The Rockefeller Center, originally known as Radio City, is one of the skyscrapers you will see when our bus tour to New York City. The Rockefeller, at 70 stories high, is a complex of buildings developed in the midst of the Great Depression. It is the world’s largest privately owned building complex and a prominent cultural, business, and tourist attraction in Midtown.
Rockefeller Center – also referred to as a ‘city in the city’ – is an exceptional example of civic planning. All buildings share a common design style, Art Deco, and are connected to each other via an underground concourse, the Catacombs. The complex is nevertheless well integrated in the city of New York, especially along Fifth Avenue.
The land beneath Rockefeller Center was originally pastureland which was purchased by Dr. David Hosack in 1801. He created a public garden, the Elgin Botanic Garden, which served as a promenade as well as a laboratory for herbs. Hosack willed the land to the State of New York which gave it to Columbia University in 1811. The Rockefeller’s leased the land from 1928-1985 when they bought it outright. During the late 1920’s, John D. Rockefeller Jr. went on to build a commercial development for the young network-broadcasting industry despite the depression. Completed in 1940, the complex was originally named “The Radio City” with RCA, RKO, and NBC as the primary tenants.
Initially, the complex consisted of 14 buildings while today, the Rockefeller Center consists of 19 buildings and covers 11 acres. It is still the largest privately owned building enterprise ever undertaken in the United States. It was also the first private real estate project to include extensive garden landscaping at both street and rooftop levels. Rockefeller Center was declared a national historic landmark in 1988.
These days, Rockefeller Center’s central gathering place has expanded from a fairly small skating rink and Channel Gardens into a much larger destination including the three blocks of Rockefeller Plaza and all the smaller plazas on 49th and 50th Streets. Rockefeller Center is also famous for annual Christmas tree. Over five miles of lights are used to decorate the tree every year.
The Rockefeller Center is also known for the many works of art that enrich the complex. Many of them portray the ideals of Enlightenment, such as ‘Progress through Science’. The observation deck atop Rockefeller Center’s GE Building – promoted as ‘Top of the Rock‘ – boasts panoramic views of Central Park and the Empire State Building. During your free time on our tour, if you would like a beautiful view of Manhattan, you can do so by visiting this Top of the Rock observation deck.