Rockefeller Center, The Making-Of November 25 2014
New York's and perhaps the world's greatest skyscraper complex of the 20th century was constructed during the peek of the great depression. To many, this symbolized just how rich John D. Rockefeller Jr., was; in truth, Rockefeller had to keep a close eye on the project's finances and more than once he was afraid that the center would be his undoing.
What grew to be America's first dining, entreatment and retail business center started as a plan to move the Metropolitan Opera from its old home on 39th street to a newly constructed opera house.
By the time Rockefeller had negotiated the lease and had bought out the various tenants already occupying the land, the stock market had crashed and the Metropolitan Opera had backed out of the deal. Rockefeller was left with only two choices: abandon the project, or turn the area into profitable venture on his own. As it turns out he decided to build a 19 building complex.
The most famous tenant became NBC; broadcasting Nightly News, Saturday Night Life and the Today Show from the Center.
Best known are two parts of the center: the spot on the upper plaza where the annual Christmas tree is erected each November; and the sunken section of the plaza, which features the world-famous skating rink.
The innovative underground concourse of shops and restaurants, which was, for all intents, America's first shopping mall, and which was initially a flop.
By 1935 over 60,000 people were visiting the plaza every day yet only a few thousands ventured downstairs into the "catacombs" and the retailers there were having a hard time paying their rents.
To solve this problem, Rockefeller Center inaugurated the skating rink on Christmas day 1936, and soon the rink became one of the center's top attractions. In 1940, a roller rink was added in warm weather; today, a restaurant occupies the space when it is too hot to ice skate.
Presiding over the rinks Paul Manship's statue of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods. Derided in its day as garish and out-of-place, it has become on of the most famous statues in America and certainly has to be among the the most photographed pieces of the US art.