultimate design was distinct from corporate structures such as the Met Life Tower or restrained office buildings such as the
Flatiron Building#REDIRECT Flatiron Building The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is a triangular 22-story, steel-framed landmarked building located at 175 Fifth Avenue Fifth Avenue is a major thoroughfare in the borough (New York City), b ...

Flatiron Building
, and raised substantial controversy upon its completion. The articulation consists of three horizontal sections similar to the components of a
column A column or pillar in architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Par ...

column
, namely a base, shaft, and
capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minusc ...

capital
. The exterior is inspired from Greek and Roman architecture. In total, it is tall when the penthouse's center tower is included; a separate measurement of is given when measured to the top of the other penthouses, and the height excluding any of the penthouses is .


Form

Although the Equitable Building is 40 stories tall with , this includes two stories in the building's
penthouses A penthouse is an apartment or unit on the highest floor of an apartment building, condominium, or hotel. Penthouses are typically differentiated from other apartments by luxury features. The term 'penthouse' originally referred, and sometimes ...
as well as two "interior stories" that are not visible from the . The interior stories are located at the 3rd and 34th floors, and there are three basement levels. The exterior of the building thus consists of 36 stories with a total height of . Originally, the structure was proposed as a 42-story skyscraper, but this was reduced to 36 effective stories to maximize
elevator An elevator (North American English North American English (NAmE, NAE) is the most generalized variety (linguistics), variety of the English language as spoken in the United States and Canada. Because of their related histories and ...

elevator
safety and speed, given the assumption that 50,000 people visited the building each day and that there were 48 elevators that could each serve 1,200 people an hour. The Equitable Building has no setback from the street beyond the depth of the sidewalk.Smith, Caleb. "Equitable Building" in This is because Graham wanted the building to have the latest technological systems, such as elevators, heating, ventilation, and fireproofing, while also maximizing usable office space. Two light courts (recesses), one each to the east and west, bisect the facades above the seventh floor. As a result, the Equitable Building appears in the shape of the letter when viewed from above. The design of the Equitable Building is similar to that of the now-demolished
Hudson Terminal Hudson Terminal was a rapid transit station and office-tower complex in the Radio Row neighborhood of Lower Manhattan in New York City. Opened during 1908 and 1909, it was composed of a Railway terminal, terminal station for the Hudson & Manhatta ...
office buildings and the 49 Chambers building. The two-story penthouse is tall; the penthouse roof is tall, but the center tower rises another .


Facade

The building's facade is made of brick, granite, and terracotta, and white Yule Marble and iron are also used in the building. The granite, brick, and
marble Marble is a metamorphic rock , a type of metamorphic rock Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock (geology), rock to new types of rock, in a process called metamorphism upright=1.35, Schematic representation of ...

marble
were estimated to be . Anderson designed the facade with a base, shaft, and capital, similar to the
Broadway–Chambers Building The Broadway–Chambers Building is an 18-story office building at 277 Broadway (Manhattan), Broadway, on the northwest corner with Chambers Street (Manhattan), Chambers Street, in the Civic Center, Manhattan, Civic Center and Tribeca neighborho ...
by
Cass Gilbert Cass Gilbert (November 24, 1859 – May 17, 1934) was a prominent American architect. An early proponent of Early skyscrapers, skyscrapers, his works include the Woolworth Building, the United States Supreme Court building, the state capitols of ...

Cass Gilbert
, but with facades on all sides. The building contains eighteen vertical window
bays A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an ocean, a lake, or another bay. A large bay is usually called a Gulf (geography), gulf, sea, sound (geography), sound, or bight (geogr ...
each on the Pine and Cedar Street facades, and seven bays each on the Broadway and Nassau Street facades, three on each wing of the "H". The window bays each consist of two windows on each floor, except the center bay on Broadway and Nassau Street, which includes three windows on the 5th through 7th floors. The lowest four stories were made of granite, while the 5th through 7th stories have a facade of granite and terracotta. On Broadway and Nassau Street, there are Corinthian-style
pilaster In classical architecture Classical architecture usually denotes architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (at ...

