Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower

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Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower

The Metropolitan Life Tower (also known as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building or Met Life Tower) is a landmark skyscraper located at One Madison Avenue in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Designed by the architectural firm of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons, the tower is modeled after the Campanile in Venice, Italy. It was constructed in 1909 and served as world headquarters of the company until 2005. It was the world's tallest building for three years until 1913 when it was surpassed by the Woolworth Building. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 6, 1978.


The tower is a later addition to the original 11-story, full-block office building (the "East Wing") that was completed in 1893. Plans for the tower were first announced in 1905. There are four clock faces, one on each side of the tower, located from the 25th to 27th floor. Each clock face is 26.5 feet (8 m) in diameter with each number being four feet (1.2 m) tall. The minute hands each weigh half a ton. The original tower was sheathed in Tuckahoe marble, but during the 1964 renovation plain limestone was used to cover the tower and the East Wing, replacing the old Renaissance revival details with a streamlined, modern look. Much of the building's original ornamentation was removed.

A three-year exterior restoration project, which saw much of the building covered in scaffolding, ended in 2002 and added a new, computerized, multicolored nighttime lighting system, much like that of the Empire State Building; the colors change to denote particular holidays or important events. The gilded cupola at the very top of the building serves as an "eternal light" which stays illuminated even after the rest of the lighting system has been turned off for the night. (The building itself figured prominently in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's advertising for many years, illustrated with a light beaming from the top of its spire and the slogan, "The Light That Never Fails".)

The tower today
In March 2005, SL Green Realty Corp. bought the tower in anticipation of converting it into apartments. In May 2007, the tower was subsequently sold, along with adjacent air rights, to Africa Israel Investments for $200 million. It is speculated that the tower will be converted into either residential apartments or a high-end hotel. The landmark clock tower's address has since been changed to 5 Madison Avenue. The rest of the full-block office building (the "East Wing"), now has 15 stories and is mostly occupied by investment banking arm of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse refers to the building as One Madison Ave, or OMA. This building contains a New York City Subway station at the corner of East 23rd Street and Park Ave South (formerly known as 4th Ave)

Metropolitan Life Home Office Complex

Metropolitan Life North Building
By the late 1920s, the 1909 Met Life Tower and the 1919 North Annex were becoming too small to house the continuously growing activities of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Looking to expand, the company considered building on a full block site between East 24th and East 25th Streets. Ecole des Beaux Arts-educated architect Harvey Wiley Corbett left his position on the Rockefeller Center design team in order to take up this project in 1928. The final design for the new building was proposed as a 100-story, telescoping tower. However, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 caused the company to scrap plans for a giant skyscraper and instead built only a portion of the proposed tower. What stands of the North Building today, completed in 1950, is what was to be the 32-story base for the 100-story tower, built with the structural strength and number of elevator shafts (30) needed for a later completion. The primary tenant of the Metropolitan Life North Building today is the investment banking arm of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse refers to the building as Eleven Madison Ave, or EMA. The Metropolitan Life Home Office Complex, was added to the National Register on January 19, 1996.

^ Fully habitable, self-supported, from main entrance to highest structural or architectural top; see the list of tallest buildings in the world for other listings.


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Building Activity

  • removed a media and updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator