The Manhattan Company Building, planned as the tallest building in the world, was constructed in 1929-30. When the project was announced in April 1929, the Manhattan Company, located at 40 Wall Street, had recently joined in the scheme and was to be a primary tenant. Architect H. Craig Severance, associate architect Yasuo Matsui, and consulting architects Shreve & Lamb were all specialists in commercial building and skyscraper design. Starrett Brothers & Eken, one of the major construction firms in New York, was the builder, while Moran & Proctor, preeminent foundation specialists, acted as consulting engineer. Although the building’s engineering and construction were extraordinarily complex, the 71-story, 927-foot-tall skyscraper was completed in a year (an unprecedented feat for such a project), and ready for occupancy in May 1930. An intense rivalry developed between the Manhattan Company Building as it rose and the Chrysler Building, with the latter eventually winning the battle of height. The limestone-clad base of the steel-framed Manhattan Company Building occupies almost its entire Lshaped lot and rises through a midsection with a series of setbacks to a tower, clad in buff brick and ornamented with terra cotta, with continuous vertical piers and recessed spandrels. The building is crowned by a pyramidal roof capped by a spire. While its overall massing is characteristic of Art Deco style skyscrapers in New York of the period, contemporary accounts refer to the building’s “modernized French Gothic” detailing, though it incorporates classical and abstract geometric elements as well. Visually, the Manhattan Company Building is still an imposing presence on the lower Manhattan skyline. The Manhattan Company, organized in 1799 for the purpose of furnishing the city with pure water, established the Bank of the Manhattan Company that same year, and obtained title to a site at 40 Wall Street.

• City Historic Landmark (LP-1936)
Visited: 01/29/2019
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