Symbol of the power and wealth of New York, this massive group of buildings 21 in all stretches from 48th to 53rd Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas (still generally known as Sixth Avenue). Decisions taken here today in this communications hub are likely to figure in tomorrow’s papers.
When Columbia University acquired the site in 1811 it consisted of farmlands and a botanical garden. Towards the end of the century the district became quite fashionable and handsome private homes were built. Then during Prohibition speakeasies (clandestine bars) moved in and the middle class moved out. Columbia had trouble finding tenants. In 1928 John D. Rockefeller asked the university for a lease on the 17-acre site, renewable until 2069. He had all the buildings demolished to make way for a vast business centre. The first skyscrapers, linked by a network of underground galleries filled with shops and restaurants, were finished by the early thirties.
From Fifth Avenue you enter by the Channel Promenade, a pedestrian alley with handsome fountains and floral displays. On the left you’ll find the Maison Francaise. on the right the British Empire Building. At the end is the ice-skating rink, in summer a ‘garden terrace. Behind it hovers the massive bronze figure of Prometheus and in winter a Christmas tree, billed as the world’s tallest. The massive RCA Building looms over it all. Buy a ticket in the central lobby to go up to the Observation Deck on the 70th floor. The view of Manhattan is magnificent. Alternatively, 21 sions and de luxe apartment buildings. You’ll pass by here on your way to one of the nearby museums. This is the place to hire a horse-drawn carriage for a ride around Central Park (see p. 56). It’s also the site of two of New York’s smartest hotels, the Plaza and the Pierre (at 61st). Across from the Plaza, set a little way back from the avenue, is a modern skyscraper designed by Edward Stone, the headquarters of General Motors.
Rockefeller Center New York Photo Gallery
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