Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

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Product Description

The Roaring Twenties in New York was a time of exuberant ambition, free-flowing optimism, an explosion of artistic expression in the age of Prohibition. New York was the city that embodied the spirit and strength of a newly powerful America. 

In 1924, in the vibrant heart of Manhattan, a fierce rivalry was born.  Two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former friends and successful partners, but now bitter adversaries), set out to imprint their individual marks on the greatest canvas in the world--the rapidly evolving skyline of New York City.  Each man desired to build the city’s tallest building, or ‘skyscraper.’ Each would stop at nothing to outdo his rival.

Van Alen was a creative genius who envisioned a bold, contemporary building that would move beyond the tired architecture of the previous century.  By a stroke of good fortune he found a larger-than-life patron in automobile magnate Walter Chrysler, and they set out to build the legendary Chrysler building.  Severance, by comparison, was a brilliant businessman, and he tapped his circle of downtown, old-money investors to begin construction on the Manhattan Company Building at 40 Wall Street. 

From ground-breaking to bricklaying, Van Alen and Severance fought a cunning duel of wills. Each man was forced to revamp his architectural design in an attempt to push higher, to overcome his rival in mid-construction, as the structures rose, floor by floor, in record time.  Yet just as the battle was underway, a third party entered the arena and announced plans to build an even larger building.  This project would be overseen by one of Chrysler’s principal rivals--a representative of the General Motors group--and the building ultimately became known as The Empire State Building.
Infused with narrative thrills and perfectly rendered historical and engineering detail, Higher brings to life a sensational episode in American history. Author Neal Bascomb interweaves characters such as Al Smith and Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, leading up to an astonishing climax that illustrates one of the most ingenious (and secret) architectural achievements of all time.

From Publishers Weekly

The 1920s "race" to build the world''s tallest building has been extensively chronicled. A former literary agent and former St. Martin''s editor, Bascomb centers his narrative on two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance, who schemed to outdo each other in the race to pierce New York City''s skies with, respectively, the Manhattan Company Building at 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building on East 42nd Street-only to be beaten by a third team hired to construct the Empire State Building (at Fifth Avenue and 34th). While this story is most often told as a sentimental paean to "progress" rather than a bitter corporate feud, Bascomb gives his tale a fresh sense of capitalist drama in his evocation of the nascent worlds of skyscraper engineering, architecture and construction-and real estate speculation with returns projected at 10%. He imbues the former three with some terrific detail (including a 22-item list of how many trades, including mail chute installers and asbestos insulators, it took to build a skyscraper) that gives context to the players and incidental characters, including the five Starrett brothers (builders raised in Lawrence, Kans., who built 40 Wall Street), General Motors'' financier John Jacob Raskob (the man behind the ESB), Walter Chrysler, New Yorker reviewer "T-Square," former governor Al Smith and many others. The occasionally intrusive cliches (the Starrett brothers "had building in their blood"), hyperbole (the ''20s were "a decade gone mad") and familiar generalizations (the U.S. "finally came into its own" in that same decade) are excusable in a debut book, especially one chronicling an obsession with height and speed.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Though the desire to spike the landscape with ever-higher structures dates back millennia, skyscraper one-upmanship accelerated in the twentieth century. And while it continues today, never was the race so neck-and-neck as at the end of the Roaring Twenties in New York. Architect William Van Alen, commissioned by Walter Chrysler, found himself in direct competition with partner-turned-rival Craig Severance, architect for the Manhattan Company Building (now the Trump Building). Though the Chrysler was begun first, the Manhattan moved faster, and both groups soon were secretly revising plans--with construction underway. With its cloud-piercing spire, the Chrysler won the height race (although the Manhattan claimed the highest usable floor). The real winner was a late entrant: the Empire State Building. Bascomb''s book is nicely rounded, exploring the finances and logistics of skyscraper building, from acquiring the land to riveting the steel; the benefits and drawbacks of height; and the personalities of the builders--all as he ratchets up the tension of the race. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"As a builder of perhaps more skyscrapers than anyone, I know a lot about them; yet Neal''s book is very informative. This is a great and fascinating read for anyone interested in architecture, history, and New York City."
-Donald J. Trump

"Neal Bascomb''s HIGHER is a fascinating account of the bitter race between two 1930''s Manhattan architects to build the world''s tallest building and thereby set in place a significant part of the fabulous skyline that inspires us to this day. Full of intrigue, insider''s detail, and rich characterization, HIGHER is delicious history with a human face--a must-read primer on how THE city came to be."
-Les Standiford, author of The Last Train to Paradise.

"In Higher, Neal Bascomb has captured the very engaging human drama of architects and entrepreneurs scheming and competing to build the tallest skyscraper in New York--and in the world. Their legacies still stand proud, the Chrysler and Empire State buildings being among the greatest artistic and structural engineering achievements of all time."
-Henry Petroski, author of Engineers of Dreams

"Characters and buildings alike come vividly to life in Neal Bascomb''s account of ambition, greed and technical ingenuity during the Roaring Twenties. An enthralling tale, brilliantly told, of the greatest architectural adventure of the twentieth century."
-Ross King, author of Michelangelo and the Pope''s Ceiling and Brunelleschi''s Dome

"The great race to build the world''s tallest building still continues in Asia, but nowhere was the gamble undertaken with such intense competition as New York in the twenties and thirties. Out of it came iconic structures that define the city''s profile and inspire generations of designers. Neal Bascomb''s exploration of the struggle for supremacy among the Chrysler, Empire State, and 40 Wall Street buildings reveals how strong personalities, powerful economic forces, and shifting design aesthetics influenced those who sought to dominate the sky in New York. In his compelling narrative each building comes to a different result, but their interdependence is compellingly documented and convincingly presented. Anyone interested in the three tall buildings that make New York special with want this book."
-Hugh Hardy, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates LLP

From the Inside Flap

The Roaring Twenties in New York was a time of exuberant ambition, free-flowing optimism, an explosion of artistic expression in the age of Prohibition. New York was the city that embodied the spirit and strength of a newly powerful America. 

In 1924, in the vibrant heart of Manhattan, a fierce rivalry was born.  Two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former friends and successful partners, but now bitter adversaries), set out to imprint their individual marks on the greatest canvas in the world--the rapidly evolving skyline of New York City.  Each man desired to build the city’s tallest building, or ‘skyscraper.’ Each would stop at nothing to outdo his rival.

Van Alen was a creative genius who envisioned a bold, contemporary building that would move beyond the tired architecture of the previous century.  By a stroke of good fortune he found a larger-than-life patron in automobile magnate Walter Chrysler, and they set out to build the legendary Chrysler building.  Severance, by comparison, was a brilliant businessman, and he tapped his circle of downtown, old-money investors to begin construction on the Manhattan Company Building at 40 Wall Street. 

From ground-breaking to bricklaying, Van Alen and Severance fought a cunning duel of wills. Each man was forced to revamp his architectural design in an attempt to push higher, to overcome his rival in mid-construction, as the structures rose, floor by floor, in record time.  Yet just as the battle was underway, a third party entered the arena and announced plans to build an even larger building.  This project would be overseen by one of Chrysler’s principal rivals--a representative of the General Motors group--and the building ultimately became known as The Empire State Building.
Infused with narrative thrills and perfectly rendered historical and engineering detail, Higher brings to life a sensational episode in American history. Author Neal Bascomb interweaves characters such as Al Smith and Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, leading up to an astonishing climax that illustrates one of the most ingenious (and secret) architectural achievements of all time.

