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11 of Midtown Manhattan’s iconic buildings

11 midtown manhattan iconic buildings

Do you love architecture, or seeing buildings from your favorite film scenes? Midtown New York is chock full of these. This post presents 11 of Midtown Manhattan’s iconic buildings.

In our research to develop a Tourist Scavenger Hunt in New York Midtown, we’ve come across much information, some of which can only be gleaned when doing the actual scavenger hunt.

11 Iconic buildings in Midtown Manhattan

  1. Grand Central TerminalGrand Central Terminal
    • This is the principal Amtrak terminal for the city, as well as a central hub for the various metro lines crisscrossing the city. The current Beaux Arts building is the third railroad structure to stand on this site, now covering 48 acres. Railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt built the original Grand Central Depot in 1871. The number of railroad companies quickly outgrew the Depot, In 189, demolition took place to replace it with the six-story Grand Central Station.
    • Back then, trains were steam-powered. After a 1902 catastrophic collision, a decision switched steam to modern electric trains. Again, the existing building was rebuilt to accommodate electric trains. Grand Central was no longer just a stop along a route, but the final stop. Hence, it became Grand Central Terminal and officially opened in 1913.
    • The nicest feature of Grand Central Terminal is the ceiling of the grand hall, a colossal, breathtaking mural of the zodiac constellations.
  2. United Nations
    from North By Northwest

    UN Headquarters

    • Located 3 city blocks from Grand Central Terminal, the United Nations is headquartered in New York City, in the neighborhood called Turtle Bay.
    • This complex as served since 1952 along the East River. Note that all of the United Nation’s specialized agencies are located outside New York City. Many large art installations can be found throughout the grounds.
  3. NY Public LibraryNew York Public Library
    • Patience and Fortitude are the two majestic lions outside the main branch of the New York Public Library. They have been the institution’s mascots for more than a century.
    • It has been NY’s largest and busiest circulating library. Renovations undertaken in August of 2017 keep most of the building closed. You can still access the entrance which is worth a quick visit. It will reopen in early 2020.
  4. Chrysler Building
    • The world-famous Chrysler Building is an Art Deco-style skyscraper, built in 1928.
  5. Empire State BuildingEmpire State Building
    • The Empire State Building opened in 1931, also in the Art Deco style. It is currently (2018) the 5th tallest skyscraper in the United States.
    • It is located on an original lot of an 18th-century farm. The Astor family built a hotel here in the 1890s. They sold it in 1920. After a teardown, the structure we see now emerged. The Airship mast on top, now an antenna, ensured it would be the world’s tallest building, beating the Chrysler Building and others in construction at the time.
    • Visiting the Empire State Building costs $37 for adults and will take about an hour of your time.
  6. Knickerbocker Hotel
    By Jim.henderson – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25066719

    Knickerbocker Hotel

    • At 6 Times Square is the Knickerbocker Hotel.
    • This Beau-Arts style 1906 construction operated as a hotel until 1920. At that time, a complete conversion turned it into offices for Newsweek magazine until 1959. It’s been converted back into a hotel in 2013. You will find at its very top, the St.Cloud rooftop bar with a great view of Times Square.
  7. Rockefeller Center
    • Rockefeller Center is home to NBC Studios which you can tour. You’ll also find here the Top of the Rock attraction. To experience either of these two, you will want to enter the center from 6th Ave. You’ll find The Top of the Rock midway through. This is the home of Saturday Night Live.
    • The entrances are gilded and adorned with wonderful mosaics.
  8. St-Patricks CathedralSt-Patrick’s Cathedral
    • The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church in the United States and a prominent landmark of New York City. It is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.
    • Construction began in 1858, under Pope Pius IX. Work paused during the Civil War and resumed in 1865. Completed in 1878, dedication took place on May 25, 1879.
  9. Waldorf Astoria
    • No hotel is as much a New York icon as the Waldorf-Astoria, built in 1931. The hotel lobby is normally well worth a visit; however, the hotel undergoes a complete renovation and restoration at the moment. It should reopen by 2022.
  10. Helmsley BuildingHelmsley Building
    • The beautiful Art Deco Helmsley Building, in the middle of Park Ave at E 46th It was originally the New York Central Building, the headquarters for the New York Central Railroad Company (founded by Cornelius Vanderbilt).
    • When New York Central sold the building to real estate mogul Harry Helmsley, he renamed it the New York General Building. His wife, Leona Helmsley later renamed it the Helmsley Building after her deceased husband.
  11. MetLife Building
    By Postdlf, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=667586

    MetLife Building

    • MetLife Building looms above the Helmsley Building and Grand Central Terminal.
    • This 59-story skyscraper opened in 1930, and still referred to many New Yorkers by its original name, the Pan Am Building. There aren’t many fans of the MetLife building other than the building’s landlords. That’s because its architectural school called Brutalism that uses concrete and blockish forms dwarf the regal Helmsley Building you just saw.
    • Incidentally, in the Avengers movies, the MetLife Building turns out to be the Avengers Tower.

Tourist Scavenger Hunts

We invite you to try our Tourist Scavenger Hunt in New York Midtown. It is a 2.5-hour guided walking tour throughout Midtown Manhattan from Grand Central Terminal to Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and everything in between. You do it on your mobile phone (how it works).  It only costs $30 for your group (1 to 6 people). Moreover, you will enjoy seeing these iconic buildings and much more while completing challenges and learning about Midtown’s history.

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