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Early Office Buildings

Early Office Buildings

Harper & Brothers Building, New York, NY, engraving published 1855.  The front of this five-story building was iron. Half the second floor was a large office.  The rest of the building and an adjoining one were used for producing and warehousing books. Source: Jacob Abbot, The Harper Establishment, or, How the Story Books are Made, Harper & Brothers, New York, NY, 1855.  Courtesy of Pat Pflieger, Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read. 

In lower Manhattan in New York City, in the late 1860s some office buildings were taller than five stories, but these buildings did not have elevators and apparently the top floors generally were not used for offices. In addition, some hotels were taller than five stories. Around 1870, construction of seven to ten story office buildings with elevators began. Except in lower Manhattan, until 1885 few U.S. office buildings exceeded five stories.

Plan for War Office, England, 1857

Public Ledger Newspaper Building, Philadelphia, PA, built 1867-68

Banking_House_of_John_A_Hambleton__Co_Baltimore_1874_image_OM.jpg (276137 bytes)      Ninth_National_Bank_of_the_City_of_NY_1874_image_OM.jpg (210579 bytes)
Left:  Banking House of John A Hambleton & Co., Baltimore, MD, 1874 image
Right:  Ninth National Bank of the City of New York, 1874 image

Buffalo German Insurance Co. Building, Buffalo, NY, built 1879

Nash reported that in 1890 there were only six buildings (including but not limited to office buildings) taller than 10 stories in New York City. (Eric P. Nash, Manhattan Skyscrapers, 1999) R.P. Bolton ("The High Office-Buildings of New York," 1900) reported that just ten years later, in 1900: "In lower New York City there are sixty-five buildings, each exceeding 200 feet in height, devoted exclusively to office accommodation." (Scroll down to see a table from Bolton that provides a partial list of tall office buildings in lower Manhattan in 1900.) According to Bolton, there were between 1,000 and 4,000 workers in each of these buildings, all of which appear to have been constructed during the 1890s.

Rapid construction of ever taller office buildings continued. Nash reported that in 1908 there were 538 buildings (including but not limited to office buildings) taller than 10 stories in New York City. Any New York City cleaning service can attest to the fact that there are very few office buildings with fewer than 10 stories in the city today.

Chicago ranked second to New York City in construction of tall office buildings. Hogan (1971) reported that about 50 tall steel buildings were constructed in Chicago between 1885 and 1895.

Except to the extent they are constrained by zoning or building codes, owners of new office buildings chose building heights that produced the greatest profits. The incentive to build taller buildings is that they use less land per square foot of office space. One disincentive to building taller buildings is that the cost of construction per floor increases with the height of the building because the entire building structure, including foundations and vertical supports, must be stronger.  Another disincentive to building higher buildings relates to the cost of moving people up and down. Prior to the development of practical passenger elevators, the market value of office space declined with distance from the street because people had to walk up and down. After the development of passenger elevators, the cost of providing elevators increased faster than the height of a building, because more and more of the otherwise usable internal space on lower floors had to be turned over to elevator shafts needed to reach higher floors.

With that background, one can see why office buildings generally did not exceed five stories until the late 19th century.  First, central city land prices were comparatively low, so there was comparatively little incentive to bear additional construction costs in order to economize on land. Second, the cost of constructing higher floors was high, for either of two reasons. If one relied on stone or brick walls for structural support, the walls in the lower part of the building had to be made thicker, which increased construction costs and reduced usable internal space. One could avoid that by using iron or steel, but these metals were expensive. Third, prior to the development of practical passenger elevators, no one would pay much for offices located above the fifth floor of a building. Thus, the incremental cost of adding a sixth or higher floor was greater than the incremental rental revenue one could earn from the extra space. 

        Central City Land Prices

All these things changed during the late 19th century, and it therefore became profitable to build taller buildings. First, central city land prices increased as urban employment grew and companies competed for central locations for offices and other purposes. The tallest office buildings were built in the largest urban areas--New York City and Chicago--because they had the highest central city land prices. Chicago Loop district land prices increased from $130,000 per quarter acre in 1880 to $900,000 per quarter acre in 1890. (Museum of Modern Art, Early Modern Architecture, 1870-1910, 1911, p. 10.) In discussing the high office buildings built in the late 19th century in lower Manhattan, Bolton reported that the "increase in the value of the land...rendered a large number of the old buildings, which were of four storeys to seven storeys in height, unprofitable." (Bolton (1900) Of course, other changes (discussed below) that made it economical to increase the heights of office buildings contributed to higher land prices in central areas. Companies that wanted taller office buildings bid more for central locations and drove prices up in central areas.  In the jargon of economists, central city land prices and the heights of buildings were determined simultaneously; that is, causation ran both ways.

