The Rockefeller Center, spanning the Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue right in the center of Manhattan, can be described as a “city within the city” of New York. The area it sits, including all its 19 commercial buildings, is located between 48th and 51st streets in The Big Apple. It took nine years to build it. With sheer determination, it was inaugurated at the height of the Great Depression. John D. Rockefeller’s vision and grit were rewarded when in 1987 it was acknowledged as a National Historic Landmark. Today, no tourist would visit the Big Apple without paying this iconic landmark a visit.
John D. Rockefeller’s Vision
John D. Rockefeller Jr. once said, “I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.” This is the last in the list of principles in which he believed in. This and the other principles are emblazoned on a plaque at the place of the Rockefeller Center.
A known philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller’s goals and visions are mostly fueled by love, this achievement included. Why else would he go against all odds when he decided to single-handedly finance the building of the iconic Rockefeller Center when the country was on the verge of an economic devastation? It is said that his determination to build his first-of-its-kind center did not waver despite the looming economic upheaval. In his mind he envisioned that the Rockefeller Center would be his legacy to the city he loved – Manhattan – and to everyone who lives or visits the city.
John D. Rockefeller spent $100 million to build and complete it in nine years. It gainfully employed over 40,000 people, a noble feat for the American workers when the Great Depression was at its worst.
The Rockefeller Center: Through the Years
- 1930: It officially opened in May 1933. It lived by the development team’s belief that “art was an act of good citizenship.” The 30 Rockefeller Plaza’ grand lobby reflected that with the likes of Frank Brangwyn and José Maria Sert doing its interiors. Other artistic accomplishments include leasing spaces to artistic tenants Librairie de France and News-Week. It was also the site where “Gone with the Wind” was produced and where the popular Christmas Spectacular debuted. The Christmas tree tradition started in 1931 while the skating rink was opened in 1936.
- 1940: With the end of the Great Depression, over 90 percent of the spaces in the Center were already rented pout to eager tenants, establishing it as a community social hub among New Yorkers and a must-see place for tourists.
- 1950: The decade saw to the rising popularity of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as a Christmas tradition. Its adornments greatly become more ornate and extravagant through the years.
- 1960: The founder died, but his philanthropic spirit was perpetuated by offering shelter to the homeless during the Cold War. John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s vision of entertainment perpetuated throughout the decade with the Radio City’s Bye, Bye Birdie and The Odd Couple. The complex expanded to meet the growing demand for more spaces.
- 1970: This was the decade when it was shaken up a bit. There was a slump in the NYC real estate. The Radio City Music Hall also struggles as the music culture shifted. The decade was saved by the recognition it received from the American Institute of Architects for the Center’s the glamorous art-Deco complex, consisting of decorative geometric patterns and symmetrical layouts, placing next after the Thomas Jefferson’s University in Virginia.
- 1980: The Rockefeller Center made a great comeback after the sluggish decade of the 70s. This decade is best remembered for the record 20,000 lights put up in the Christmas Tree (1986), the renovation of the Rainbow Room (1987), and the venture into the Stock Exchange, so the public may get the chance to become investors.
- 1990: The early part of the decade was good with the Radio City Music Hall’s sold out five straight shows of Frank Sinatra, the pouring of over 200,000 glasses of champagne in the Rainbow Room and start of the outdoor broadcast in The Today Show. The mid 90s, however, saw to another real estate slump that moved the Center into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Rockefeller Center was saved by Goldman Sachs, David Rockefeller and Tishman Speyer two years later.
- 2000: The group that acquired the Rockefeller Center decided to revert to the vision of the founder by making it a venue for the arts. This is embodied in the statement made byJerry I. Speyer, its Chairman and CEO. He said, “New Yorkers and visitors to appreciate and experience major pieces of art in a public forum.” The new additions include works of Louise Bourgeouis’ bronze Spiders, a 20th century sculptor, Agnes Winter’s Monument, Takashi Murakami’s Reverse Double Helix, and more. To promote environmental sustainability, the Center installed 363 solar panels and planned the greening of the roof on top of Radio City Music Hall. Other thrilling changes include the reopening of the erstwhile Observation Deck, which is now dubbed as the Top of the Rock.
The Rockefeller center has been conceived by its founder about a century ago. This “city within a city” has long ago achieved the vision of John D. Rockefeller Jr. as the hub of exceptional style, art and entertainment. This moving vision continues to this day.