Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center (88)

This large shopping complex is probably one of the most typical symbols of the city of New York. Here you can find the most exclusive offices, chic restaurants, top international brands, iconic buildings and skyscrapers, unique art galleries, historical theatres, the iconic skating rink so often depicted in TV shows and movies set in New York, as well as the enormous and famous Christmas tree that you’ve seen on television so many times. You are now at the Rockefeller Center.

The history of this large complex started in the late 20s, when John Davidson Rockefeller, oilman par excellence, decided to invest part of his fortune in the construction of several buildings in his then neighbourhood. The Metropolitan Opera Company was also involved in the project, but it ended up dissociating itself from it following the crash of 1929, which endangered the execution of the project. Rockefeller finally reimagined the complex as a centre that would meet the needs of the new radio and television industry and, fully determined to see it completed, committed all his resources to the venture and fully funded it. In fact, he even negotiated a loan with the Metropolitan Insurance Company Lie and sold a lot of the stocks he held in oil companies. The site chosen for the Rockefeller Center then housed rental housing owned by the University of Columbia, and Rockefeller managed to get a 99-year lease on the property. Unfortunately, he died in 1937 and it was his son, John Davidson Rockefeller Junior, who oversaw the completion of the famous Rockefeller Center complex in 1939. Thus, Radio City opened its doors on November 1 of that year, and changed its name to the Rockefeller Center a year later.

It was the first time that several buildings in Manhattan were joined together under a single complex for a single purpose. Moreover, the complex masterfully combined offices with leisure spaces, pedestrian zones, gardens, shops and restaurants. Thus, it has always been said that it is a city within a city.

The builder of this large-scale project was John R. Todd and Raymond Hood was the principal architect, coordinating different architectural firms to bring the new centre to fruition. But everyone agrees about the outcome. And you will no doubt come to the same conclusion: the result is spectacular.

Originally the complex consisted of 14 buildings between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, and between 47-50 streets, although in 1945 they added 5 more buildings across the street, on Sixth Avenue. At first they were designed in a beaux arts style, but soon the art déco aesthetic of the 30s took over, as can be seen in the decoration of the facades of the various buildings as well as their decorative elements. 

The highlights are, without doubt, the emblematic Radio City Music Hall, which became the world's largest auditorium; the GE Building, boasting one of the most impressive views of the city from its famous Top of the Rock, the International Building with its sculpture of Atlas, as well as other New York icons like the emblematic sculpture of Prometheus covered in gold leaf, which overlooks the most fashionable Christmas skating rink in New York.

Another fun fact we will mention is that the Rockefeller Center features several hidden gardenson the upper floors of some of its skyscrapers. Inaccessible to the public, many claim that these geometric oases filled with begonias and gardenias are the most beautiful gardens in Manhattan. Another secret: go up to the cafeteria on the eighth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue and enjoy a cup of coffee at a table near the window to see if the legends are true.

Rockefeller Center buildings are sheathed in limestone, a natural stone that comes from a quarry in Indiana, which contains numerous fossils that lived in the sea 300 million years ago. Keep your eyes peeled during your visit and you might find some of them.

From here we encourage you to walk around the complex, take a stroll through its gardens, admire its sculptures, enjoy a cappuccino in one of its cafes, go up to the top of the GE Building, and, if your budget allows it, do some shopping at what many consider to be the best boutiques in New York City.

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