        Passenger Elevators

Second, passenger elevators were developed, and they traveled at increasing speeds. Nineteenth century newspapers contain many articles about falling elevators.  Elisha Otis (1811-61) invented the first successful elevator safety brake in 1852 and installed a steam passenger elevator with a safety brake in a five-story store in 1857.  Early elevators were powered by steam. The three images below show the three components of an 1876 Otis steam passenger elevator. The machine to the left was installed in the attic.  The machine to the right was installed in the basement. 

1876_Otis_steam_elevator_system_1.JPG (108743 bytes)          1876_Otis_steam_elevator_system_2.JPG (88893 bytes)          1876_Otis_steam_elevator_system_3.JPG (92325 bytes)
1876 Otis Passenger Steam Elevator

The New-York Life Insurance Co. completed a new office building in lower Manhattan in May 1870.  "The Company had scarcely occupied it three months when it was found necessary, in order to rent the upper floors, to put in an elevator--a means of conveyance which had come into fashion since the building was begun."  (James M. Hudnut, Semi-Centennial History of the New-York Life Insurance Company 1845-1895, 1895, p. 146)

In 1872, C. W. Baldwin, who worked for the Otis company, invented the geared hydraulic elevator.  Hydraulic elevators were powered by water pressure supplied directly by city water pipes or by the weight of water pumped to a storage tank located on top of the building. Otis began producing hydraulic elevators in 1874.  Once such elevators were installed in buildings, companies were willing to pay substantially more for space in higher stories than had previously been the case. Hogan reports that after 1875 "elevators became an essential part of office building construction. This new means of vertical transportation brought about a complete reversal of building operations and rental policies. The lower floors were no longer as desirable as they were in nonelevator buildings because the demand now shifted to the upper stories which were removed from the noise and dust of the street. The upper floors actually commanded higher rents." (William T. Hogan, Economic History of the Iron and Steel Industry in the United States, 1971, Vol. 1, p. 131.)

One type of hydraulic elevator used an hydraulic motor consisting of a piston inside a cylinder. The elevator cabin was suspended from wire ropes. The image to the left below shows an 1881 Otis elevator of this type. The operation of the hydraulic motor was controlled by pulling on the rope that passed through the elevator cabin. A second type of hydraulic elevator rested on top of a plunger rather than being suspended by wire ropes.  The shaft for the plunger was sunk in the ground as deep as the building was high. In the late 19th century direct plunger elevators were widely used for freight, and they were used in at least some passenger applications in hotels.  In 1898, the Otis business was incorporated as the Otis Elevator Co. In 1902 Otis began using direct plunger elevators for passengers in buildings up to 25 stories high. The image to the right shows an Otis plunger freight elevator. 

1880_Vertical_cylinder_hydraulic_elevator_Otis.jpg (45742 bytes)           Plunger_freight_elevator_Otis_Bros.jpg (144262 bytes)  
Otis piston (left) and plunger (right) hydraulic elevators                  

Until 1904, hydraulic elevators were the dominant systems used in high-rise buildings. Still, Bolton (1900) reported that "elevator service to the upper floors of the very high buildings has proved insufficient, so that the present practice has settled down to the erection of buildings of 200 feet to 250 feet in height, containing fifteen to eighteen storeys." 

Direct_Electric_Passenger_Elevator_Morse_Williams__Co_c._1890.jpg (93506 bytes)Electric geared elevators were introduced in the late 1880s and were installed in a number of office buildings of moderate height by 1900.  The image to the right shows an electric geared passenger elevator produced by Morse, Williams & Co. c.1890.  Otis advertised a similar model in 1890-91.  However, electric geared drum elevators could not compete with hydraulic elevators in taller buildings, where high speed was required. The gearing was not suitable for high speeds, and the drums did not hold sufficient cable for high buildings. Nevertheless, around the turn of the century "arguments over the merits of different types of hydraulic elevators and the various new developments in electric elevators flew fast and furiously in magazines, newspapers and, as might be expected, in sales negotiations." (The Otis Bulletin, Nov. 1948)

In 1904, the Otis Elevator Co. installed its first electric gearless traction machines, which had first been used in 1903.  These machines immediately made hydraulic elevators obsolete in new buildings.  Electric gearless traction machines were still the standard in 1948.

