Perched on the iconic New York City skyline since 1909, the Metlife Tower is one of the city’s oldest and most treasured skyscrapers. For over a century now, the tower has stood guard over the city and become known as one of the world’s earliest and most beautiful skyscrapers. Few people, though, know what iconic Italian monument it was modelled after or the purpose it actually serves today. To that end, here’s a quick look at the hidden history of the Metlife Tower in New York City.
The origins of the building date back to the twilight years of the 19th century. In 1893, an 11-storey office building for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was completed adjacent to Madison Square Park in Manhattan. In 1905, plans for a taller and more modern tower were announced, intended as a newer addition to the 1893 complex. The tower, modeled after the famed Campanile in Venice, began construction in 1905 and was completed in 1909, becoming the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan a few years later in 1913. Originally clad in Tuckahoe marble, the tower soon became known for its iconic four clock faces on each side of the building.
Since its completion, the tower has undergone a number of changes for well over a century now. In the late 1920s, a new skyscraper, known as the Metropolitan Life North Building, began construction next to the tower. Originally intended to be the tallest building in the world at 100-storeys high, the Great Depression ultimately forced the developers to scrap their ambitious plans and cap the building at 32-storeys tall. The Metlife Tower itself was heavily renovated in the 1960s, an act that unfortunately cost it much of its original ornamentation and detailing. However, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and was later named an official New York City landmark in 1989, attesting its historical and cultural importance to both New York City and the United States. The tower was again renovated from 1999 to 2002 and later converted into the New York Edition Hotel, which opened in September 2015.
For over a century, the Metlife Tower has stood as one of New York City’s oldest and most architecturally preeminent skyscrapers. Despite its numerous renovations and functional changes, the tower remains celebrated in the minds of New Yorkers and tourists alike.