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.
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…
Home to one of the greatest lobbies in New York City:
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:
Here’s it is ten years later in a 1941 postcard…
…later still in 1958, decked out for the holidays…
…and yet again in 1978, when it was featured in Richard Donner’s Superman:
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.
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.
But it gets even better. Above the globe, an enormous rotunda made of faceted black glass extends upward, intended to depict outer space:
Here it is rising up over the globe…
…leading to a gorgeous art deco depiction of the sun overhead:
If you look very closely, you’ll see an interesting solar motif etched into the space around the light:
Originally, this area was walled off from the rest of the lobby, giving the space more of a science museum-like feel.
These walls were removed during a renovation in the early 1960s, which significantly opened up the space:
Surrounding the globe is an enormous compass rose, which not only serves as a directional guide…
…but also features distance in miles to various world destinations:
This motif extends far beyond the globe to the bank of elevators around the corner…
…where directional lines continue to tell you how far it is to, say, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica (only 8,475 miles away!):
The globe is illuminated from below by several rings of lights…
…leading down a mirrored reflection at its base:
A close-up of the mirror:
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:
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:
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…
…and you’d be hard-pressed to find any modern map delineating an area as Manchuria:
On the wall behind the globe are a number of meteorological gauges…
…which offer up-to-the-minute readouts of current New York City weather:
It’s best to go on a particularly blustery day, when both the wind direction meter…
…and wind velocity meter will be whipping around like crazy:
Also on display in the lobby is this gorgeous time zone clock, which features New York City time in the center….
…surrounded by 16 miniature clock faces depicting time throughout the world:
Finally, as you exit the building, be sure to look up…
…where you’ll see a gorgeous period clock overhead, one of the last art deco bits not removed during the renoation:
I scout a lot of lobbies for my job, and most of them look like this:
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.
And best of all, walking through the doors is like traveling back in time to the 1930s.
Want to visit? Just go right in.
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