From the Back Cover

"As a builder of perhaps more skyscrapers than anyone, I know a lot about them; yet Neal''s book is very informative. This is a great and fascinating read for anyone interested in architecture, history, and New York City."
-Donald J. Trump

"Neal Bascomb''s HIGHER is a fascinating account of the bitter race between two 1930''s Manhattan architects to build the world''s tallest building and thereby set in place a significant part of the fabulous skyline that inspires us to this day. Full of intrigue, insider''s detail, and rich characterization, HIGHER is delicious history with a human face--a must-read primer on how THE city came to be."
-Les Standiford, author of The Last Train to Paradise.

"In Higher, Neal Bascomb has captured the very engaging human drama of architects and entrepreneurs scheming and competing to build the tallest skyscraper in New York--and in the world. Their legacies still stand proud, the Chrysler and Empire State buildings being among the greatest artistic and structural engineering achievements of all time."
-Henry Petroski, author of Engineers of Dreams

"Characters and buildings alike come vividly to life in Neal Bascomb''s account of ambition, greed and technical ingenuity during the Roaring Twenties. An enthralling tale, brilliantly told, of the greatest architectural adventure of the twentieth century."
-Ross King, author of Michelangelo and the Pope''s Ceiling and Brunelleschi''s Dome

"The great race to build the world''s tallest building still continues in Asia, but nowhere was the gamble undertaken with such intense competition as New York in the twenties and thirties. Out of it came iconic structures that define the city''s profile and inspire generations of designers. Neal Bascomb''s exploration of the struggle for supremacy among the Chrysler, Empire State, and 40 Wall Street buildings reveals how strong personalities, powerful economic forces, and shifting design aesthetics influenced those who sought to dominate the sky in New York. In his compelling narrative each building comes to a different result, but their interdependence is compellingly documented and convincingly presented. Anyone interested in the three tall buildings that make New York special with want this book."
-Hugh Hardy, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates LLP

About the Author

Neal Bascomb is a former journalist and book editor. He recently participated in two documentaries on architectural history. A native of St. Louis, he now lives and writes in New York City. For more information about the author, please visit www.nealbascomb.com

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

CHAPTER ONE



A Hunch, Then a Demand



NEW YORK



The heart of all the world am I!

A city, great, and grim and grand!

Man''s monument to mighty man!

Superb! Incomparable! Alone!

Greater than ancient Babylon,

The giant walled! Greater than Tyre,

Sea-Queen! Greater than Nineveh,

Pearl of the East! Greater than Rome,

Stupendous reared, Magnificent!

Greater than Paris, city fey!

Greater than London, fog-enmeshed!

Greater than Venice! Vienna!

Or Petrograd! Greater than these!

That I am! Mark my high towers!

--Arthur Crew Inman



The lobster shift returned home from a long night of pouring drinks, driving taxis, scrubbing floors, or walking the beat on the mad city streets. A few bands still shouted and hollered in Harlem speakeasies, their lawbreaking patrons eased back in their chairs, glad not to have gone to bed on the same day they got up--the Mayor Jimmy Walker way of living high in the era of Prohibition. Liner ships cut through the fog toward the island of Manhattan, arriving from Liverpool, Rotterdam, Genoa, and a dozen other cities. On the waterfront, dockworkers threw back their coffees and stamped out their Lucky Strikes, ready for the cargo hauls from North Africa, Sumatra, Capri, and Costa Rica.

Downtown, milkmen left crates of bottles for the army of office clerks to drink that day. In the gray of dawn, the clanking of ash cans echoed through the streets. A horse-drawn cart turned the corner. At the fish market, mongers spun and heaved three-hundred-pound barrels of flounder onto handtrucks and took them away. The morning chill bit their wet hands. Ferries and tugs shuttled across the harbor. Valets and maids prepared for their blueblood bosses to awake. The newsboys wiped the sleep from their eyes and shouted their first headlines: "Rothstein Shot . . . Hoover in a Landslide . . . Get your paper . . . Two cents . . . Just two cents." It was November 5, the day before the 1928 presidential election between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover, for most New Yorkers simply another day in a decade gone mad.

