New York Architecture Images- Gone / Demolished / Destroyed

Equitable Life Building




120 Broadway, between Pine and Cedar  Streets.


1870, destroyed by fire winter 1912.


Historicist Skyscrapers


steel frame, masonry cladding


Office Building


For the contentious 1915 replacement see-

The equitable fire ruins on January 12 1912.
The equitable life building was built in 1870 and was the first office building with passenger elevators. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1912 ( of which the aftermath is shown here), and a new equitable life building now occupies the site.

"By 1886 the Equitable Life Assurance Society was the largest life insurance company in the world. But it remained in its squat six-story office building on Broadway between Cedar and Pine Streets. Built in 1870 and the first office building to have elevators, the original Equitable Building was by the 1880's two architectural generations out of date. The typical height of downtown office buildings soon leap-frogged to 20 to 25 stories, but in 1897 Equitable asked the architect George B. Post to design a 500-foot-high building, about 40 stories, on its site.

This provoked the Real Estate Record & Guide, the industry's trade journal, to call for building restrictions, describing the Equitable project as a ''startling example of how open our cities are to attack from the audacious.'' At that time only multiple dwellings were seriously affected by building regulations. The 1897 plan did not go ahead. In 1907 the company proposed a 33-story replacement and revised that in 1908 to a 62-story building, 1,059 feet high, to be the tallest in the world. The 62-story project -- something like an overfed Sherry-Netherland Hotel -- was superseded by a 32-story proposal in 1910. In 1911 the Real Estate Record & Guide again editorialized against such ''wholesale theft of daylight.'' In an era of primitive electric illumination, natural light was a critical issue in office leasing.