This was the site of the National Academy of Design (1865-99). Replaced by the
present structure, a 1957 redesign of the 1893 Metropolitan Life Building.
Designed by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons in 1909, it was the world's tallest building
for four years (until the Woolworth Tower). It replaced the Madison Square
Presbyterian Church (1855-1906), which was noted for being the pulpit of the Rev.
Charles Parkhurst, a crusader against vice and corruption. His famous "undercover"
tour of the underworld is chronicled in the book "Low Life" by Luc Sante.
The 41-story structure, at 5 Madison Avenue between East 23rd and East 24th Streets,
was designed by Napoleon LeBrun in 1909, an architect who was inspired by the
Campanile di San Marco in Venice. (Oddly, the Clock Tower is actually older than
its present counterpart in Venice. The original Campanile was built in 1812, but
unexpectedly collapsed in 1902. The exact replica that replaced it was completed
in 1912 - three years after the Clock Tower sounded its first chimes.)
The clock itself is one of the largest four-dial timepieces in the world. Each of
the four clock faces on the tower measures 26.5 feet in diameter. Each minute hand
weighs half a ton. The tower's original marble facing was replaced by limestone as
part of a renovation in 1964.
A 1957 redesign stripped most of the ornamentation from Met Life's 1893 Home Office
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.'s Clock Tower has been gazing down upon
Madison Square Park since 1909, a 700-foot column that once was the world's
highest timepiece as well as its tallest building. It held that title for four
years, and even though it was eclipsed by the Woolworth Building in 1913, and
later by many other skyscrapers, The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.ís Clock
Tower to this day is special among spires.