In Fifth Avenue suites and tenement apartments across the city, alarm clocks rang a thousand rings. Time to chase another buck. Trains, buses, and cars approached the city; their passengers--perhaps today an actor from Poughkeepsie, a playwright from Chicago, a bank teller looking to hit it rich on Wall Street--bounced up and down on their seats as the sun struck gold on the Metropolitan Life Tower. A second later they shot underneath the Hudson River, the towers of New York lost to the darkness. As the sun lifted into the sky, a crowd, one thick swell of dissonant voices, headed for work. They slipped nickels into turnstile slots and waited for the IRT or BMT to come down the elevated rails or screech through the tunnel. Some rushed from ferries once they docked and the gates were pulled aside. One man passed an old friend, tipped his hat, and said "Good Morning" before hurrying on his way. No time to stop for a chat and catch up. Got to move. Got to go. Hawkers hawked their wares. Dynamite blasted. The ground shook. The first rivet thundered. Reporter and raconteur Damon Runyon knew what he was talking about when he said, "The bravest thing in New York is a blade of grass. This is not prize grass, but it has moxie. You need plenty of moxie in this man''s town, or you''ll soon find yourself dispersed hither and yon."

The morning sun slanted through the Prospect Park West apartment of William Van Alen in Brooklyn. Out his window the white oaks surrounding the Long Meadow were shedding their last leaves. Cars rumbled around Grand Army Plaza, some speeding despite the big round sign that read "Slow Up . . . What''s Your Hurry?" Bankers and lawyers rushed toward the subway, passing mothers heading into the park with their children. In the crisp late fall day a slight breeze blew in from the northwest. Van Alen put on a fine wool suit and cinched the knot on his tie. Leaving his wife, Elizabeth, he headed out the door. It was not just another day for Van Alen; it was a big day, perhaps the most important of his life.

An architect differed from other artists: a musician could jab out a few notes with his horn, hear the pitch and tempo; a painter could draw a brush stroke across the canvas and see what she had done; a writer could finish a page, pull it from the typewriter, and read his words. An architect needed more to realize his vision. Van Alen could sketch his designs, order his draftsmen to work out the elevation details in quarter-inch scale, and have blueprints of the same made on fine linen paper that would last for years. But without an owner to finance his plans, a builder to order the steel and brick, and workers to connect the columns and beams hundreds of feet in the air, Van Alen had little more than lines on a page. Without a patron, he was like a composer with a great score and no orchestra.

Over the past two years, Van Alen had drawn countless sketches for the site at Forty-second Street and Lexington Avenue, sketches for a grand skyscraper to tower over Grand Central Station and all of midtown. Three weeks before, William H. Reynolds, the real-estate speculator behind the project and the man to whom Van Alen was under contract, had sold the site to the automobile man Walter Chrysler. With the lease''s assignment, Reynolds informed Van Alen that his services were no longer required, neither to draft any more proposals nor to oversee the construction of a new building on the site. The architect insisted that he remained "ready, able, and willing" to continue the job, but this was now a decision for Chrysler, who owned the plans--to do with them (or not do with them) as he pleased. Regardless, Reynolds assured Van Alen that the new owner would honor the balance remaining on the hundred thousand dollars in fees due the architect.

Van Alen pressed for a meeting with Chrysler, motivated by something far greater than securing the remainder of the balance due him. The architect wanted his plans to be built in steel and stone, and Chrysler agreed to meet with him. Today was that day.

Chrysler was the kind of client architects fought over. He was rich, willing to break with tradition, and obviously had a point to prove. He would want a different design, something that distinguished his skyscraper from all the others sprouting up across the city. Although it was still unclear what kind of building would rise at 405 Lexington Avenue, the site teemed with activity. The tenants had moved out; the United Cigar store on the corner had shuttered its doors; and the wreckers had erected a fence around the building. Already demolition crews were tearing down the walls of the five-story office building there.