pilaster
s, which are tall and topped by ornamented
capitals Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter, an upper-case letter in any type of writing * Capital city, the area of a country, province, region, or state, regarded as enjoying primary status, usually but not always the seat of the governm ...

capitals
. Double-height arches with three revolving doors are located at the centers of these facades. Above this is a plaque reading on the third story, as well as an ornamented terracotta
frieze In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. A ...

frieze
at the fourth story, which is wide. The entrances on Cedar Street and Pine Street are more plainly designed with narrower square arches; the doors are located below green marble panels. The remaining windows on the first floor are stainless-steel show windows, which illuminate the commercial spaces inside. Though most of the commercial space is accessed from the lobby, there is also a service entrance and a shop entrance from the Cedar Street side. The window openings on the second, third, fifth, and sixth floors are separated by vertical
mullion A mullion is a vertical element Element may refer to: Science * Chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substanc ...
s and horizontal
spandrel A spandrel is a roughly triangular space, usually found in pairs, between the top of an arch and a rectangular frame; between the tops of two adjacent arches or one of the four spaces between a circle within a square. They are frequently fill ...

spandrel
panels made of green terracotta. Flagpoles hang from the seventh story. The 8th through 38th stories were made of light gray brick and matching terracotta trim. On the Broadway and Nassau Street facades, the light court divides the primary facades into two wings, each with three window bays. The portions of the facade facing these light courts are faced with brick. Medallions with cornices are located at the corners of the building at the 7th and 31st floors. There is no ornamentation on the 8th through 30th floors, while there are
belt course A belt course, also called a string course or sill course, is a continuous row or layer of stones or brick A brick is a type of block used to build walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Properly, the term ''brick'' de ...
s below the 31st and 32nd floors. The facade between the 32nd and 35th floors is composed of a
colonnade In classical architecture Classical architecture usually denotes architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (a ...

colonnade
with terracotta pilasters between each column of windows, topped by ornamented capitals. The colonnade terminates at the top of the 35th floor, where there is an elaborate
cornice In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Arch ...

cornice
. Another belt course separates the 36th and 37th floors, and a cornice is located above the 38th floor. The top of the building, composed of the penthouse, is faced with brick and terracotta. It contains pilasters similar to the lower sections of the building. The main penthouse, atop the center of the "H", has dimensions of . Penthouses are located atop the wings as well.


Features

Upon its completion, the Equitable Building was the largest office building in the world by total area. The building had of floor space, and each of the upper stories has due to the H-shaped footprints. A fact sheet published at the time of the Equitable Building's completion estimated that it had approximately 5,000 windows and 10,000 doors.


Structural features

The foundations descended to below ground level. The foundation is surrounded by a concrete
cofferdam A cofferdam is an enclosure built within a body of water to allow the enclosed area to be pumped out. This pumping creates a dry working environment so that the work can be carried out safely. Cofferdams are commonly used for construction or rep ...
which measures wide and is reinforced by steel rods. Within the foundation are eighty piers, each of made of concrete and steel. A retaining wall between Cedar and Pine Streets is used to reinforce two of the cellar levels for vaults. The superstructure weighs . At the time of the Equitable Building's construction, it was described as the world's heaviest structure. There are 88 granite columns that rest on the piers within the foundation, and another 50 columns that rest atop the cofferdam.


Interior

The ground-floor lobby is composed of two perpendicular arcades, a west-east corridor from Broadway to Nassau Street and a north-south corridor from Pine to Cedar Streets. All four entrances contained bronze revolving doors. The lobby has a pink marble floor, sand-colored marble walls, and a vaulted,
coffered ceiling A coffer (or coffering) in architecture File:Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted).jpg, upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dess ...
. The corridors are wide, while the ceiling ranges from tall at the edges to tall at the center. The ceiling is designed in patterns of octagons and squares. Also in the lobby are the elevators, which contain marble-and-bronze doors and are located in the central section of the "H". Banking spaces and storefronts are also located on the ground floor, accessible from the lobby. To the southeast and northwest, marble stairs with
balustrade A baluster is a vertical moulded shaft, square, or lathe A lathe () is a machine tool that rotates a workpiece about an axis of rotation to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, Deformation (engineering), ...

balustrade
s lead to the basements and second floor. The first basement level has safe-deposit vaults. In the basement, there are also connections to several
New York City Subway The New York City Subway is a rapid transit Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn Rapid transit in Germany consists of four U-Bahn systems and fourteen S-Bahn systems. The U- ...

