I would give a lot to be one of 40 people standing at the observatory at the 44th floor of the Singer Building, filling the maximum capacity while at it. The 187-meter-tall skyscraper went down in history as many things, such as the world’s tallest building, one of the first buildings to be artistically lighted at night and especially for being the ultimate corporate symbol.
These days, office skyscrapers are predominantly occupied by banks and insurance companies, but this is the age where manufacturing and retail were king. The headquarters of the Singer Company (ask your mom, or better yet: grandmom) is a classic skyscraper, as it really wanted to stand out in pride. Or correctly put: was a classic skyscraper. Alas it is also known as the tallest building to ever have been peacefully demolished. The culprits: US Steel and Modernism.
Being such a celebrated skyscraper in the capital of media and journalism, the library on the Singer Building is surprisingly thin. Sure enough it gets mentioned in many books discussing skyscrapers or Big Apple architecture, but a stand alone biography researching its commission and its place within the New York skyline would have been nice.
Luckily there a one book called: A History of the Singer Building Construction – the progress from foundation to flag pole. As the title suggests, it’s all about the construction of the Singer Building, proudly topped off by a flag of the Singer Company, including all the plumbing, ornaments, layouts, steam boilers, vacuum cleaning and oil filtration, down to design of the radiator and the thermometer.
The bad news is that you won’t find this book anywhere. The good news is that it is has been digitized by the Internet Archive and can be browsed or downloaded in full here. Please forgive the PDF file for being rather heavy. It’s worth it.
Even if you’re not much of an engineer you’ll greatly enjoy the images. Just by skim reading the book not only you realize how much of a thought-through organism a skyscraper is, you’ll also find that everyone involved in the construction of this skyscraper was mightely proud being so. Knowing that all this was finished only twenty months after the start of construction is even in this day and age very impressive.
Singer Building’s famed, richly decorated lobby
Radiator design details