The General Electric Building (like the GE Building in Rockefeller Center) was originally designed for RCA-Victor (the merged Radio Corporation of America and Victor Talking Machine Corporation) in 1929. RCA wanted a headquarters building to express the company’s identity.
Architects Cross & Cross designed a 50-story Gothic/Art Deco tower rich in electricity/radio wave symbolism to convey RCA’s corporate identity. The brick and terra cotta design was crafted to blend in with its neighbors on the block, St. Bartholomew’s Church to the west and (St. Patrick’s) Cathedral High School to the south. (The high school has since been replaced.)
While the building was under construction, RCA negotiated independence from parent General Electric – and a move to an even bigger headquarters in Rockefeller Center. As part of the settlement, General Electric took over the tower at Lexington Avenue and E51st Street. Luckily, the electric bolts and radio waves also worked for GE’s identity. Only the logo on the corner clock seems to have been changed!
The General Electric Building was completed in December 1931; in the mid-1980s the windows were replaced. The building achieved NYC landmark status in July 1985. In 1995 the building was donated to Columbia University, which extensively restored the structure – notably the lobby. Entered into the National Register of Historic Places in January 2004.
General Electric Building Vital Statistics
- Location: 570 Lexington Avenue at E 51st Street
- Year completed: 1931
- Architect: Cross & Cross
- Floors: 50
- Style: Art Deco
- New York City Landmark: 1985
- National Register of Historic Places: 2004
General Electric Building Suggested Reading
- Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report
- Docomomo entry (Docomomo stands for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement)