Friday, January 7, 2011

Gallery 4 - The Rooftop Mystery of the Manhattan Life Insurance Building

There is still one question to solve: I want to know more about the mysterious construction on the roof of the Manhattan Life Insurance Building. I mean the strange framework and box on the backside behind the tower.

My first thought was: it must be one of these roof water tanks, typical for New York City. But after watching so many pictures of the MLIB, I am not sure anymore.

Here are some more pictures of the roof mystery:

It's possible to find the construction on pictures until the early 1910s, it was still on the roof after the 1904's building changes.

If you know more about this strange thing on the roof and it's function, please write or leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

Michal Juroška wrote the following explanation:

"I was probably wrong about the water tower on top of MLIB. Few days ago I found a different photo with a similar device on top of a building close to Singer and City Investing buildings. I attached the photo.

What bothered me even before was the fact that for a water tower the structure on top of MLIB is simply too tall and the water tower on top too small. Very inconvenient structure for a water tower. So I had my doubts even then. But after seeing almost identical structure again I believe it´s more like a radio booth and not a water barrel. That would explain why it´s so high up (better area coverage), relatively small and why you don´t see the structure anymore in later photos probably because taller buildings were built quickly after so you could have a better coverage from a building twice as high.

It´s more plausible that the structure had something to do with radio transmitting. But the final word should come from an expert or a radio fan geek - they usually know their stuff extremely well and may recognize the structure easily and without any doubt."

It seems, that the Mystery is solved.

Michal Juroška wrote again:

As I started suspected few days ago, the thing on top of MLIB could also be a meteorological equipment.

I just found a proof that it was indeed exactly that!

In the RISE OF THE NEW YORK SKYSCRAPER book, page 218:

"...its height was said to have been exceeded only by the spires of St. Patrick´s Cathedral. Taking advantage of the situation, a weather forecaster stationed his meteorological equipment high up in the building."


  1. I agree, these old gone buildings have a strange aura, they are so far away, nearly forgotten, each of them an own mystery