Anyone exiting Grand Central would hear the din of pneumatic hammers and foremen shouting, "All right, boys!" It wasn''t just 405 Lexington; all of Forty-second Street appeared to be under construction. Derricks lifted another tier of columns on the fifty-three-story Chanin Building going up across the street. Down the block, J. E. R. Carpenter, an architect Van Alen had promoted for membership in the Architectural League, had designs for his own skyscraper: great lumbering trucks threaded their way through traffic to deliver materials to the future Lincoln Building.

Two blocks from Chrysler''s site, Van Alen made his way toward his office on Madison Avenue, the same office he had occupied since the split with Severance four years before. When he arrived, the two ex-

Vassar College shot-putters, as a visitor once described Van Alen''s secretaries, knew to keep away most callers. Sitting in his office before his meeting with Chrysler, the architect must have worried about what questions his potential client would ask. Was Van Alen willing to make significant changes to his original designs? Were he and his firm up to the task? Why shouldn''t a more established firm get this plum commission or at least serve in an advisory capacity? How long would the whole operation take? Or maybe he just wanted to meet Van Alen and get a feel for him. But what if Chrysler asked him if he drove one of his cars? Van Alen would have to tell him it was not a Chrysler. He drove a car built by E. L. Cord, even though he had trouble with the clutch and often ground the gears. Chrysler had to understand that Cord offered the latest in styling. Or maybe he wouldn''t understand. There was a reason Severance pitched all the clients when they were partners. Van Alen was too introspective and made a weak first impression.



Reynolds first hired Van Alen in 1921 when he was still working with Severance. The developer wanted a penthouse designed for the five-story building at 405 Lexington Avenue. Reynolds promised many improvements to the site, but carried few of them to completion. Despite a lack of results, Reynolds hired Van Alen yet again in March 1927, and again asked him to design something for 405 Lexington: this time, a forty-story hotel. Van Alen hired Chesley Bonestell, an illustrator who freelanced with a number of firms around town, to collaborate with him on the preliminary studies for the hotel. He fired up his factory of draftsmen to prepare for the detailed, scaled drawings they would make from his sketches. Several months later, however, Reynolds scrapped the hotel plans. He wanted an office building instead--a skyscraper.

He called Van Alen, and the two revised their contract for the new structure. The skyscraper was not to exceed sixty stories and would contain "stores and other improvements as may be required, such as banking offices, cafeteria, grill room, subway connection and all the appurtenances that may be necessary." Van Alen was to prepare the plans and specifications and confer with architect Robert Lyons on the initial sketches. The dry legal jargon fails to convey the opportunity this skyscraper presented to Van Alen, who wrote:

In designing a s...