New York City Subway
stations, including
Wall Street Wall Street is an eight-block-long street in the Financial District This is a list of financial districts in cities around the world. Background A financial district is usually a central area in a city where financial services firms suc ...
(served by the ),
Wall Street Wall Street is an eight-block-long street in the Financial District This is a list of financial districts in cities around the world. Background A financial district is usually a central area in a city where financial services firms suc ...
(served by the ), and
Broad StreetBroad Street may refer to: United Kingdom *Broad Street railway station (England), in London *Broad Street (ward), in London *Broad Street, Birmingham *Broad Street, Bristol *Broad Street, Oxford *Broad Street, Reading *Broad Street, Suffolk, hamle ...
(served by the ). At opening, half of the basement was occupied by the Cafe Savarin, a 1,000-seat eatery with three rooms fitted with bright blue tiled walls and floors. On the upper floors, a staircase, restrooms, and utilities are clustered into the core of the "H". The light courts within the "H" ensured that all offices could receive natural light. West-east corridors ran perpendicularly to the elevator lobbies, crossing both wings of the "H". Floors were arranged so that they could be divided into suites facing outward, so that all suites faced windows, though it was also possible for lessees to rent entire floors. Upon the building's opening, Equitable also provided rest and recreation rooms for the building's 2,000 female employees, making it the first large building to have a women's welfare department. Also in the building was the library of the
New York Law Institute The New York Law Institute is the oldest circulating law library in New York City and is open to Institute members and to scholars of history and the law. Today The New York Law Institute library is located in the Equitable Building and has a ...
, which remains in the building . The Equitable Building housed the 1,500-member Bankers Club on its top three floors when it opened. The club had five dining rooms, a lounge, reception rooms, and an open-air terrace. The club was highly frequented by notable financial figures and socialites in New York City, hosting politicians and leaders such as United Kingdom prime minister
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The hea ...

Winston Churchill
, French president
Charles de Gaulle Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (; ; 22 November 18909 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 19 ...
, Soviet Union leader
Nikita Khrushchev Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (– 11 September 1971) served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964 and as Premier of the Soviet Unio ...
, and Queen of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy A constitutional mo ...

Elizabeth II
. It closed in 1979 after the club's lease expired.


Operations

The operations of the Equitable Building were described as being akin to a small city. When the building opened, there was a power station below ground level. It contained seven boilers with a combined output of , which took up a space measuring . There was also an artificial ice plant. The power station originally burned oil, consuming 2.5 million barrels per year, but started using coal in 1934 due to a rise in fuel prices. At the time of completion, the Equitable Building was said to have more telephones than did all of Greece. The building contains 50 elevators; the 48 elevators serving the above ground levels are clustered in six groups of eight, while an additional two elevators serve the basements. The Equitable Building previously contained as many as 62 elevators.


History


Context

During the 19th century, life insurance firms were some of the first companies to build high-profile skyscrapers. The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, founded by
Henry Baldwin Hyde Henry Baldwin Hyde (February 15, 1834–May 2, 1899) was an American businessman. He is notable for having founded The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States in 1859. By the time of Hyde's death, The Equitable was the largest lif ...
in 1859, had built the Equitable Life Building on 120 Broadway in 1870. The Equitable Life Building was the first office building to feature passenger elevators, and at
a record This list of DNS record types is an overview of resource record The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to identify computers, Internet#Applications_and_services, services, ...

a record
upon construction, was among the world's first skyscrapers. The building was expanded numerous times, including in 1875 and in 1887. Equitable assumed control of all properties on the block by 1906. By the 1890s, the Equitable Life Building was architecturally outdated, and
George B. Post George Browne Post (December 15, 1837 – November 28, 1913) was an American architect trained in the Beaux-Arts architecture, Beaux-Arts tradition. He was recognized as a master of modern American architecture as well as being instrumental in t ...
prepared plans for a 40-story structure in 1897, which did not proceed. In 1907, Daniel H. Burnham's company had proposed replacing the Equitable Life Building with a 33-story structure. At the time, both Burnham and Equitable publicly denied that a new home office was being planned. Burnham's firm filed plans for a 62-story building in 1908, to top the Singer Building and Metropolitan Life Tower. This new building would have had a 34-story base and a 28-story tower, being tall, with of floor area and 3,600 offices. Although bidding for the proposed structure began in December 1908, Equitable president Paul Morton publicly denied plans for a new structure. The plan was ultimately dropped, possibly due to opposition over the building's sheer bulk. The Equitable Life Building was destroyed by a fire on January 9, 1912, which killed six people. Fire engines could not save the structure because the water from the engines had frozen in the cold weather. Equitable quickly set up temporary quarters at the
City Investing Building The City Investing Building, also known as the Broadway–Cortlandt Building and the Benenson Building, was an office building and early skyscraper The early skyscrapers were a range of skyscraper, tall commercial buildings built between 1884 ...
. Given that the previous building had been worth very little, the land was actually worth more after the fire than beforehand.


Planning and construction


Planning

After the fire, Thompson–Starrett was hired to clear the site, and the plot was chosen as the location for Equitable's new headquarters building. Thompson–Starrett president Louis J. Horowitz approached businessman
T. Coleman du Pont Thomas Coleman du Pont (December 11, 1863 – November 11, 1930) was an American engineer and politician, from Greenville, Delaware Greenville is a census-designated place A census-designated place (CDP) is a Place (United States Census Bureau), ...
, who later recalled that du Pont was interested in the "idea of owning a gigantic building in New York". Frank M. Andrews—who designed another one of du Pont's properties the
Hotel McAlpin The Hotel McAlpin is a historic hotel building on Herald Square, at the corner of Broadway (Manhattan), Broadway and 34th Street (Manhattan), 34th Street in Manhattan, New York City. It currently operates as an apartment building known as Herald ...
—was also involved in the project. Horowitz, Andrews, and du Pont were said to have bought the lot in August 1912, and finalized the sale that October for $13.5 million. Du Pont forced Andrews from the project, apparently upon Horowitz's advice, and Andrews sued du Pont in July 1913, leading du Pont to pay Andrews $100,000 for his involvement. Horowitz then corresponded with Ernest Graham, the other major partner at D. H. Burnham & Company after Burnham's June 1912 death, who would become the architect of the new tower. Graham designed the structure as a bulky mass, wanting to maximize the amount of office space on the site rather than a corporate symbol. Graham's key concern was with the height of the elevators, and he discussed the issue with preeminent elevator engineer Charles E. Knox, who said that "the elevator service will determine the height of the building". This differed from Graham's previous commissions, where elevators were considered after the height of the building was specified. Knox ultimately recommended against building a 42-story structure, but recommended a 36-story edifice since that height could meet the client's safety and speed criteria. Opposition to the building soon coalesced. One group of bankers planned to build a park on the site, a suggestion that Horowitz said "outranks, for nerve, anything of which I ever heard", and was dropped when Horowitz suggested that the group raise $13.5 million to buy out du Pont's ownership share. Another proposal called for dividing the lot in half by extending New Street, an existing north-south road, north to Cedar Street. This plan also failed, and blueprints were filed with the
New York City Department of Buildings The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) is the department of the New York City government that enforces the city's building codes and zoning regulations Zoning is a method of urban planning in which a municipality or other tier of gover ...
in December 1912, which called for a huge H-shaped edifice on the block. On April 12, 1913, du Pont formed the Equitable Office Building Corporation to take title to the building site, and gave Equitable a $20.5 million
mortgage loan A mortgage loan or simply mortgage () is a loan In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money ...
to run for 60 years. Equitable would lease three floors in exchange for 9%
dividend A dividend is a distribution of profit Profit may refer to: Business and law * Profit (accounting), the difference between the purchase price and the costs of bringing to market * Profit (economics), normal profit and economic profit * Profit ...

dividend
s in the building corporation, to be paid in perpetuity. Equitable president William A. Day was appointed as chairman of the board of the building corporation. Thompson–Starrett was hired as the builder and Horowitz became the "owner's representative".


