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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
Equitable Building, New York City

Photo: (vincent desjardins)/flickr

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Equitable Building, New York City

Nowadays, most New Yorkers walk on by the 40-story office tower at 120 Broadway with little notice. It tends to get lost amongst its impressively tall downtown neighbors.

However, when completed in 1915 to replace a squatter but also historically significant building that was lost to fire three years prior, the hulking neoclassical beast known as the Equitable Building struck a formidable — and contentious — presence. Just as impressive in height as it was in girth, the H-shaped structure spanned a whole city block with a total of 1.2 million square feet of office space — the largest office building in the world by floor area at the time. And while it doesn't join the ranks of Manhattan's 100 tallest skyscrapers, the Equitable Building is famous for literally overshadowing its neighbors in the early 20th century. In fact, the big 'n' bulky behemoth loomed so greatly that it prompted the creation of a landmark zoning law that required new skyscrapers built in the city to include setbacks — that is, towers were required to taper as they increased in height as to not block natural light and fresh air from reaching the man-made canyons below. Known as the 1916 Zoning Resolution, the vertical building regulations prompted by the construction of the Equitable Building gave way to classic NYC setback skyscrapers like the Empire State Building. Essentially, if the Equitable Building — a "prime example cited of the evils of unregulated skyscraper construction" — hadn't ticked so many people off back in 1916, the New York skyline as we know it today would likely look a whole lot different.