Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Alternative names Met Life Tower
Metropolitan Life Tower
Record height
Tallest in the world from 1909 to 1913[I]
Preceded by Singer Building
Surpassed by Woolworth Building
General information
Type Commercial offices
Location 1 Madison Avenue[1]
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°44′28″N 73°59′15″W / 40.74124°N 73.9874°W / 40.74124; -73.9874Coordinates: 40°44′28″N 73°59′15″W / 40.74124°N 73.9874°W / 40.74124; -73.9874
Construction started 1893
Completed 1909
Roof 213.36 m (700.0 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 50
Design and construction
Owner El-Ad Group
Architect Napoleon LeBrun & Sons
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Architectural style: Gothic
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 78001874
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: January 29, 1972
Designated NHL: June 2, 1978
Designated NYCL: 1989

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, also known as the Metropolitan Life Tower or Met Life Tower, is a landmark skyscraper located at One Madison Avenue in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Designed by the architectural firm of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons and built by the Hedden Construction Company, the tower is modeled after the Campanile in Venice, Italy.[7] It was constructed in 1909 and served as world headquarters of the company until 2005. It was the world's tallest building for three years, until 1913, when it was surpassed by the Woolworth Building.[8]

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978,[5][9] and a New York City landmark in 1989.[10]



The top of the Met Life Tower in fog at night

The tower is a later addition to the original 11-story, full-block office building (the "East Wing") that was completed in 1893. Plans for the tower were first announced in 1905.[11]

There are four clock faces, one on each side of the tower, located from the 25th to 27th floor. Each clock face is 26.5 feet (8 m) in diameter with each number being four feet (1.2 m) tall. The minute hands each weigh half a ton. The original tower was sheathed in Tuckahoe marble, but during the 1964 renovation plain limestone was used to cover the tower and the East Wing, replacing the old Renaissance revival details with a streamlined, modern look. Much of the building's original ornamentation was removed.


A three-year exterior restoration project, which saw much of the building covered in scaffolding, ended in 2002 and added a new, computerized, multicolored nighttime lighting system, much like that of the Empire State Building; the colors change to denote particular holidays or important events. The gilded cupola at the very top of the building serves as an "eternal light" which stays illuminated even after the rest of the lighting system has been turned off for the night. The building figured prominently in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's advertising for many years, illustrated with a light beaming from the top of its spire and the slogan, "The Light That Never Fails".

Current status

In March 2005, SL Green Realty Corp. bought the tower in anticipation of converting it into apartments. In May 2007, the tower was subsequently sold, along with adjacent air rights, to Africa Israel Investments for $200 million.[12] It is speculated that the tower will be converted into either residential apartments or a high-end hotel.

The landmark clock tower's address has since been changed to 5 Madison Avenue. The rest of the full-block office building (the "East Wing"), now has 15 stories and is mostly occupied by investment banking arm of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse refers to the building as One Madison Ave, or OMA.

At the corner of East 23rd Street and Park Ave South, which was originally known as Fourth Avenue, the building has an entrance to the 23rd Street New York City Subway station of the number 6 line.

Metropolitan Life North Building

The North Building and Met Life Tower seen from across Madison Square Park

By the late 1920s, the 1909 Met Life Tower and the 1919 North Annex were becoming too small to house the continuously growing activities of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Looking to expand, the company considered building on a full block site between East 24th and East 25th Streets.

Ecole des Beaux Arts-educated architect Harvey Wiley Corbett left his position on the Rockefeller Center design team in order to take up this project in 1928. The final design for the new building was proposed as a 100-story, telescoping tower.[13] However, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 caused the company to scrap plans for a giant skyscraper and instead built only a portion of the proposed tower. What stands of the North Building today, completed in 1950, is what was to be the 32-story base for the 100-story tower, built with the structural strength and number of elevator shafts (30) needed for a later completion.

The primary tenant of the Metropolitan Life North Building today is the investment banking arm of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse refers to the building as Eleven Madison Ave, or EMA.

The Metropolitan Life Home Office Complex, was added to the National Register on January 19, 1996.[6]

In popular culture

  • In the animated TV series Futurama, the tower is seen in the future as wider and its face replaced with a digital clock.


The Met Life Tower from below
  1. ^ NYC GIS map
  2. ^ Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower at Emporis
  3. ^ Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower at SkyscraperPage
  4. ^ Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower at Structurae
  5. ^ a b "Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-15. 
  6. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  7. ^ "Before This Seven-Day Wonder in Construction Is Completed It Will Be Overtopped by the Tall Tower of the Metropolitan Life.; A Reminder of Venice. How the Tower is Built. The Struggle with the Wind. Differs from Other Skyscrapers. An Extraordinary View." The New York Times, December 29, 1907. p. SM5
  8. ^ "Met Life Tower Named A New York Landmark", The New York Times, June 14, 1989. p. B4
  9. ^ George R. Adams (January 24, 1977). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower. National Park Service.  and Accompanying 6 photos, exterior and interior, from 1950-1976PDF (1.28 MB)
  10. ^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York:Wiley, 2009. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.79
  11. ^ "500-Foot Tower To Replace Church". The New York Times: p. 14. June 21, 1905. "Metropolitan Life's Plans for a New Structure; Parkhurst's Church There; The Company Will Raze It and Erect There One of the Tallest Buildings In the World." 
  12. ^ "Clock Tower at Five Madison Goes for $200 M". The New York Observer. May 15, 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Madison Sq Tower to Rise 100 Stories". The New York Times: p. N1. November 3, 1929. "Metropolitan Life Will Erect the Tallest Office Structure for Own Use on Whole Block. Unusual Design is Drawn Accommodation for 30,000 Workers --Moving Stairs Planned for the First Thirteen Floors. Will Occupy Entire Block. Light Value Stressed." 

External links

Preceded by
Singer Building
Tallest building in the world
Succeeded by
Woolworth Building
Tallest building in the United States

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower — Ostansicht des Gebäudes. Der Metropolitan Life Tower ist ein Wolkenkratzer in New York. Er wurde zwischen 1908 und 1909 nach Plänen der Architekten Pierre LeBrun und Napoleon LeBrun errichtet und sollte der Hauptsitz der Versicherungsgesellschaft …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company — Infobox Company company name = MetLife Inc. company company type = Public NYSE|MET slogan = Guarantees for the if in life/Have You Met Life Today? foundation = 1868 location = New York, NY key people = C. Robert Henrikson, Chairman of the Board,… …   Wikipedia

  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company — Forme juridique Société anonyme NYSE : MET Site web …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company — MetLife Inc …   Wikipedia Español

  • Metropolitan Life North Building — General information Location Midtown Manhattan, New York City, USA …   Wikipedia

  • Metropolitan Life Tower — Metroplolitan Life Tower La Torre antes de la demolicion Edificio Tipo Rascacielos …   Wikipedia Español

  • Metropolitan Life Tower — Metropolitan Life Tower …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Metropolitan Life Tower — 40° 44′ 28″ N 73° 59′ 15″ W / 40.74124722, 73.98743333 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Manhattan Life Insurance Building — General information Status Demolished Type Commercial offices …   Wikipedia

  • New York Life Insurance Building, Chicago — For other uses, see New York Life Insurance Building (disambiguation). New York Life Insurance Building The New York Life Insurance Building during construction. General information …   Wikipedia

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