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4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Chris Sterling
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Building landmarks in a hurry
Reviewed in the United States on November 20, 2019
Fascinating and very readable account (though, sadly, not indexed, and thus only four stars) of the 1929-30 race to build three skyscrapers in New York on the eve of the Depression . . . the "race" being to complete the tallest building. All three (Empire State, Chrysler,... See more
Fascinating and very readable account (though, sadly, not indexed, and thus only four stars) of the 1929-30 race to build three skyscrapers in New York on the eve of the Depression . . . the "race" being to complete the tallest building. All three (Empire State, Chrysler, and a shorter building in the financial district) were winners though only the Empire State was lastingly so for some four decades. Key people--architects and engineers mostly--are at the center of the tale. The book is especially timely given the current-day race to build dozens of tall (and skinny) buildings in Manhattan.
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Dave From Ohio
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliant History
Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2013
This books is so much more than a simple history of the construction of three of NYC''s iconic skyscrapers. (Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, Empire State) It gives a thorough and fascinating look at why these buildings were all built within months of each other, how they... See more
This books is so much more than a simple history of the construction of three of NYC''s iconic skyscrapers. (Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, Empire State) It gives a thorough and fascinating look at why these buildings were all built within months of each other, how they were designed and put together, and who came up with the plans and who did the actual construction. Architectural concepts are clearly explained as is the multitude of steps involved in actually erecting a skyscraper. However, this book is not meant just for trained architects, any reader who is interested in any of these three great buildings will be able to understand and visualize all that went into making them NYC landmarks. The book is also a great biography of all the men who designed, built, and paid for these projects. Most of all, this book is a great study of the decade in America when projects like this captivated a nation and the world.
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Victor L
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well researched and well crafted
Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2018
The book is a "Must read" If you have interests in construction; New York; twentieth century history; and architecture. It is a "great read" if you have any interest in any one of the four areas I named. I was able to put the book down from time to time... See more
The book is a "Must read" If you have interests in construction; New York; twentieth century history; and architecture. It is a "great read" if you have any interest in any one of the four areas I named. I was able to put the book down from time to time so that I could run to my PC and poke around the internet for more information that Neal Bascomb did not quite cover as completely as I liked. I have recommended this book to a number of my friends.
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Jan Klerks
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A great story
Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2006
`Higher'' is the story about the race for the `highest building in the world'', set in New York City in the late 1920''s and early 1930''s. It portrays the race between the Chrysler Building and the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (aka 40 Wall Street, current The Trump... See more
`Higher'' is the story about the race for the `highest building in the world'', set in New York City in the late 1920''s and early 1930''s. It portrays the race between the Chrysler Building and the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (aka 40 Wall Street, current The Trump Building), and when that is settled and done the Empire State Building moves in to beat them all. The book focuses on the architects and their commissioners, who are often self made man not shy of showing their success (which is in fact an American success) powered by the economic boom at the time. The story shows that these kind of skyscrapers really are the product of ego driven characters and economic acceleration. But there really isn''t anything wrong with that for as such they are just a symbol of achievement over a rational product of urbanism.