        Prices of Steel and the Technology of Steel Frame Construction

The third reason that it became profitable to built skyscrapers is that, as a result of the development of the U.S. steel industry, the cost of steel and hence steel frame construction declined dramatically during the late 19th century, and with it the incremental cost of adding higher stories to buildings fell.  Mass production of steel began in the U.S. in the 1870s. Bolton (1900) reported that the steel skeleton of a 15 to 18 story office building weighed 1,800 to 2,200 tons, out a of total building weight of 10,000 to 12,000 tons. The following table presents data from the 1896 Annual Statistical Report of the American Iron and Steel Association showing the decline in steel prices from 1867 to 1895.

Price of Bessemer Steel Rails at Pennsylvania Mills, 1867-95 ($/ton)

1867 1870 1875 1880 1885 1890 1895
$166 $107 $69 $68 $29 $32 $24

Technological developments in three additional areas were important in the development of tall office buildings in the late nineteenth century: fireproofing, foundations, and self-supporting metal frame construction. In a major fire, unprotected metal bends or melts. Beginning around 1880, it became standard practice to enclose metal supports in terra-cotta as a means of fireproofing. New techniques for construction of foundations to support heavy buildings were developed.

Until 1885, the weight of office buildings was transferred to the foundations by the stone or brick walls. Beginning around 1850, some office buildings were constructed with cast iron facades and cast iron interior vertical supports. However, these cast iron buildings also had brick load-bearing walls. Donald A. MacKay writes that "Many office buildings of the late 1800's still had masonry walls in addition to inner metal supports, for the skeleton frames of these earliest forerunners of today's skyscrapers could not have stood without the support they received from their masonry walls." (The Building of Manhattan, 1987, p.32.) Chicago's Home Insurance Building, completed in 1885, had cast iron columns embedded in the masonry walls to carry some of the building's weight. New York City's Tower Building, completed in 1889, was the first office building to rely entirely on a metal skeleton to carry its weight. 

To support the floors, around 1850 buildings used wood or cast iron beams. In the mid-1850s, wrought iron beams were introduced. In 1885, steel beams were introduced. Steel was too expensive for general architectural use until 1890. (William H. Jordy, American Buildings and Their Architects, 1972, Vol. 3, p. 21.) After 1890, steel was used for both vertical supports and horizontal beams, and buildings therefore had steel skeletons. Bolton (1900) reported that "Before the development of the method of steel skeleton construction, extreme height was impractical, but after its success was demonstrated in 1889, in the Tower building of ten storeys, a great impetus was given to increase of height."

Smith_Tower_Seattle_42_stories.jpg (45288 bytes)The L.C. Smith Building, also known as the Smith Tower, was Seattle's first skyscraper.  The photograph to the right shows this 42-story steel skeleton building under construction in 1913.  The photograph to the left shows the completed building.


Selected Tall Steel Skeleton Office Buildings in Lower Manhattan, 1900

Building Height (ft.) Stories Offices Elevators
Singer n.a. 14 n.a. Electric
German-American  208 15 382 Electric
R. G. Dun 218 15 190 Electric
Lords Court 220 15 780 n.a.
Queen* n.a. 15 n.a. Electric
Central Bank 210 16 340 n.a.
Hudson 220 16 112 n.a.
New York Life Ins.* 220 16 430 n.a.
Bowling Green* 240 16 640 Hydraulic
Manhattan Fire Ins. n.a. 16 n.a. Electric
Manhattan Life Ins.* 270 17 n.a. n.a.
Commercial Cable n.a. 18 n.a. Electric
American Surety* 305 21 270 Hydraulic
St. Paul* 325 25 350 n.a.
Park Row* 338 28 950 Electric

