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Monday, November 05, 2007

Magic Mountain

The American International Building is located in the financial district at 70 Pine Street. At a quick glance, one might mistake it for something like the Empire State Building. This beautiful structure with its gothic spire abounds with art deco details yet is relatively unknown - surprising isn't it? One of the reasons is that it is difficult to really see from the canyons of the densely packed buildings in this area of Manhattan. The building is best appreciated from afar as in this photo which I took from the South Street Seaport area. It is famous for its motif of a snow capped mountain - the base of the building is clad in granite while the upper portion, clad in limestone, becomes lighter in color until one reaches the very top, where it is white. There are limestone replicas of the building carved on the central columns at the entrances. The area is also not generally frequented by visitors or residents except for Ground Zero, South Street and the ferries to Staten Island, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - destinations which are typically visited and left without exploring the neighborhood. Admittedly is essentially a business district (dead on weekends) and will primarily appeal to architecture fans. The building itself was built for the Cities Service Company in 1930-32 - the same time period of the construction of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. At 952 feet, it was the tallest building downtown until the construction of the World Trade Center towers in the early 1970s. Since 911, it is again the tallest building downtown, the fifth tallest in NYC and 14th in the US. The building has been used in many films e.g. Spider-Man, The Gangs of New York and Independence Day. The building is now owned by an insurance company - the American International Group. At one time is was known as The 60 Wall Tower - there was a bridge at the 15th floor connecting it to a building at 60 Wall St (demolished when City Services vacated) - you can see lighter bricks where this bridge once was. There is an observatory at the top, unfortunately now closed to the general public but open to executives at lunch. Now that's a nice perk ...

3 comments:

Lucy said...

That's a beautiful idea, that they made it lighter going up, to resemble a snow capped mountain crag...
I didn't realize they thought about those kind of things when doing skyscrapers...

claudine said...

C'est vrai qu'on peut confondre ce gratte-ciel avec l'Empire State Building. Je me souviendrai qu'il est blanc comme la neige au sommet !

X!ne said...

You might notice at night how the very tip has a round red light on top. As a former employee of that company, I used to describe that building as a large syringe sucking the lifeblood out of its employees.

Nicer to read your impartial description.