Construction

Because of the high land cost, the developers wanted to erect the building as quickly as possible; at the time, buildings' general contractors usually passed work down to subcontractors. To eliminate delays due to a lack of communication between subcontractors, the building corporation formed a "Method of Procedure" to coordinate all work on the building. Since there were no nearby material-storage areas, it was imperative that work be completed as quickly as possible. The start of work had already been held up by opposition to the proposed height and shape. Excavation for the building started in June 1913. The cofferdam around the foundation was initially reinforced with timber cross-bracing until the steel frame underground had been sufficiently completed to support the cofferdam. During excavation, a
cannonball Mons Meg with its , cannonballs A round shot (also called solid shot or simply ball) is a solid spherical projectile A projectile is any object thrown by the exertion of a force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐ ...
from British colonial times was excavated from the site of the Equitable Building. By January 1914, crews had excavated the foundation and dug to the bedrock below street level. The steel work was built to the second floor using six
derrick A derrick is a lifting device composed at minimum of one guyed mast A guyed mast or guyed tower is a tall thin vertical structure that depends on guy-wire, guy lines (diagonal tensioned cables attached to the ground) for stability. The ...

derrick
s; the steel frame above that point was erected using lighter derricks with longer masts and booms. There were some accidents during construction, including two incidents in which workers were killed. One worker died after a crane fell on the Broadway side of the building, while another died when a crane dropped a girder onto a platform where six men were working. The steel frame reached street level in February 1914. The
cornerstone The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry Masonry is the building of structures from individual units, which are often laid in and bound together by ; the term ''masonry'' ...

cornerstone
was officially laid on April 30, 1914, at a ceremony attended by mayor
John Purroy Mitchel John Purroy Mitchel (July 19, 1879 – July 6, 1918) was the 95th mayor of New York from 1914 to 1917. At 34, he was the second-youngest mayor and he is sometimes referred to as "The Boy Mayor of New York." Mayor Mitchel is remembered for hi ...

John Purroy Mitchel
. The Equitable Building was the first private construction project in New York City where the mayor attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony. Work on the superstructure officially began on June 10, 1914. By August 16, the structure had
topped out In building construction Construction is a general term meaning the and to form , , or ,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English Dictionary'' Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) Oxford University Press 2009 and comes from '' ...
at 38 stories above the ground level.These 38 floors included the interior floors (not visible from the facade) but excluded the two-story penthouse. Work on the building was completed on February 1, 1915.


Use

The Equitable Building was completed on May 1, 1915, at an estimated cost of $29 million, . The Equitable Society itself occupied , a little more than 10% of the total floor area, on the sixth through eighth floors. Other early lessees included tenants as diverse as
General Electric General Electric Company (GE) is an American Multinational corporation, multinational Conglomerate (company), conglomerate incorporated in New York State and headquartered in Boston. Until 2021, the company operated through GE Aviation, aviat ...
, the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is one of the 12 Federal Reserve Bank A Federal Reserve Bank is a regional bank of the Federal Reserve System The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve or simply the Fed) is the ...
, the
Fidelity Trust Company Fidelity Trust Company was a bank in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1866 as Fidelity Insurance, Trust, & Safe Deposit Company, the bank was later renamed Fidelity Trust Company, Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company, The Fidelity Bank, and Fi ...
, and American Smelting & Refining. The Equitable Building was also occupied by industrial concerns such as the
American Can Company The American Can Company was a manufacturer of tin can A steel can, tin can, tin (especially in British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is ...
,
Kennecott Copper Company Kennecott Utah Copper LLC (KUC), a division of Rio Tinto Group, is a mining, smelting, and refining company. Its corporate headquarters are located in South Jordan, Utah. Kennecott operates the Bingham Canyon Mine, one of the largest open-pit min ...
, E. I. du Pont de Nemours,
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is an American multinational tire manufacturing company founded in 1898 by Frank Seiberling Franklin Augustus “Frank” Seiberling''Find A Grave'', database and imageshttps://www.findagrave.com: accessed 24 ...
, and
Aluminum Company of America Alcoa Corporation (a portmanteau of ''Aluminum Company of America'') is an American industrial corporation. It is the world's eighth largest producer of aluminum, with corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Alcoa conducts operation ...
, as well as railroads such as
Missouri Pacific Railroad The Missouri Pacific Railroad , commonly abbreviated as MoPac, was one of the first railroads in the United States This is a list of the earliest railroads in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern ...
,
Union Pacific Railroad The Union Pacific Railroad , legally Union Pacific Railroad Company and simply Union Pacific, is a freight-hauling railroad that operates 8,300 locomotives over routes in 23 U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are curre ...
, and Southern Railway. The Equitable Building's other tenants included banks such as
Barclays Barclays plc () is a British multinational Investment banking, investment bank and financial services company, headquartered in London, England. Apart from investment banking, Barclays is organised into four core businesses: Retail banking, pe ...

