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Bush Tower
Bush Tower-04.jpg
General information
Status Complete
Type Commercial meeting space and display space
Office
Location 130-132 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
United States
Coordinates 40°45′19″N 73°59′7″W / 40.75528°N 73.98528°W / 40.75528; -73.98528
Construction started 1916
Completed 1918
Cost $2 million in 1917
Owner Bush Terminal Company
Height
Roof 433 ft (132 m)
Technical details
Floor count 30
Lifts/elevators 4
Design and construction
Architect Helmle and Corbett
Developer Irving Bush
New York City Landmark
Designated: October 18, 1988
Reference #: 1561

Bush Tower, also called the Bush Terminal International Exhibit Building and formerly as the Bush Terminal Sales Building, is a historic 30-story, 433-foot-tall (132 m) skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, just east of Times Square. The building occupies a plot at 130-132 West 42nd Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It was built in 1916–1918 for Irving T. Bush's Bush Terminal Company, which operated Bush Terminal in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City.

Bush Tower was originally intended as a commercial display space and social space. Its design combined narrowness, height, and Neo-Gothic architecture. It was designated as a city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1988.

Design

The building site measured only 50 feet (15 m) wide and 90 feet (27 m) long, but the structure erected on it rose over 433 feet (132 m) to its highest point. The New York firm of Helmle and Corbett, and specifically architect Harvey Wiley Corbett, gave Bush Tower a Neo-Gothic appearance, in some ways similar in style to the Woolworth Building, completed in Lower Manhattan three years earlier. The architects remarked that they wanted to make the building "a model for the tall, narrow building in the center of a city block".

Bush Tower influenced subsequent skyscraper design. Architect Raymond Hood credited the architects of this structure as an influence on his landmark American Radiator Building of 1924. Written about in the Literary Digest and Vanity Fair, and by such critics as Lewis Mumford in Architecture, and the tallest building in Midtown Manhattan when completed, Bush Tower also signified the movement of the Manhattan business district to Midtown.

Facade

The structure's 50-foot width, and its function as an office building, precluded the need for conventional skyscraper fenestration. The windows are concentrated on the north (42nd Street) and south facades. With the exception of a recessed mid-facade lightwell on the east facade, the east and west walls were left largely blank. Instead, Trompe-l'œil brickwork creates vertical "ribs" with a false "shade" pattern to enhance the verticality. High pointed arched windows lighted the top double-height floor (the building is variously described as 29 or 30 floors). Even the water tower was hidden behind a mansard roof at the tower's peak.

Interior

The tower's lowest three floors were planned for the comfort and convenience of buyers visiting New York. These floors were modeled after a traditional large metropolitan private club and housed the newly created International Buyers Club, which contained "that mysterious element called 'atmosphere' and 'social standing'", yet representatives of any "reputable" firm could join for free. The company wrote these floors were also designed to be "welcoming of women members".

The club offered conference rooms, multiple lounges (including "retiring rooms" for both ladies and gentlemen), offices, buffet service, and a large second-floor reading room staffed with trained librarians. The third-floor auditorium could host lectures, concerts, the viewing of manufacturers' own promotional motion pictures, or even "fashion parades" for "displaying gowns."

These lowest floors featured extensive oak paneling, oriental carpets, and antique furniture; according to the company's published promotional literature, this "Old English" style gave one "the feeling of having entered a hundred-year-old tavern".

The upper 27 stories held displays of manufacturers' goods, a concept explained as "the museum idea applied to commerce" by a writer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Bulletin.

History

Development

Under Irving T. Bush, the Bush Terminal Co. created Bush Tower to bring buyers, manufacturers, and designers together. As such, the company promoted a "vast centralized marketplace under one roof where complete lines of goods can be examined without loss of time".

The Bush Terminal Company attempted a similar melding of commercial displays and social space at Bush House in London, built in three phases during the 1920s, but that concept was not fully carried through.

Use

The Buyers' Club on the lower floors was quickly replaced by a bank in the early 1920s, then by the Old London Restaurant in 1931. After the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company foreclosed upon the tower in 1938 the upper floors were converted for regular office usage. An association of dress manufacturers moved into the tenth floor in 1939, and six commercial and office tenants took space in 1941. Herman's Stores, a sporting goods store, moved into the ground floor in early 1943, and the American Red Cross and two other tenants took space later that year. The tower was purchased and auctioned off by real estate investor Jacob Freidus in 1945. It was subsequently bought by a syndicate co-headed by real estate developer Joseph Durst in 1951.

By the early 1980s, the Times Square neighborhood and Bush Tower itself had deteriorated to the point where the owners considered demolishing the building. It was instead renovated, with heating and electrical systems replaced throughout. The skyscraper was acquired in the 1980s by its present owners, by the Lebanese Dalloul family. In 1988, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Bush Tower as a city landmark.

In 2002, the owners publicized their plans for a new building immediately to the west of Bush Tower. In a design by the firm of Gruzen Samton, a 23-story glass tower would be separated by a 6-inch (15 cm) gap—necessitated by earthquake codes—but connected on every floor to double the original building's space. In October 2006, Dubai-based developer Istithmar World purchased the properties at 136-140 West 42nd St., between Bush Tower and Istithmar-owned 6 Times Square (formerly the Knickerbocker Hotel).

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