The Skyscraper Museum
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The Skyscraper Museum

The Skyscraper Museum is devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future. The Museum explores tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence. This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Francis Hatch Kimball and the Early New York Skyscraper

Saturday, April 28, 2007
1 — 4 PM
Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, NY, NY

Organized by The Skyscraper Museum, this free conference is presented in partnership with the AIA New York Chapter in honor of their 150th anniversary year.

Program and Panelists

As part of its mission to document the historical evolution of the tall building in New York City, The Skyscraper Museum is organizing a symposium on the work of architect Francis Hatch Kimball (1845-1919). A prolific but little-studied figure in the early high rise history of New York City, Kimball was responsible for a series of significant commercial towers, from the 9-story 1889 Corbin Building and the 1894 Manhattan Life Insurance Building (once the city’s tallest), to the massive, 30+ stories of the 1908 City Investing Company and 1914 Adams Express Company Building. Between those, he designed a range of ornate office towers such as the Empire Building, 111 and 115 Broadway (the Trinity and U.S. Realty Company buildings), and 37 Wall Street, in which he explored various styles from neo-Gothic and Renaissance to Beaux Arts. Kimball’s historicist approach helped to define a distinctive “New York School” during the same years that Chicago architects such as Jenney, Sullivan, Root, and Burnham established what has been called the First Chicago School of commercial architecture.

The full-afternoon symposium will closely examine Kimball’s early skyscrapers and commercial architecture from the perspectives of design, technology, urban and material culture, and New York City history. There is no monograph, historical or contemporary, on Kimball’s tall buildings or his architectural practice, despite his important influence on the turn-of-the-century streetscape of lower Manhattan, the invention of the white-collar workplace, and the iconic identity of the early modern metropolis.


Kimball in Context
Andrew S. Dolkart
James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University, GSAPP

Engineering Commercial Culture: Francis Kimball’s Theaters
Mary Beth Betts, Director of Research
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Kimball’s Tall Towers
Sarah Landau, Professor of Art History
New York University

Pioneering Possibilities:
F.H. Kimball’s Use of Architectural Terra Cotta

Susan Tunick, author
Terra-Cotta Skyline: New York’s Architectural Ornament

From Gothic Revival to Skyscraper Gothic
Kevin D. Murphy, Professor and Executive Officer
Ph.D. Program in Art History
CUNY Graduate Center, City University of New York

Adapting to New Technology:
Francis Kimball and the Steel Frame

Donald Friedman, principal
Old Structures Engineering, PC

Introduction of Steel Columns in
American Buildings, 1862-1920s

Sara E. Wermiel, Ph.D
Historian of technology/historic preservation consultant

Unbuilt Kimball:
The 1,000-foot Pan American States Association Building

Darrin M. VonStein, Architectural Historian


  • E-mail symposium [at] or call (212) 945 6324 to register or for more information.