In 1905, the New York Times ran a special supplement declaring the Times Building the “City’s Tallest Structure From Base to Top.” It was a bold, self-interested move, considering that at the time, most correctly considered the Park Row Building, opposite City Hall Park, to be the city’s tallest.
The Times wrote: “Figuring on the basis that a building’s height should be reckoned from the floor of its lowest basement to its topmost point, the Times Building is the loftiest structure in this city. From the curb at Forty-third Street to the top of the observatory rail is 362 feet 8¾ inches, while the level of its lowest basement is 57 feet and ⅜ of an inch below that curb, making a total of 419 feet 9⅛ inches. This is nine feet greater than the sum of similar dimensions in the Park Row Building.”
Readers also learned that the Times Building stood 413 feet, 10½ inches above mean high tide and 476 feet 6⅛ inches to the tip of its rooftop flagpole.
The fact of the matter was that the Times needed a very deep basement to accommodate its printing presses and to clear the newly built IRT subway tunnel. And unfortunately for the Times, the practice of measuring building heights from the lowest level never stuck. [NYT] –Christopher Cameron