* = pictured in the table below

Early Office Skyscrapers

Click on images to enlarge Click on building names for more photographs.
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American_Bank_Note_Co._142_Broadway_NYC_1874_image_OM.jpg (148564 bytes) 142 Broadway, NY, NY, home of the American Bank Note Co. (1867-82), image published in The Banker's Almanac for 1874. . .
Equitable_Building_NY_NY_LOC_PP_3c00550t_OM.jpg (18619 bytes)
Library of Congress, P&P Div.
Equitable Life Assurance Building, NY, NY, 1870. The first office building with passenger elevators. The hydraulic elevators were made by Otis. Destroyed by fire in 1912. 130 7
1876_New_Tribune_Building_then_being_erected_NYC_Asher__Adams.jpg (114149 bytes) New York Tribune Building, NY, NY, 1875. Described at the time as "the highest building on Manhattan Island," but the spire was shorter than that on Trinity Church (285 feet). While metal columns and beams supported interior floors, the exterior walls were masonry. 260 to top of spire 9
Western_Union_Co.s_Telegraph_Building_NYC_1883_image.JPG (117778 bytes)
G.L. Howe and O. M. Powers, The Secrets of Success in Business, 1883.
Western Union Building, NY, NY, 1875. While metal columns and beams supported interior floors, the exterior walls were masonry. Destroyed by fire in 1890. 230 10.5
1876_Powers_Commercial_Fire-Proof_Building_Rochester_NY.jpg (199199 bytes) Powers Commercial Fire-Proof Building, Rochester, NY, 1876 [confirm date]. . 6
Click on building name for photos. Washington Building, NY, NY, 1882-85. The tallest office building in the world. 258 .
Home_Ins_Co_w_2_story_addition_Chicago_Hist_Soc.jpg (108097 bytes)
Chicago Historical Society
Home Insurance Building, Chicago, IL, 1885. Cast iron columns were embedded in the brick walls. The first six stories had wrought iron beams while the remaining stories had Bessemer steel beams. The photo to the left shows the building after its height was increased from 10 to 12 stories in 1890. Demolished in 1931. 180 10
1889_Tower_Building_NYC_Museum_of_the_City_of_NY_21.5_ft_wide.jpg (63160 bytes)
Museum of the City of New York
Tower Building, NY, NY, 1889. "The earliest example of skeleton construction in which the entire weight of the walls and floors is borne and transmitted to the foundation by a framework of metallic posts and beams." The building site was only 21.5 feet wide. Demolished in 1914. 160 10-13
Click on building name for photos.  Tacoma Building, Chicago, IL, 1888 or 1889. Walls supported entirely by its steel frame.  Five Otis Brothers hydraulic passenger elevators. Demolished 1929.  . 14 (12 
+ attic)
Times_Building_NY_Harpers_Weekly_Oct_27_1888.jpg (38062 bytes)
Harper's Weekly
, Oct. 27, 1888.
Times Building, NY, NY, 1889. . .
World_Building_on_1892_Catalog_Cover.jpg (29792 bytes) World Building, NY, NY, 1889 or 1890. Also known as the Pulitzer Building. Tallest office building in the world. Steel columns. The weight of the building was supported by masonry walls as thick as 9 feet. Ten Otis Brothers hydraulic elevators, one of which traveled to the observation platform in the dome. Demolished 1955. 309-349 18-26
Monadnock_Bldg_Chicao_postmarked_1912.jpg (93193 bytes) Monadnock Building, Chicago, 1891. The building was described on a 1904 postcard as the "largest office building in the world." The building is described on the postcard to the left, which is postmarked 1912, as "the largest office building in Chicago." It is the tallest building in the world that is supported primarily by brick load bearing walls. The masonry walls are 6 feet thick at ground level and gradually narrow at higher levels; see the 2007 photo immediately below. Cast and wrought iron columns and beams support the interior.
Monadnock_building_Chicago_thick_walls_OM.JPG (54671 bytes) Notice the thickness and taper of the external wall.
197 16
1892_Capitol_Building_later_the_Masonic_Temple_Chicago.jpg (17222 bytes) Masonic Temple, Chicago, IL, 1892. Destroyed 1939. It was the "highest office building in the world" in 1892-1896 and probably until 1898. (It may have been considered higher than the World Building because the highest occupied floor was higher.) 

1894_Masonic_Temple_20_stories_Unity_16_stories_to_its_left_Chicago_American_Photography.jpg (109073 bytes)To the right is an 1894 photograph of Chicago with the Masonic Temple at the far right. The tall building to the left of the Masonic Temple is the Unity (16 stories). The next two are the Title & Trust and the Schiller. The one at the far left is the Ashland Block (1892).

1893_Waterbury_clock_Masonic_Temple_Chicago_IL.jpg (60139 bytes) Waterbury clock in the shape of the Masonic Building, Chicago, IL, 1898.