The book is full of quotes and it links the relations between the actors which give the book a lively edge, yet it reads as easily as a novel. There plenty of `gee, I didn''t know that'' facts and details in it, all adding up to the excitement of the story (for example, the famous Chrysler Building spire was topped out one day before the infamous Wall Street crash). By focussing on a few main characters and the topic of height, the book doesn''t dwell in all directions which it could have done so easily for it really is a fascinating story to tell. I wouldn''t be surprised if this story will be made into a movie or tv series one day for this story and the way it''s being told really deserves that.
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Bruce Loveitt
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
"They seem to be springing up like asparagus tips..."
Reviewed in the United States on November 21, 2003
About a month ago I read "Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center" by Daniel Okrent. If you are like me and can''t get enough of NYC history, Neal Bascomb''s "Higher" makes a wonderful companion piece. The subject is similar (massive construction... See more
About a month ago I read "Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center" by Daniel Okrent. If you are like me and can''t get enough of NYC history, Neal Bascomb''s "Higher" makes a wonderful companion piece. The subject is similar (massive construction projects), as is the timeframe (1920''s-1930''s). Mr. Bascomb''s book goes into detail concerning the construction of 3 skyscrapers - the Chrysler Building, the Manhattan Company Building, and the Empire State Building. Mr. Bascomb''s book works on several levels: as a straight narrative detailing the complexities of putting up super-large buildings; as a collection of mini-biographies of people integral to the story -including Walter Chrysler, and the architects William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former partners who had had a falling out); and as a cultural/social history of NYC as the Roaring Twenties end and the Great Depression begins. The author drives home the point that form and function follow personality and willpower. The beauty of the Chrysler Building is that it is not just another skyscraper. It reflects the vision of William Van Alen (and Walter Chrysler, who took an active interest in the project - looking at hundreds, if not thousands, of Van Alen''s drawings and giving his input). Similarly, a man by the name of John Jakob Raskob ( with ties to General Motors, interestingly enough), by sheer force of will, managed to get the financiers to pony-up the money to put-up the Empire State Building even though the Depression had hit. Another "big theme" is that ego can sometimes overcome cool and calculated financial considerations. When Van Alen and Severance (Manhattan Company Building) realized they were in a "shooting for the stars-war" to build the tallest building, they did some things that made the number-crunchers quiver - adding on extra stories (which increases the need for elevator banks, services, etc. and decreases the percentage of rentable space) or adding on geegaws like the spire of the Chrysler Building, with its totally non-rentable area. Likewise, Raskob soldiered on with the Empire State Building even though many people told him he wouldn''t be able to rent all that space during a financial downturn. (They were right. It opened with a 23% occupancy rate and was called the "Empty State Building." It didn''t turn a profit until 1948.) The public relations war surrounding the 3 buildings provides an entertaining thread that runs throughout the book - when Severance realized that the spire of the Chrysler Building made it tallest, he countered with the argument that you should only count rentable space - which made the Manhattan Company Building higher. (The public didn''t buy it. Taller is taller.) When Chrysler''s people realized that within a year or so the Empire State Building would become a reality and would be the new number one, they went into "physical denial." They advertised their building as the biggest and the brightest, and pretended that rapidly growing structure on 34th street didn''t exist. Sadly, Walter Chrysler didn''t know, from an aesthetic standpoint, what he had. Once the Empire State Building was built, Chrysler lost interest in his own building. In his autobiography he only devoted 2 pages to the topic, and he nowhere mentioned Van Alen by name. He called him "the architect." Mr. Bascomb doesn''t let the architectural critics of the time off the hook. Most critics yawned at the Chrysler Building - they didn''t think much of it, and thought the spire was a useless frill. Poor Van Alen never got another major commission and had to hustle around trying to get minor building jobs from friends and relatives. Another fascinating part of this book is when Mr. Bascomb goes into detail concerning the actual construction process - how many workers were needed for the various projects, the types and amounts of materials, etc. The Empire State Building, whose construction was organized like clockwork by the Starrett brothers, was put-up at the incredible rate of 4 1/2 floors per week. 500 trucks a day delivered materials to the building site, and the steel beams being put into place had been manufactured at the Pennsylvania mills a mere 3 days before. (The beams were still warm when they got to 34th street.) Despite the speed of construction, safety was emphasized. 6 men died (their names are given, by the way) during construction of the Empire State Building, which was amazingly few considering the scale of the project. Finally, the book has 8 pages of interesting black-and-white photos of the time, including one of the famous photographer Margaret Bourke-White perched atop the eagle gargoyle on the Chrysler Building, getting ready to snap a shot. If you suffer from vertigo you may want to skip that photo, as well as the one of the photographer Jack Reilly hanging from the 72nd story steelwork of the Manhattan Company Building.....
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Juan Prieto
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good driver, good lady
Reviewed in the United States on September 9, 2020
Very good reading of a time when driver that was Jewish before ww2 had great success in spite of all the difficulties and a lady who was a very good driver on her own who helped get to the top. He was also good restareatur.
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Paul H. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
We liked it so much (each read it twice
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2018
We *had* this book in our library, loaned it out, and never got it back. We liked it so much (each read it twice, at least), that we had to add it to our permanent library. We rarely buy books for this purpose. Need I say more? If you''re a fan of architecture,... See more
We *had* this book in our library, loaned it out, and never got it back. We liked it so much (each read it twice, at least), that we had to add it to our permanent library. We rarely buy books for this purpose.

Need I say more? If you''re a fan of architecture, of New York City, or of competition in general, you *gotta* read this book.
2 people found this helpful
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Mohawk49
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Ok. Interesting, but not great
Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2021
Well researched, but easy for me to put down. Not one of the authors finest, in my opinion
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Adeline Low
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 26, 2015
Excellent!
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Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online

Higher: A Historic Race to new arrival online the Sky and the Making of a City online