As much as I try to prevent this blog from becoming a tribute to New York, there is a reason I thought I'd stay one year and have been here almost seven. I can't help it. I love the corniness of tourist sites, feeling like I just discovered an amazing hidden restaurant, and being able to see some of the finest art in the world after work if the mood so strikes. Of course, I can also (as my friend Catherine once stated) tell the difference between the stench of human and dog urine, as well pass by at least one person a day talking/singing to themselves, and not in a Mr. Rogers kind of way. Such is the singularity that accompanies living among millions of people in under 24 square miles of island. The best, the worst, the craziest, the snootiest, the richest, the poorest... you get it.
At the center (in my mind, not geographically but not too far off!) of this mess of trains and cabs and concrete and glass is Rockefeller Center, an amazing example of American art deco, ingenuity, and altruism. History lesson stolen directly from www.rockefellercenter.com below:
"Although John D. Rockefeller Jr. spent most of his life engaged in philanthropy, his single, defining business venture was the creation of the "city within a city”. Constructed during the Great Depression's worst years, the project gainfully employed over 40,000 people.
When Rockefeller Center officially opened in May 1933, it held true to the developing team's belief that art was an act of good citizenship. 30 Rockefeller Plaza boasted a grand lobby decorated by accomplished European artists, Frank Brangwyn and José Maria Sert.
During its first decade, the complex bustled with exciting tenants like the French bookstore, Librairie de France and the brand new publication News-Week (as it was originally called). And with a western edge devoted to entertainment, Rockefeller Center has some real bragging rights - it was the site where John Hay Whitney and David O. Selznick decided to produce Gone With the Wind and where the ever-adored Christmas Spectacular debuted.
"Don't 'give the people what they want,'” said S.L. "Roxy” Rothafel, the man who created Radio City Music Hall. "Give 'em something better.” Throughout the 1930's, Rockefeller Center steadily improved, including some accidental innovations like the Christmas Tree tradition in 1931 and the skating rink in 1936. By 1939, more than 125,000 people were visiting Rockefeller Center daily; on its own, it would have been the 51st largest city in the U.S."
The principal architect (among several others) on the complex was Raymond Hood, and construction took between 1932 and 1940 to complete. One of the first buildings to be finished was Radio City Music Hall, and I have included several pictures below of this amazing structure:
And here are some more of the exterior of Rockefeller Center:
Oh Howard Roark, I feel you here. If you haven't yet, read some Ayn Rand. I am partial to the Fountainhead, but that's only because I never read Atlas Shrugged. Either way, next time you walk through midtown, stop and enjoy the art deco and grand symmetry of it all.