Towering Columbus Circle
For more than a century, Columbus Circle has been one of the great stages for New York City development.
On the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to America, the city's Italian community raised funds for a monument, designed by Gaetano Russo.
Frederick Law Olmstead, the chief architect of Central Park, proposed a traffic circle as part of his plan for the grand park. The circle was realized in 1905 by businessman William Phelps Eno, an early advocate for traffic safety.
Up Scale, Down Scale
The buildings immediately on the circle were generally small commercial tenements and theaters, with the Art Deco Circle Building, built in the Ninenteen-teens, towering over it all.
Columbus Comes to the Cirlce
Working on the statue in 1892, the year it was inaugurated.
Photos of Old America
In 1913, Christopher Columbus was joined by soldiers and sailors from the U.S.S. Maine. The sinking of their battleship in 1898 in Havana Harbor triggered the Spanish-American War. The memorial was designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle.
On the Park
Looking down Central Park South in 1931. Notice the small commercial buildings on the corner, the original development that would not last the decade.
The first apartment building on the circle—a precursor of today's many residences—240 Central Park South was built in 1941, a fine example of post-war architecture and one of the first apartments in the city to offer balconies. It replaced those aforementioned commercial buildings, as well as a smaller apartment building.
Robert Moses took over the theaters and tenements on the Circle's western flank to make way for the New York Coliseum, an office and convention center that became outmoded shortly after it opened in 1956. It closed three decades later.
A Booming Metropolis
Around the time of the Columbus memorial's dedication, Central Park West and the surrounding neighborhood was largely undeveloped, but by 1910, every inch of Columbus Circle was surrounded by new construction. The seven-story Pabst Grand Hotel can be seen at right. It was later replaced by Huntington Hart's controversial museum at 2 Columbus Circle.
In 1964, Huntington Hartford's quixotic museum at 2 Columbus Circle opened. It was widely panned at the time, earning a nickname from preeminent architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable, the "Lollipop Building," because of its garish columns at the entrance.
In 1970, the Gulf + Western holding company opened its 45-story headquarters on Central Park West. The coliseum and 2 Columbus are also clearly visible, as are traffic islands breaking up the circle.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump bought the old Gulf + Western headquarters and turned it into the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which opened in 1997. Presaging changes to 2 Columbus and 1775 Broadway, the building was reclad in darker glass.
Wired New York
The Times They Are a Changin'
Ultimately, Steve Ross' Related Companies won the right to redevelop the coliseum site, erecting the Time Warner Center starting in 2002.
Topping Out Time Warner
Mayor Bloomberg and Ross (second from right) sign the last beam during the 2003 topping out ceremony for the Time Warner Center.
The MTA eventually demolished the coliseum in 2000.
A New Columbus Circle?
After the coliseum closed, Boston Properties won the right to redevelop the site and tapped architect Moshe Safdie to design it. The 63-story building met intense opposition, including from Jacqueline Onassis, before the project died in the 1990s.
The Time Warner Center houses more than 2.8 million square feet of residential, office, studio, and retail space, and it cost $1.1 billion to build.
Closing the Circle
Part of the redevelopment of Columbus Circle involved a redesign of the circle itself, which was drawn up by landscape architect Laurie Olin. It added a grand new fountain and garden while eliminating the pass-through traffic lanes that had turned the intersection into a snarl.
The White Gloves Are Off
Donald Trump erected a sign on the Trump International taunting residents of the Time Warner Center. It reads, "Your views aren't so good, are they? We have the real Central Park views and address. Best wishes, The Donald."
Bruising for a Fight
The latest battle on the circle is at 3 Columbus Circle, née 1775 Broadway. Built in the 1920s as headquarters for General Motors, it was later home to Newsweek. Developer Joe Moinian bought the building last decade.
Shot Through the Hart
In 2008, a redesigned 2 Columbus Circle reopened with the Museum of Art and Design inside. Loathed as the old museum was, it drew strong support from preservationists, as well as Thom Wolfe, though ultimately it could not be saved.
A Job Well Done?
Moinian reportedly spent more than $100 million recladding the building, as well as other updates, though his neighbor Steve Ross is not exactly thrilled with the results.