1880: The Met’s biggest donation to date — its first building
The Metropolitan Museum of Art moved into its current home on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street 138 years ago this month with, as the New York Times reported, an audience of about 1,000 gathered to witness the new building’s dedication by President Rutherford B. Hayes. When the museum was established nearly a decade earlier, it had no artifacts or collections to exhibit — nor did it have a staff. But donations of artwork gradually amassed, and the museum’s first staff member came on board in 1879. The institution moved twice before the city reportedly gifted the red-brick building, designed by architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, to the museum’s trustees, who had been having difficulty raising capital. More than a century of additions and renovations to the Met have all but obscured the original structure, with the exception of one facade, which can still be spotted from the Robert Lehman Wing.
1921: Skyscraper transforms Grand Central Terminal area
Developer Henry Mandel set the stage for the bustling offices and retail spaces that surround Grand Central Terminal 97 years ago this month when he released plans for his new, 24-story skyscraper to the New York Times. The tale of his $5 million Pershing Square Building begins in 1914, when the city demolished a hotel to make way for the construction of a new subway line. Mandel scooped up the site, paying $2.9 million and $2.6 million in two transactions. He then secured financing from the Bowery Savings Bank with an interesting clause attached: The bank would purchase part of Mandel’s site so it could build its own structure. The architects of the bank and the office tower — York & Sawyer and John Sloan, respectively — designed the buildings around a shared party wall, which, decades later, the Landmarks Preservation Commission would speculate was the tallest in the city. The Pershing Square Building was completed in 1923 and is now known as 125 Park Avenue.
1956: David Rockefeller makes his mark on Lower Manhattan
Chase Manhattan’s board of directors approved then executive vice president David Rockefeller’s plans for a $75 million, 60-story headquarters 62 years ago this month, according to the New York Times. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the aluminum- and glass-clad One Chase Manhattan Plaza was one of Rockefeller’s first major projects and would become the first International Style office building in the Financial District. Rockefeller said that if the bank consolidated its 11 locations into the skyscraper, it would spend 20 cents less per square foot, and the sale of its other buildings would pay for the cost of construction. Rockefeller, who became the bank’s president by the time the building opened in 1961, estimated Chase’s real estate holdings would only gain about $1 million in value. In 2013, the bank sold the 2.5-acre property to Chinese firm Fosun International for $725 million and it was renamed 28 Liberty Street. Rockefeller died one year ago this month at the age of 101.