302 20
1893_Bennett_Building_NYC_cast_iron_facade.jpg (96022 bytes) Bennett Building, New York, NY, 1893 [confirm date].  The facade is cast iron. . .
Click on building name for photos. Old Colony Building, Chicago, IL, 1894. Iron and steel frame construction. Hydraulic elevators. 215 17
Manhattan_Life_Ins_Co_Building_NYC_published_1898.jpg (67182 bytes) Manhattan Life Insurance Building, NY, NY, 1894. In 1894, this was the tallest building in the U.S. Demolished in the 1960s. 348 17
Click on building name for photos. Postal Telegraph Building, NY, NY, c. 1894. First electric elevators in a lower Manhattan office building. . 14
American_Surety_Bldg_NYC_completed_1896_21_stories.jpg (64527 bytes) American Surety Building, NY, NY, 1896.  It was claimed that, at the time of its completion, it was second to the Manhattan Life Insurance Building as the tallest office building in New York City.  It was built with hydraulic elevators. 305 21
Ellicott_Sq_Buffalo_Largest_Office_Bldg_in_World_postmarked_1912.jpg (235891 bytes) Ellicott Square Building, Buffalo, NY, 1896.  It was claimed that, at the time of its completion, this was the largest (not tallest) office building in the world.  It had 447,000 square feet of floor space and an interior glass-covered courtyard.  4000 to 5000 people worked in the building, which contained 5500 tons of steel and had 16 Otis hydraulic elevators.  The first floor contained stores, the second floor contained banks and other offices that wanted impressive 14' ceilings, the third through ninth floors contained offices, and half the tenth floor was a business club. 144 10
1897_New_York_Life_Ins_Co_NY_NY_idealized_drawing.jpg (48024 bytes)
New_York_Life_Insurance_Building.JPG (13527 bytes)
New York Life Insurance Building, NY, NY.  Top drawing dates from 1897. Bottom image is from a paper weight. 220 16
Bowling_Green_Building_NYC_1898_image.jpg (69630 bytes) Bowling Green Building, NY, NY. Image dates from 1898. 240 16
. American Tract Society Building, NY, NY, 1896. 291 23
Gillender_Building_NYC.jpg (49581 bytes)
Gillender Building, NY, NY, 1897. Demolished in 1910 to make way for the 37 story Bankers' Trust Building. 273 19
1897_Union_Trust__Bldg_NY.jpg (88319 bytes)

Union Trust Building, New York, NY, 1897 [confirm date].

. .

Syndicate_Bldg_Left__St._Paul_Bldg_27_Stories_NY_patented_1903.jpg (67869 bytes)

St. Paul Building, NY, NY, 1898. Tallest building in the US when it was completed. The c. 1901 photograph to the left shows the St. Paul Building in the center and the Park Row Building on the left.

315-325 25-26
Park_Row_and_St_Paul_Buildings_NY_NY_LOC_PP_Div_3g05091v.jpg (97286 bytes)
 Detroit Publishing Co. Lib. of Congress, P&P Div., LC-USZC4-5091
Park_Row_Building_postmarked_1916.jpg (38220 bytes)
Postmarked 1916

Park Row Building
, NY, NY, 1899. Also known as the Syndicate Building. The Park Row Building was the tallest building in the world until 1908. It had electric elevators. 
338-391 30
Queen_Building_OM.JPG (43566 bytes) Queen Building, NY, NY, before 1900. . 15
Conover Building, Dayton, OH, completed 1900.  Photo taken 1904-06. Postcard postmarked 1906. The Conover Building (also known as the American Building) was later enlarged so that the side that has two windows per floor in the photo had three windows per floor.  The tall building to the right of the Conover Building is the United Brethren Building (lated known as the Center City Building), which was completed in 1904. The latter building originally had 14 stories, but in 1927 two taller towers were added.  It was Dayton's tallest building from 1904 until 1931. . 13
Flat_iron_building_OM.jpg (82334 bytes)
Flat_Iron_building_postmarked_1908.jpg (171042 bytes)
Flat Iron Building, NY, NY, 1902. Also known as the Fuller Building. Built with a steel skeleton and six Otis Brothers hydraulic elevators with a speed of 600 feet per minute. The lower postcard is postmarked 1908. 285-307 20-21
1903_Farmers_Bank_Building_24_stories_Pittsburg.jpg (110193 bytes) Farmers Deposit National Bank Building, Pittsburgh, PA, 1903.  Tallest building in Pittsburgh when completed.  "The building is exceeded in height by only two other office buildings in the United States." Steel frame. Approximately 598 offices, excluding banking rooms on the first floor. Housed offices of more than 100 companies in 1903. Approximately 2,000 people worked in the building.  Equipped with 10 hydraulic elevators.  "For such long runs as are necessary in this building, the direct plunger [hydraulic elevator] system is not usually advisable because of the expense of boring for the plunger tube, and the same reliability of operation can be secured by the use of the hydraulic multiplying system, in which the direct lifting is done by ropes, while the motive power is furnished by a hydraulic plunger." ("Farmers Bank Building," High Tide, Pittsburgh, 1903)  Demolished in 1997. 329 24
1906_Cincinnati_skyscraper_dated_by_postmark.jpg (78348 bytes) Ingalls Building, Cincinnati, OH, 1903.  Postcard postmarked 1906.  The Ingalls Building (later renamed the Transit Building) was the world's first reinforced concrete skyscraper, and it remained the tallest reinforced concrete building until 1923. The structural concrete, which is reinforced with twisted steel rods, is covered with a facade of marble, brick, and terra cotta. Arguments for using reinforced concrete for the Ingalls Building were that it would be fire proof and that it would cost less than a steel skeleton building.  Previously, reinforced concrete had been used for bridges.  212 16
1906_Times_Building_NYC_OM.jpg (129852 bytes)
Times_Building_postmarked_1909.jpg (44813 bytes)
Times Building, NY, NY, 1905. Top: Undivided back postcard postmarked 1906.

