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Met Life: 1909

New York circa 1909. "Madison Avenue and the towers." Starring the new Metropolitan Life building. Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.

New York circa 1909. "Madison Avenue and the towers." Starring the new Metropolitan Life building. Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.


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How about The Garden?

I don't think anyone commented on the presence in this great picture of the old (the second, I believe) Madison Square Garden seen just past the residences on the left. It has the smaller tower in this fine photo and helps the uninformed to answer the old question when visiting today's Garden: "Why is this place called the Madison Square Garden? It's neither square, a garden nor is it on Madison Avenue."

Part of my family lived nearby on Gramercy Park at this time and had for sixty years and would for another fifty - I wish I could spend an afternoon exploring this neighborhood. In 1909, I mean.

Met Life Tower Bells

If you look closely at the very top of the MetLife Tower you can see four Meneely Bells (made in Troy, NY), which were the highest bell installation at 650 feet above the Madison Square streetscape. They can still be heard on quiet weekends in Manhattan.

Taller than the tallest in many big cities today

According to my 2010 almanac the tower is still ranked in NYC. It is 40th in height at 50 stories and 700 feet. 39 buildings over 700 feet in the city. Chicago has 19 over 700 feet. Those two cities have the most that tall by far.

World's tallest building(s)

It's been remodeled a bit on the outside since 1909 but it still stands today and still looks good. In 1909 it was the world's tallest building at 50 floors, 700 ft and would remain the tallest for 3 years until the Woolworth Building was built.

An interesting side note is that in 1928 Met Life started construction on another skyscraper right next to this tower which was supposed to have been 100 stories tall and would have given them the tallest building again except that the 1929 depression came along and the money dried up. The beginnings of that second building still stand today as well, but it only goes up 32 stories. I've been in that second building several times on business and always wondered why a 32 story building had so many elevators until I looked up its history.


Here is the same view from April of 2010 - it's looking south from 30th Street.

She moved

Diana lives in Philly now. So far as I know, there's nothing from either that version of MSG or the one on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets.

I work there!

My office just moved to 105 Madison, which is between 29th and 30th, on the east side of Madison Ave----just about where that ivy covered townhouse is. . the one in the middle of the block at the left of the photo. . . so cool! Interesting to see that it was mainly residential at the time the photo was taken. . .

Tallest in the World!

When completed in 1909, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower was the tallest building in the world at 700 feet. It took the title from the dearly departed Singer Tower (finished in 1908) and yielded its crown to the Woolworth Building in 1913. Sic transit gloria mundi ...

Hotel Seville

Dang. The Hotel Seville. It's only about five years old in this shot. This commercial bombarded local television in the 1970s:

For a while, it was a real dump. I lived about 4 blocks from it in 1980; not impressive. But now it's a little boutique hotel called the Carlton.

This photo is taken from the north, looking downtown, probably from around 30th Street.


That's one strange exposure there.

[Oops. Too much absinthe! - Dave]

Look Ma, No Hands!

There's a scaffold right below the tower clock and both clock hands are missing. There also seems to be a scaffold on the right side of the tower as well. Wonder if there were clocks on all 4 sides of the tower? There's a man standing on the corner of the next level above the clock....and more scaffolds near the top. Must have been some major renovation going on at the time.

[Not exactly renovation -- the building isn't even finished yet. - Dave]

3 Blocks From Madison Square Park

The Hotel Seville, on the right, is now the trendy Carlton Hotel. Up until a few months ago it housed an overpriced restaurant called "Country" that started off with a bang in 2006, got great reviews but tanked about two months ago. New York's a peculiar place when it comes to restaurants, its one strike and you're out, there are just too many great eateries, especially in that neighborhood.

New clock!

Met Life was a progressive company, if you look real hard you can almost see the blimp!

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