Con Edison Building

Con Edison Building (60)

In 1884 the Consolidated Gas Company was created after merging six independent gas companies. In part, this merger was a quick response to the threat of the creation of the Equitable Gas Light Company from William Rockefeller.

The Consolidated Gas Company was originally located in a beautiful Italianate building at number 4 Irving Place, close to Union Square Park, but the growth experienced in the late 19th century by partnering with electric utilities, mainly the famous New York Edison Company, led them to move to a new location. It was in 1910 that they decided to build a new building of 12 homes in Irving Place with 15th Street. The architect was Henry Hardenbergh, still best known for his designs of the Dakota Building or the Plaza Hotel.

As the company did not want the new construction and the transfers obstructed the day to day work, the new structure was built next to the old one. The initial idea was that once it had moved, the old building would be restored, but the growth of the company was so fast that they realised that another 12-story building would not be enough. So they bought more land to the east and Hardenbergh commissioned a new 18-storey building for the entire company. Thus, in 1914 he joined up different wings and structures to create the Consolidated Gas Company Building. Fortunately, the company continued to grow and grow and in 1926 he announced plans to build a new skyscraper on the corner of 14th Street and Irving Place, at the site of the old Academy of Music concert hall.

The work you can admire today was completed in 1929 and designed by architects Warren & Wetmore, especially known for the Grand Central Terminal. Although most details are the originals from the design by Hardenbergh, Warren & Wetmore were responsible for the design of the 26-storey skyscraper that rose above the other buildings in the neighbourhood. Do not miss the details of the columns or the exquisite cornices. However, the most significant part is portrayed more precisely on the building high above the clock, where the structure takes the form of a small temple, topped by a pyramidal roof and a huge brass lamp. 

Today, the Con Edison Building is also known as the "Tower of Light", as this top part is solemnly illuminated at night in honour of the company employees who died during World War II.

Finally two non-architectural recommendations. For one thing, down here on 14th street you will also find the little Con Edison Energy Museum, dedicated to the inventions of the engineer Thomas Alva Edison such as the phonograph, the incandescent bulb and the kinetoscope, precursor of the cinematograph.

On the other hand, at number 129 there is Pete's Tavern, a bar founded in 1864 that has never closed. And during prohibition, the bar was reached by a cold room of the then attached florist. This is a great excuse to stop for a drink and admire fresh memories exhibited in its walls.  There are photos of the celebrities who have been here such as Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller, Natalie Portman, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis and Harvey Keitel.

It has also been the scene of countless films and series such as Seinfeld or Sex and the City. If you enter the bar you will understand why it is popular with many stars and personalities from New York. It is a glimpse of the history of this city.

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