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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
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At about the same time that the Bayard-Condict Building was being built and the Bowling Green Offices were appearing, the builders of skyscrapers began to realize the value of having the world's tallest building. People began to very consciously construct buildings that were taller than every other building so that they could advertise their skyscraper as the world's tallest. They thought this would be a good way of getting tenants.

It was especially true of office buildings that were built exclusively as speculative ventures. That is, they were built exclusively to rent the space. It is very important to remember when thinking about skyscrapers is that they were built to make money, even if they were named for a corporation like the Equitable Life Assurance Company. Equitable had some offices in that building, but they were intent on making money by renting space. So these are business ventures, and they needed to get tenants, otherwise they would be a financial disaster. So they thought of different ways to market the building.

The Park Row Building was the first building built specifically to be the world's tallest. It was completed in 1899, and not only was it the world's tallest building, but it also had a top that would be very visible. The building was designed by R. H. Robertson, the same architect who had designed the Lincoln Building a few years earlier. But here Robertson used a full steel-skeleton frame with traditional ornamental detail on it, and made it as tall as was economically viable on this particular lot. He then capped it with these towers that would make the building very visible. It is only a few blocks south of where the Tribune Building is and it is opposite City Hall Park, so it is visible in the same way that the tower of the Tribune Building had been visible, but now the Tribune's tower was dwarfed by this very tall building. The critics actually did not like this building when it was completed. One critic said that it "rose from a base of classical bombast to a top of rabbit's ears." But nonetheless, it was quite successful in its early history. It is presently being converted into housing since it was no longer viable as an office building.


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