Times_Building_NYC_OM.jpg (250471 bytes)

476 to
top of
flag pole
1906_BO_RR_Bulding_Baltimore_MD.jpg (128724 bytes) Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Building, Baltimore, MD, 1906 [confirm date] . .13
1908_Singer_Building_highest_office_building_in_the_world.jpg (48142 bytes) Singer Building, NY, NY, 1908. The Singer Tower was the tallest building in the world prior to completion of the Metropolitan Life Building in 1909. It was built with Otis electric gearless traction elevators. Demolished in 1968. 612 47
MetLife_Building_NYC.jpg (44005 bytes)
1908_Met_Life__Flat_Iron_Buildings_NYC_postmarked.jpg (97742 bytes)
Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, NY, NY, 1909. This succeeded the Singer Building as the tallest building in the world. It was built with Otis electric gearless traction elevators. 700 48-51
1911_Yeon_Bldg_Portland_OR_tallest_office_building_in_OR.jpg (75283 bytes) Yeon Bulding, Portland, OR, 1911 [confirm date].  Tallest office building at Oregon when built. . 15
1913_Woolworth_Bldg_1.jpg (72679 bytes)
Woolworth_Bldg_NYC_Tallest_Bldg_in_World_OM.jpg (15795 bytes)
Woolworth Building, NY, NY, 1913. Tallest building in the world until completion of the Chrysler Building. 3,000 offices occupied by 12,000 people. Built with 26 Otis electric gearless traction elevators. 750-792 55-60 (or 30 base 
plus 25 tower)
Equitable_Bldg_NYC_Largest_Business_Bldg_in_World.jpg (80991 bytes) Equitable Building, NY, NY, 1915. "Largest business building in the world. It is 38 stories with a floor space of 45 acres. It houses 15,000 people." It was built with electric gearless traction elevators.  This building was built on the site of the 1870 Equitable Building after the latter was destroyed by fire. 538-544 38
City_Investment_Bldg_NYC_OM.JPG (109504 bytes) City Investment Building, New York, NY. [Date?] . .
Hudson_River_Terminal_Buildings_NY_OM.JPG (111392 bytes) Hudson River Terminal Buildings, New York, NY, postcard postmarked 1919. The twin structures together formed the largest office building in the world. 20,000 people worked in the two buildings. 375 22
General_Motors_Building_Detroit_1928_OM.JPG (138312 bytes) General Motors Office Building, Detroit, MI. . 15
Chrysler_Building_OM.jpg (40720 bytes) Chrysler Building, NY, NY, 1930. Occupied by 15,000 people. Built with Otis Signal Control electric traction elevators. 1,046 77
Empire_State_Building.jpg (7181 bytes) Empire State Building, NY, NY, 1931. Long the world's tallest building. Occupied by 15,000 people. Built with 58 Otis Signal Control electric traction elevators. 1,250 102
Radio City World's Largest Office Building.jpg (75028 bytes) Radio City, New York, NY. [Date?]  This was the world's largest office building. . .

By comparison, the World Trade Center (1971-2001) was 1,368 feet tall, the Sears Tower (1974) is 1,454 feet tall, and the Petronas Towers (1998) are 1,483 feet tall.

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