Long Distance Building of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company

Tribeca, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America

The Long Distance Building of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company was designed by noted architect Ralph Walker, a specialist in the design of communications buildings and partner in the office of Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker; it is one of the largest and best known of his buildings for that industry and is the last of his downtown Manhattan skyscrapers.

Offering upon its completion in 1932 “a range of communications activities not to be seen elsewhere in the world,” the building was actually the result of three major building campaigns. Commissioned by telephone executive Union N. Bethell, the original core — called the Walker Lispenard Building – was designed by Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz and McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin, Walker’s predecessor firm.

It was erected in 1911-14 and enlarged by seven stories later in that decade. A massive alteration, commissioned by James S. McCulloh and designed by Walker, was executed in 1930-32. The building’s polychromatic, rough-textured brick exterior, terminating in light-colored brick parapets, champions the Art Deco style through its setbacks, overall sculpted quality, and linear ornament; appropriately, this progressive, technologically-inspired aesthetic successfully broadcasts the building’s role in housing the technologically sophisticated equipment of a critical American industry.

Upon the completion of the alterations in 1932, the Long Distance Building was the world’s largest long-distance center; its huge concentration of equipment made it a communication crossroads for long-distance telephone calls in the Northeastern United States and all transoceanic calls, for the nationwide network of radio broadcasting companies, and for teletypewriting and telephotography. The building retains both its exterior architectural integrity and its significance to the communications industry.

Early History of the Site

The developmental history of Block 192, on w