A New Chapter for the New York Skyline
Betsy Mead

On Monday, April 30, One World Trade Center officially became NYC’s tallest building, a distinction the Empire State Building has held since the the September 11 attacks in 2001. Daniel Libeskind’s One World Trade Center, soon to be home to Condé Nast and a slew of other businesses, is a model of starchitecture: attention-grabbing and glitzy like the structures that make up the imposing skylines of cities like Shanghai and Singapore. The nearby Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street is another example of this high-energy look. The old Twin Towers, in architect Minoru Yamasaki’s gothic modernist style, were more stark and monolithic in keeping with many of the surrounding Wall Street towers. In honor of this momentous occasion, Artlog takes a look at the edifices that have previously held the historic accolade of “Tallest Building In New York.”

Metropolitan Life Tower, 1909

1909-13: Metropolitan Life Tower
The first part of the Metropolitan Life Tower was completed in 1893 and its “tower” followed in 1909 at 23rd and Madison Avenue. It is a Neo-Renaissance structure designed by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons.


1913-30: Woolworth Building
Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth building shot to the top of NYC’s skyline in 1913. Key elements of its design demonstrated a movement towards the Art-Deco style while maintaining some Neo-Renaissance features.

Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, now The Trump Building, 1930

1930: Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (now called the Trump Building)
The seventy-plus-story Bank of Manhattan Trust building, aka The Trump Building, was top of the charts for one year in 1930. The Art-Deco structure, designed by H. Craig Severance, was quickly trumped by the Chrysler Building.

The Chrysler Building, 1930

1930-31: Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building promptly outgrew its predecessor, only to be surpassed a mere eleven months later. This iconic Art Deco structure, the brainchild of William Van Alen, remains culturally significant in NYC and beyond.

The Empire State Building, 1931

1931-1972: Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of NYC’s most recognized landmarks. It is another Art-Deco edifice, envisioned by William Lamb, and has so far had the longest reign as tallest building in NYC.

The Twin Towers, 1972

1972-2001: World Trade Center
The World Trade Center was the tragic victim of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The Le Corbusier-inspired towers rose to prominence in 1972 and 1973 and were designed by Japanese-American Minoru Yamasaki.

The Empire State Building

2001-2012: Empire State Building
New York State’s namesake building returned to being the tallest building in NYC after the September 11 attacks.

The Freedom Tower, 2012

2012-Present: One World Trade Center
The latest tallest building is scheduled for completion in 2013. It is a prime example of the “starchitecture” style popular in metropolitan hubs around the world.