A Visit To The Daily Planet

A few weeks ago, I was scouting office spaces during a particularly ugly snowstorm, and found myself heading to an option located at 220 East 42nd Street.

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It wasn’t until I’d parked my car and was walking through the doors that I looked up and realized I was going into the Daily News building…

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Home to one of the greatest lobbies in New York City:

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In 1927, the Daily News, then the nation’s largest newspaper, began building its new headquarters on 42nd Street. While the building itself was considered an exercise in minimalism, the owners allowed architect Raymond Hood a whopping $150,000 to be spent on the lobby. The result was an art deco masterpiece, centered around a 12-foot rotating globe, as seen in this picture from 1931:

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Here’s it is ten years later in a 1941 postcard…

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…later still in 1958, decked out for the holidays…

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…and yet again in 1978, when it was featured in Richard Donner’s Superman:

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And here it is today, miraculously still turning over 80 years after it was built. As far as I’m concerned, this is as good as it gets.

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The Daily News globe is 12 feet in diameter and weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. It makes a full rotation every ten minutes, moving 144 times faster than the actual planet.

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But it gets even better. Above the globe, an enormous rotunda made of faceted black glass extends upward, intended to depict outer space:

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Here it is rising up over the globe…

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…leading to a gorgeous art deco depiction of the sun overhead:

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If you look very closely, you’ll see an interesting solar motif etched into the space around the light:

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Originally, this area was walled off from the rest of the lobby, giving the space more of a science museum-like feel.

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These walls were removed during a renovation in the early 1960s, which significantly opened up the space:

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Surrounding the globe is an enormous compass rose, which not only serves as a directional guide…

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…but also features distance in miles to various world destinations:

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This motif extends far beyond the globe to the bank of elevators around the corner…

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…where directional lines continue to tell you how far it is to, say, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica (only 8,475 miles away!):

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The globe is illuminated from below by several rings of lights…

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…leading down a mirrored reflection at its base:

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A close-up of the mirror:

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Several glass panels, added during the renovation, give proportional comparisons of the globe to the universe, using New York City geography as a reference point:

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Part of the fun is in closely examining the globe itself, which was last updated in 1967 – hence the existence of, say, East and West Germany:

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I love the style and design of the map, which feels totally emblematic of its particular period of cartography. The Spanish Sahara no longer exists…

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…and you’d be hard-pressed to find any modern map delineating an area as Manchuria:

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On the wall behind the globe are a number of meteorological gauges…

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…which offer up-to-the-minute readouts of current New York City weather:

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It’s best to go on a particularly blustery day, when both the wind direction meter…

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…and wind velocity meter will be whipping around like crazy:

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Also on display in the lobby is this gorgeous time zone clock, which features New York City time in the center….

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…surrounded by 16 miniature clock faces depicting time throughout the world:

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Finally, as you exit the building, be sure to look up…

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…where you’ll see a gorgeous period clock overhead, one of the last art deco bits not removed during the renoation:

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I scout a lot of lobbies for my job, and most of them look like this:

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The lobby of the Daily News building was created in a time when architecture had a meaning beyond nuanced minimalism. It’s exciting. It’s audacious. It literally posits 220 West 42nd Street as the center of the world.

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And best of all, walking through the doors is like traveling back in time to the 1930s.

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Want to visit? Just go right in.

-SCOUT

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27 comments

  1. East & West Germany? Early 30es?

  2. Apparently the globe was modified/replaced sometime after WWII looking at all the Central and eastern Europe borders. You can see another difference between the older pictures and the current ones: The ‘8’ figure over the southern pacific region (seen in pictures #4 and #6), called an ‘analemma’, is not there in the newer pictures (should be visible in #9).

    This document should give some more info, from a quick reading it seems the lobby was modified extensively in 1957-1960 (but retaining enough of the original elements to later be considered for Landmark protection) and the globe itself refurbished in 1967.

  3. Opps, you read that number wrong. The first digit is an 8 not a 3. So “Queen Maud Land, Antarctica (only 3,475 miles away!):” really is 8,475 miles away.

