Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gallery 1 - The Early Years: 1894 -1903

The Manhattan Life Insurance Building opened on the 1st of May 1894, been the "Tallest Building in the world" for a couple of months, until the "Philadelphia City Hall" opened on the 30th of November 1894. It hold the title "Tallest (office) Building in New York" for a longer time until 1899, when the construction of the "Park Row Building" ended.

Lots of pictures have been taken in the first two years, understandable, because skyscrapers were still rare in the city at this time and the MLIB was the city's tallest one. I don't know the date of every picture, but with a look on the other buildings around they must have been taken in the early years.

Watch out for the dome / copula on the top. The early years are showing the first / old look of the building with a half bowl structure. Later in 1904 the look changed with another dome and a wider front.


First picture shows the 1895 South Broadway look. On the total left side you see Trinity Church and the light highrise in construction is the American Surety Building. Between TC and ASB down on the ground the old Equitable Building (only a small stripe). The dark building on the right side of the ASB was the "United Bank Building", next building on the right, the lighter and higher one, was the "Union Trust Building". Highest building on the picture is the Manhattan Life Insurance Building, one year old, and the dark structure with the small tower on the right the "Consolidated Exchange".

Here is an old map from 1891 (George Bromley), showing the area three years before for your orientation. Source:

A more detailed view in two parts:

A more detailed view focussed on the direct environment of the Manhattan Life Insurance Building, adress 64-66 Broadway. No problem to identify the lot, were the MLIB was build only 3 years later.

Same year and a similar Broadway view:

The next picture shows another 1895 Broadway view, taken from a more southern point, maybe Bowling Green. On the total left a part of the "Columbia Building" front, the higher building in the left background is the Aldrich Court. On the right side the first higher maybe can be the "Commercial Building". The dark building with the pyramide roof and the white annex was the "Tower Building", the first real skyscraper in New York City. The fourth floor structure behind with the triangle on the roof was the "Exchange Court Building", then the building under the small tower the "Consolidated Exchange" again. Then the "king" of the neighbourhood, the Manhattan Life Insurance Building, and inbetween other buildings it's also possible to identify the American Surety Building and the old Equitable Building.

an old Stereo Card with the wellknown view, I think from the same time:

This 1895 photo was shot from another place, so you get a new perspective here. In the middle left part it's easy to identify the MLIB and the American Surety Building. You can also see the old Equitable Building behind and behind that a building with a silhuette like the "Western Union Building". But this building burned down in 1890, maybe it was rebuilded again with a similar silhuette. In the right middle background it's possible to find the dome of the World Building (1890), another early skycraper and the one before the MLIB with the title "Tallest Building of the World". Just have another view on the left side of the picture, there is a long white building with some smoke above and (harder to see) a dark tower with pyramid roof near the left border of the picture. This building was the whole "Tower Building", the first skyscaper, build with iron-frame-technique in New York.

Back again on Bowling Green and another 1895 picture from the south Broadway. The Aldrich Court and the Trinity Church on the left side, and some more structures behind that, the one next to TC may be the first Trinity Building, the building behind the "Boreel Building". On the right side the Commercial Building in the foreground, then the Tower Building and the Manhattan Life Insurance Building with a mega-flag on it's top.

Another 1895 picture from the southern end of Manhattan: On the left side the Columbia Building, then Aldrich Court, then in the middle of the picture Trinity Church. On the right side the Welles Building, then the old Standard Oil Building, while an addition of more floors on it's roof. And in the right background the tower of the MLIB.

Two more undated pictures (maybe the same) from the middle 1890s.


I also don't know the date of this picture, showing the broadway front of the building and it's slenderness.


This 1898 picture shows another Broadway view, now from a place north from the MLIB. Trinity Church in the left foreground and Union Trust Building in the background.


The next picture is part of the famous 1899's "Broadway Street Views". With the MLIB on the right side.

Next picture was taken 1899 from a photograph standing on Bowling Green and looking uptown along Broadway. On the total left (white) the Bowling Green Offices, then the Columbia Building, then maybe the Empire Building. On the right side the Wells Building, then the old Standard Oil Building (with more floors now), then the Tower Building with a new and higher structure behind, then the MLIB and then the American Surety Building.


The MLIB as part of the 1900 Manhattan skyline. On the right side a new structure between New Street and Broad Street with two markable strange globes on it's roof. The dark building on the right is "1 Broadway", also known as "Washington Building".

Another view on the 1900 Manhattan skyline, this time from a place maybe on the Brooklyn side.

On the right side you can see the Park Row Building, the "Tallest Building on Earth" at this time. The MLIB is hidden here on the left side of the picture. Watch out for the strange globes, they are now before the MLIB. 

One more look on the 1900 Manhattan skyline, now from south, maybe with the photograph on Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island).

And the last picture in this gallery, also from 1900, a look on the Broadway front again. On the total left the Gillender Building (Corner Wall Street/ Nassau Street), then Trinity Church, then the Union Trust Building and on the right side the MLIB.

And the real last pic is an inside view of the first version of the MLIB. I think, the Broadway front is on the left side.

Gallery 2


  1. Thank you so much for these detailed photos! They are spectacular! It is cool that the tallest building was a life insurance building at one time. Thanks again for this great information!

  2. I can't believe I stumbled onto this blog. Thanks so much, I currently work at 80 Broadway and always wondered what the block looked like 100 years ago!