Athens has its Parthenon and Rome its Coliseum. New York’s temples, which you see on this mile-long tour along six avenues and five streets, are its concrete-and-glass skyscrapers. Many of them, including the Lever House and the Seagram Building, have been pivotal in the history of modern architecture, and the 19 limestone-and-aluminum buildings of Rockefeller Center constitute one of the world’s most famous pieces of real estate.
Conceived by John D. Rockefeller during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Rockefeller center complex – “the greatest urban complex of the 20th century,” according to the AIA Guide to New York City occupies nearly 22 acres of prime real estate between 5th and 7th Avenues and West 47th and 52nd streets. Its central cluster of buildings consists of smooth shafts of warm-hued limestone, streamlined with glistening aluminum. Plazas, concourses, and shops create a sense of community for the nearly quarter of a million people who use it daily.
Restaurants, shoe-repair shops, doctors’ offices, barbershops, banks, a post office, bookstores, clothing shops, various stores – are all accommodated within the center, and all parts of the complex are linked by underground passageways.
Rockefeller Center helped turn the midtown into New York City’s second “downtown” area. The neighborhood now rivals the Wall Street area in its number of prestigious tenants. The center itself is a capital of the communications industry, containing the headquarters of a TV network (NBC), several major publishing companies (Time-Warner, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster), and the world’s largest news-gathering organization, the Associated Press.