  4. Love this lobby so very, very much. Nice post.

  5. Solar motif? Looks more like Time Lord writing…

  6. I haven’t been to the News Building in decades, I’d forgotten how cool it is. The Chanin Building in the same neighborhood is another art-deco masterpeice.

  7. Where do you think the name “Daily Planet” came from?

    • Liman says, “Where do you think the name “Daily Planet” came from?”

      When Superman debuted in 1938’s Action Comics #1, he worked for the Daily Star, named after his co-creator Joe Shuster’s hometown newspaper, the Toronto Daily Star. When Superman was becoming a comic strip the following year, one strong contender for name was the Daily Globe, combining the names of the Toronto Daily Star and the national Globe and Mail. But to avoid confusion with those two real newspapers, the final choice was Daily Planet.

  8. Thank you Nick and thank you Ray Hood for being the swell Hill & Rock kind of guy you were. What a Tribute, that’s in Chicago son. Design at the corner of Bland and Boring need not apply here.

  9. If I worked for the News I would have been pretty bummed when they moved out of that amazing building. I doubt there there is anything in New York Plaza with that kind of WOW factor.

    This site has become an addiction! So much I wish I could go see but now in Atlanta no longer a bus ride away.

  10. The question is–Where were you able to park your car?

  11. Another excellent post!

    What strikes me the most (especially from 20s-early 60s architecture in NY) is the quality craftsmanship and exquisite materials used. Nick – you should pay a visit to the Chrysler Building, remarkable elevators!

    I’ve only been to the Daily news a few times back in the early 80s – it was quite impressive. What will future generations say about modern design? lol, I think I have an idea.

  12. I used to work across 2nd Avenue from the News Building and browsed the lobby many times. It’s one of those NYC sites that I pray will never be torn down.

  13. I temped for a few months for The College Board. They moved some of their offices to the ground floor here when their building on Amsterdam got too crowded (no idea if they are still there). I wish I had taken more time to really take in this lobby.

  14. When I was a kid in the early 70’s my parents used to take me to see Santa in that lobby every Christmas. It was an amazing and lavish set with Santa’s helpers, elves etc. You would write your name in the visitors’ book and the next day the Daily news would print everyone’s name who visited Santa, in the paper.

  15. Great article. And, if you look very closely at the inscription amid the crowd of New Yorkers depicted on the limestone entrance you’ll notice the words, “He Made So Many of Them.” The phrase was taken from a quotation of Abraham Lincoln: “God must love the common man. He made so many of them.”

    http://skyscraper.org/EXHIBITIONS/PAPER_SPIRES/nydn02.php

  16. I was pretty upset in 1967 when all of a sudden part of the lobby was cordoned-off. I had missed the news that they were restoring it, and I thought I had seen the last of it.
    I was so impressed by the restoration……”so THIS is what can be done with some money and a whole lot of will.” It (and other projects I ran into over the next few years) encouraged me to become a restoration carpenter (among other things).
    Thanks for the update, and thanks to all of those in the past (and present) who give a damn.

  17. What a great lobby!

    I’m sure I saw a (non-rotating) giant globe in another NY lobby (back ~’96), but i’m not sure where. Was this once a common theme for ‘global’ companies?

    Also, I am very impressed by the detail that the place names in Antarctica seem to be written in reverse so they are the correct way around when viewed in the mirror!

    /tim

  18. I love your site! Just found it yesterday and can’t stop viewing! Can’t wait to visit this amazing lobby! Wow! Thank you!!

  19. love the blog scout!

    just fyi, towards the end you wrote that the building is at 220 West 42, while earlier you said it was on the East side.

  20. Barry Saltmarsh

    THANKS SCOUT…I really enjoy all your posts all the way over here in Tasmania Australia.
    My wife’s cousin Marty lives in Queen’s and sends the links to us which we really look forward to!
    You have a tremendous photo and writing talent to totally compliment all your posts.

    Congratulations…Barry and karen

  21. I really want to stop by and visit the lobby when I am in NY next month. What time does it open on Saturdays?

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