Barclays
,
Marine Midland Bank Marine Midland Bank was a bank formerly headquartered in Buffalo, New York, with several hundred branches throughout the state of New York (state), New York. In 1998 branches extended to Pennsylvania. It was acquired by HSBC in 1980, and changed ...
, and
Mellon Bank Image:Pittsburgh-mellon-center-2007-night.jpg, Corporate headquarters, One Mellon Center in Pittsburgh, at night. Mellon Financial Corporation was an investment firm which was once one of the world's largest money management firms. Based in Pittsb ...
; financial firms such as Kidder, Peabody & Co. and
American Express The American Express Company (Amex) is a multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinat ...
; and the offices of New York attorney general
Robert Abrams Robert Abrams (born July 4, 1938) is an American attorney and politician. He served as the attorney general of New York The Attorney General of New York is the chief legal officer of the U.S. state of New York (state), New York and head of the ...

Robert Abrams
. Equitable Life itself only had its home office in the Equitable Building until 1924, when it moved to 393 Seventh Avenue (now 11 Penn Plaza).


1910s through 1930s

At the time of its completion, the Equitable Building had 20,000 employees working inside it, and 50,000 additional daily visitors. Shortly after the official opening, du Pont bought the Equitable Life Assurance Company's
controlling interest A controlling interest is an ownership interest in a corporation with enough voting stock In finance, stock (also capital stock) consists of all of the shares In financial markets A financial market is a market in which people trade ...
. During the first year of operation, du Pont made $3 million in profit. By 1917, the building was fully occupied at an average rental rate of . The building's valuation was increased from $20.5 million to $25 million that year, because of a prosperous realty market at the time. The following year, the Equitable Office Building Corporation applied for a reduction in the building's valuation from $25 million to $18 million, due to foreclosures on other large buildings in New York City. Further devaluation occurred in 1921, when the building was estimated to be worth $11.5 million, but by the next year, the building was re-valued at $30 million, making it among the city's most valuable properties. The edifice was first placed for sale in 1923, with du Pont offering the building for $40 million. In 1925, du Pont sold the Equitable Building for $38.5 million to the New York Empire Company, a subsidiary of the
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is a labor union A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply called a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve many common goals, s ...
. The next year, the Brotherhood sold the building to a syndicate composed of
William Henry Vanderbilt William Henry "Billy" Vanderbilt (May 8, 1821 – December 8, 1885) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He was the eldest son of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, an heir to his fortune and a prominent member of the Vanderbilt family. ...

William Henry Vanderbilt
, Harry C. Cushing III, and Leroy W. Baldwin for $40 million. By 1928, the Equitable Building was assessed at $31 million, making it the highest-valued building in New York City.


