New York Skyscrapers

A skyscraper is a very high, continuously habitable building. Regarding the height of a skyscraper it has to be said that there is no official definition above which a general building can be considered a skyscraper. Most cities define a building as a skyscraper empirically. Consequently even a building of 80 meters, strictly speaking 262 feet, may be classified as a skyscraper if it changes the overall skyline of a city.

Skyscrapers are often regarded as symbols of economic power and as the pursuit of growth. For their builders and owners, however, skyscrapers can serve representative purposes. The English term ‘skyscraper’ originally originates from the Navy and referred to a small triangular sail set above the skysail on sailing ships. Strictly speaking the word ‘skyscraper’ was first applied to tall buildings being built in both Chicago and New York City in the course of the late 19th century. So the very first skyscraper was for years thought to be the so-called Home Insurance Building which was built in Chicago, Illinois in 1885. More recent evidence however regards New York’s Equitable Life Assurance Building as the first official skyscraper. New York’s Equitable Life Assurance Building was constructed in 1870 and represented the first office building which was built using a so-called skeletal frame.

The late 19th century marked the coming age of skyscrapers. The first skyscrapers were characterized to be steel-framed buildings with non-load-bearing facings. These skyscrapers were rising in great numbers all over the expanding cities in the course of the late 19th century. One of these buildings, as already mentioned before, was The Tower Building being built in 1888-1889 as an office tower. The 11-storey, 39.5-meter Tower Building was the first steel-framed building in New York City. Strictly speaking the architect Bradford Lee Gilbert claimed the two top floors for his own and personal use. The reasons behind this procedure consists in taking away any suspicious that the owner of the building might have a considerable strength of the skyscraper.

Regarding the exact style and design of the first skyscrapers it has to be stressed that the visual form of the late-19th and early-20th century buildings was actually inspired by Gothic, Renaissance and Classicism which means that the style at that time was still tied to the forms of the bygone century.