Rockefeller Center, the Epicenter of American Culture

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No other symbol better typifies New York than Rockefeller Center, and no other place in the Big Apple is home to as many American icons, including the annual Christmas tree, NBC Television, the venerable Saturday Night Live and many more.   An enormous complex of 14 buildings spread out over a 12-acre site, Rockefeller Center was built between 1929 and 1940 by a team of architects that was headed by Raymond Hood.  A host of

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No other symbol better typifies New York than Rockefeller Center, and no other place in the Big Apple is home to as many American icons, including the annual Christmas tree, NBC Television, the venerable Saturday Night Live and many more.   An enormous complex of 14 buildings spread out over a 12-acre site, Rockefeller Center was built between 1929 and 1940 by a team of architects that was headed by Raymond Hood.  A host of art-deco flair was introduced by the design team, including wood veneering, mural painting, mosaics, sculpture, metalwork, and other allied arts, as per the instructions of the great Nelson Rockefeller. The often exquisite designs, both architectural and decorative, are some of the world’s finest with the opulent Radio City Music Hall being world-renowned for its Art Deco interior.

Lunch atop a Skyscraper by Charles C. Ebbets

A “city within a city” Rockefeller Center is home to manifold corporate headquarters, professional offices, television studios, theaters, shops, and restaurants.  Centered behind the sunken plaza is the centerpiece of the entire complex, the 70-floor GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (now known as "30 Rock" due to the hit comedy of the same name). Formerly known as the RCA Building it was the setting for the famous Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper photograph taken by Charles C. Ebbets. This most famous of New York photos depicts workers having lunch in 1932 during the construction of the Center while sitting precariously on a steel beam, 840 feet above Manhattan,  without safety harnesses.

Although much criticized in its early days due to the fact that it was the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern times (and during the Great Depression no less), Rockefeller Center has long since served as a model for urban development in the United States and the globe.  One of the most visited tourist attractions in the entire city, Rockefeller Center attracts people from around the globe all year long, especially during the winter months when the ice-skating rink is open and the giant Christmas tree is displayed.

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Construction of Rockefeller Center began on May 17, 1930 under the supervision of principal builder John Todd, who worked in concert with architect Raymond Hood and three other architectural firms. The main skyscraper, formerly known as the RCA Building, is the headquarters of NBC television and houses most of the network's New York studios, including 6A, former home of Late Night with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. NBC News, MSNBC and local station WNBC also call Rockefeller Center home and own the office spaces it occupies in the building as a condominium.

Just inside the entrance to 30 Rock is a large mural by Jose Maria Sert called American Progress. Progressing (pun intended) though the building you’ll find steps leading down to the Concourse and its more than two miles of underground passageways that connect all 19 buildings, as well as connections to the NYC subway.  Lined with dozens of shops and restaurants, the Concourse allows New York’s hard working businessmen and women a safe place to avoid inclement weather.  Over the building’s 6th Avenue entrance is a mosaic entitled Intelligence Awakening Mankind by Barry Faulkner.  The mosaic is made of more than 1 million pieces of colored glass and has been featured in magazines and articles worldwide. The famous Rainbow Room club - currently closed - is located on the 65th floor and the Rockefeller family office covers the 54-56th floors.

Top of the Rock, the famous and highly recommended observation deck on the 69th floor, was re-opened after more than 20 years and the panoramic views it offers are spectacular, including unparalleled views of the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and Central Park.

In April 2001, Tishman Speyer Properties purchased a controlling interest in Rockefeller Center, and has since directed its office and retail leasing operations, helping to maintain Rockefeller's status as one of the world’s top cultural and financial centers . Office occupancy is at more than 98% and office rents command prices from the low-$60s per square foot to well over $100 per square foot. More than 224,000 square feet of retail space on the concourse level has been redeveloped and large blocks of desirable spaces at street level are home to everyone from Kenneth Cole to Anthropology.

Whether you're there to shop, eat, work or sight-see, Rockefeller Center is truly a spectacular place steeped in history and an enduring  testament to the American dream.

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March 13, 2012