1940s through 1960s

By the 1940s, the Equitable Office Building Corporation was in poor financial shape. Bankruptcy proceedings started in 1940, but were delayed due to
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
; three potential investors submitted dueling proposals in 1946. The building was refinanced in 1947, receiving a first-mortgage loan of $14.5 million, among the largest ever in New York City's history. At this time, Equitable Life sold the mortgage on the tower. In 1954,
Webb and Knapp Webb and Knapp was a real estate development Real estate development, or property development, is a business process, encompassing activities that range from the renovation and re-lease A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the ...
bought all of the Equitable Office Building Corporation's
common stock Common stock is a form of corporate equity Equity may refer to: Finance, accounting and ownership *Equity (finance), ownership of assets that have liabilities attached to them ** Stock, equity based on original contributions of cash or other v ...
, and thereby acquired ownership of the building.
Lawrence Wien Lawrence Arthur Wien (May 30, 1905 – December 10, 1988) was an American lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at lawAttorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech t ...
bought the lease for the land in 1956, though Webb and Knapp retained ownership of the building as well as its operating sublease. By then, Equitable was planning to build the new 1285 Avenue of the Americas on Sixth Avenue between 51st and 52nd streets in Midtown Manhattan. Two years later, the Equitable Life Assurance Company bought the building outright, as part of a $25 million exchange wherein Webb and Knapp bought the Sixth Avenue plot. In addition, Wien assumed the building's operating sublease the same year. Equitable moved to 1285 Avenue of the Americas in 1961 from its previous home office at 393 Seventh Avenue.


1970s to present

The building was designated a
National Historic Landmark A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. governme ...
in 1978. * *
Silverstein Properties Silverstein Properties, Inc. (SPI) is a family held, full-service real estate development, investment and management firm based in New York City. Founded in 1957 by Chairman Larry Silverstein, the company specializes in developing, acquiring, and ...
purchased the Equitable Building in 1980 for $60 million, in partnership with five pension funds whose mortgage nearly covered the purchase price. After buying the building, Larry Silverstein renovated and restored it at a cost of $30 million, to a design by Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Whitelaw. The project entailed replacing the terracotta ornamentation, as well as the original terracotta frames for the windows, which was replaced with Fiberglass, glass-fiber reinforced plastic. The window sash and main entrances were also replaced, and the lobby was refurbished. The renovation was completed in 1990. As a result of the project, occupancy rates increased from 60% in 1991 to 80% in 1993. Following the early 1990s recession, Silverstein sold his ownership stake and leased the Equitable Building, though Silverstein Properties bought it back in 1999. The
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is the Government of New York City, New York City agency charged with administering the city's Historic preservation, Landmarks Preservation Law. The LPC is responsible for protecting New ...
designated the Equitable Building a Lists of New York City landmarks, New York City landmark in 1996. Silverstein supported the city designation, and the commission wrote in its report that the Equitable Building was "one of the finest office buildings of the era". In 2007, it was designated as a contributing property to the Wall Street Historic District, a NRHP district. In 2017, Silverstein announced another round of renovations, which cost $50 million and were undertaken by Beyer Blinder Belle. The plan included restoring many historic features including the glass mosaic at the front entrance, the chandeliers in the lobby, and reopening the Bankers Club at the top of the building as an amenity space. The renovation also created twin rooftop terraces spanning a combined . The renovation was completed in July 2019. Several murals resembling street art were installed on the third floor in November 2019. Tenants include the
New York City Department of City Planning The Department of City Planning (DCP) is the department of the government of New York City A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, a ...
, Macmillan Publishers, architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.


Notable incidents

There were numerous incidents where parts of the building were damaged. For instance, lightning caused part of the cornice to break off during 1925. In March 1942, a seven-inch (17 cm) shell struck the 37th floor of the building but caused little damage and no injuries. The shell was one of eight fired by an anti-aircraft battery near the East River by mistake; the other rounds fell harmlessly into the river. The 1942 incident made the Equitable Building the first in New York City to suffer war damage during World War II, and it subsequently took out an insurance policy. In February 1953, a broken water main flooded the basements with of water, temporarily disabling the elevators. Throughout the Equitable Building's history, several people have died after they fell or jumped from the building. In the building's early years, such incidents included a clerk who landed on a taxi in 1925; a woman who jumped from the roof after losing money in the Wall Street Crash of 1929; a broker who jumped in 1937; and an incident in 1930 where a jumper killed both himself and a truck driver on the ground. There were also several people who killed themselves inside the building, such as the shooting suicide of a politician in 1933 and another one in 1937.


