Tag Archives: Skyscraper Museum

Ten & Taller: Height Makes Might in the latest Skyscraper Museum exhibition

Skyscrapers feel like constructs of the modern age because their appearances are constantly evolving — from Frank Gehry’s 76-floor twisty, silvery rocket at 8 Spruce Street to the elegant glass monolith of One World Trade Center.

But buildings with ten or more floors are an invention of the Gilded Age. Skyscrapers are older than subways, recorded music, and the cinema. And a concise new show at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City — Ten & Taller: 1874-1900 — excellently lays out New York’s contributions to the form.


The subtitle to the show is key — “Mapping all Manhattan buildings ten stories or taller by use and date.” The show is a living catalog come to life. Or rather, a living map, specifically this one, illustrating the development of every tall building in Manhattan up to the start of the 20th century.  The show is based on the research of structural engineer Don Friedman who organized this special group on Manhattan structures (252 in all) in chronological order here.

Central to the exhibition is a gloriously massive map of Manhattan,  arduously stitched together from dozens of map plates derived from the 1909/1915 G. W. Bromley and Co. Atlas of The City of New York. This alone is worth the price of admission. If you are a map junkie, just the scale of this impressive work may distract you from subject at hand.

Below: George Post’s Produce Exchange Building (1884-1957) which once sat near Bowling Green.


By studying this map, two facts about New York’s earliest skyscrapers will become obvious — 1) they weren’t merely a lower Manhattan phenomenon, and 2) builders sure loved to line Broadway. Animated maps like this one slowly fill the vast expanse of Manhattan with blips representing the presence of a new skyscraper.

Observing development overhead like this reveals vast numbers of new works, from the tip of Manhattan to the area around the American Museum of Natural History.

Below: The far less glamorous side of the Dakota, 1899


The Dakota Apartments, one of the most northerly contributions, may not strike you as a skyscraper per se.

One wall of the exhibit lines up most of these tall buildings like a rogue’s gallery, and the overall effect is striking. Most ten-story buildings of this period, whether masonry or steel-frame construction, weren’t built to feel tall.  Many are ornamented in the Beaux-Arts style, the sort of decor seen more frequently on shorter buildings.  A design language specific to skyscrapers was yet to be developed.

Below: The sleekest of the pre-1900 buildings often shot up from small lots like the ones featured in this display.

In addition, the exhibit focuses on one particular building — the Havemeyer Building, a 14-story skyscraper constructed in 1892, once located on Church Street — presenting massive blueprints to illustrate the grandiosity of its architect George B. Post. Nearby displays offer models revealing the evolution of building techniques up to steel-frame construction, finally allowing buildings to reach higher into the sky.

You’re certain to find at least one odd, long-departed building to fall in love with.  I was personally enamored by the Gillender Building, a short-lived marvel so slender that it was virtually useless. What a very curious (and very beautiful) use of space.



Visit the Skyscraper Museum website for more information.  The museum is located in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City at 39 Battery Place, near the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Museum hours are 12-6 pm, Wednesday-Sunday.  General admission is $5, $2.50 for students and seniors


Next Bowery Boys live appearance: the Skyscraper Museum!

This Tuesday, August 16,  join us at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City. We’ll be doing a reading and book signing on promotion of our book Adventures In Old New York, in particular chatting out some of the more unusual skyscraper architecture of downtown New York.

Here are more details about that event. It’s a free show but you have to RSVP and it’ll fill up fast!  Email your RSVP (with number of guests) to programs@skyscraper.org. 

All book talks are free and open to the public. The gallery opens at 6:00pm.

Some of you may be wondering — what is the Skyscraper Museum? It’s a great institution that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.  Their first exhibition opened in 1997 at a location on Wall Street. Another location of theirs at 110 Maiden Lane closed after September 11, 2001, to become an emergency information center to assist downtown businesses.

Their mission is to celebrate the history of skyscrapers and to speculate on their future.Their latest exhibit space, at 39 Battery Place, features the show GARDEN CITY MEGA CITY about the Singapore-based WOHA, an architecture firm that specializes in designing for the world’s tropical urban areas. .  Since our reading will be in the gallery, you’ll get the check out this show as well!


Below: Inside the Skyscraper Museum:

Courtesy Big Maven
Courtesy Big Maven


Four Bowery Boys live appearances

Our book  The Bowery Boys’ Adventures In Old New York is officially released around the world this week.  To promote the book, we are making a few appearances in the New York City region. Here are the next four. Please keep checking the website for further announcements and details! (I suspect we’ll have many more appearances scheduled in a few weeks.)

Tuesday, June 28

There are still a few tickets left for our appearance at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York on Tuesday, June 28, at 6:30 pm.  If you’re interested, definitely book early, as our last event sold out. Here’s the details:

“How much do you really know about NYC’s history? Introducing  a special program celebrating the launch of The Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York, the official companion book to the No. 1 travel podcast that offers an unconventional exploration of Manhattan’s historic neighborhoods, secret spots and colorful characters. The Bowery Boys  – Greg Young and Tom Meyers – will be here to discuss among other things,”Top Ten Hidden Secrets” of New York.

20 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)

To register please  email: meg.stanton@generalsociety.org. Advance registration is recommended.

Just $10 General admission. Further info here.

Wednesday, July 13, 6:30 pm

A free reading and book signing at Fishs Eddy near the Flatiron Building at 889 Broadway.  Fishs Eddy is a homeware store with unique, quirkly styles. (You must check out their Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr dueling shot glasses.) More details and times to come but prepare for a fun surprise — a Bowery Boys related product for sale at the store!

Tuesday, July 26, 6-8:30


Tuesday, August 16, 6:30-8pm

A Book Talk with the Bowery Boys at the Skyscraper Museum, on August 16, from 6:30-8 pm.

All book talks are free and open to the public. HOWEVER you must RSVP to programs@skyscraper.org to assure admittance.  More information here.