Impact


Critical reception

Many architectural critics had negative comments about the Equitable Building. Francisco Mujica (architect), Francisco Mujica stated in 1927 that "its intelligent interior arrangement and the central location of its 50 elevators" was the only appealing part of the Equitable Building. Another critic called it a "monstrous parasite on the veins and arteries of New York". Sally A. Kitt Chappell wrote that the Equitable Building "was tall but without the redeeming slender, spirelike quality of a tower, and yet its height prevented it from having the urbanistic decorum of an office block". However, Chappell also wrote that the building had "mitigate[d] two of the major evils of which skyscrapers were accused, as its fireproofing and elevator service attest." There was also significant resistance to the building's shape. Opponents stated that the building also overwhelmed nearby infrastructure by blocking ventilation, straining nearby transit facilities, and preventing firemen from easily reaching the upper floors. The shadow was more than six times the lot area and up to long. One journal stated that it cast a shadow on the surrounding streets, including a permanent shadow on the
Singer Building The Singer Building (also the Singer Tower) was an office building and early skyscrapers, early skyscraper in Manhattan, New York City. Serving as the headquarters of the Singer Corporation, Singer Manufacturing Company, it was at the northweste ...
up to its 27th floor and the
City Investing Building The City Investing Building, also known as the Broadway–Cortlandt Building and the Benenson Building, was an office building and early skyscraper The early skyscrapers were a range of skyscraper, tall commercial buildings built between 1884 ...
up to its 24th floor, and completely cutting off sunshine to at least three other adjacent buildings shorter than 21 stories. Even during the cornerstone laying, mayor Mitchel had alluded to the possibility that the Equitable Building might be the last bulky skyscraper to be erected in New York City.


Zoning law

The Equitable Building's construction was one of the influences behind the passage of
zoning Zoning is a method of urban planning Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design A design is a plan ...
reform in New York City. The ''AIA Guide to New York City'' described the building as "more famous for what it caused than what it is", although the Equitable Building was only one of the several catalysts of such reform. Opposition to super-tall buildings dated as far back as 1894. Early attempts by Ernest Flagg to limit the height of New York's skyscrapers in 1896 failed; further unsuccessful attempts followed between 1906 and 1908, and legislation was turned down again in 1909, partially because of pressure from the real estate industry. After 1913, however, the city's property market entered a recession, and vacancy levels in buildings began to rise. The Committee on Congestion of Population in New York, as well as the Fifth Avenue Association, were among the groups that advocated for such legislation to limit building heights. The New York City Board of Aldermen's Building Commission had published preliminary reports for zoning controls in 1913, when the Equitable Building was barely under construction. Nevertheless, in the following years, opponents of super-tall skyscrapers frequently cited the Equitable Building's bulk. After the Equitable Building's completion, numerous nearby property owners filed for reduced property valuation assessments on the basis that significant rental income had been taken by the shadow that the building cast. Following the public criticism of the Equitable Building, the real estate industry finally ceased its objections to new legislation, and the
1916 Zoning Resolution The 1916 Zoning Resolution in New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthl ...
was passed. The legislation limited the height and required setbacks for new buildings to allow the penetration of sunlight to street level. New buildings were thus required to withdraw progressively at a defined angle from the street as they rose, in order to preserve sunlight and the open atmosphere in their surroundings. Chappell writes that if the Equitable Building were completed after the resolution's passage, it would have had two setbacks below the 18th floor, and the building above that point would have been a small tower. The effort to place restrictions on land use in New York City led to the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act, a nationwide zoning legislation. The subsequent 1961 Zoning Resolution allowed the construction of bulky towers if they contained plazas.


See also

* Early skyscrapers * List of National Historic Landmarks in New York City * List of New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan below 14th Street * National Register of Historic Places listings in Manhattan below 14th Street


References


Notes


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * Full issue dedicated to the Equitable building. *


External links


Emporis profile
{{Authority control Broadway (Manhattan) Buildings and structures on the National Register of Historic Places in Manhattan Financial District, Manhattan Historic district contributing properties in Manhattan Individually listed contributing properties to historic districts on the National Register in New York (state) National Historic Landmarks in Manhattan New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan Office buildings completed in 1915 Skyscraper office buildings in Manhattan