Welcome back to Curbed's Could Have Been, where we investigate some of the most outlandish proposals and grandiose buildings that were never built. Know of a plan that never saw the light of day? Send it to the tipline.
On May 6, 1906, a full-page ad in the New York Tribune announced plans for a spectacular, 700-foot-tall globe tower that was to contain four circuses, amusement rides, restaurants, a hotel, palm gardens, and so much more. Architect Samuel Friede designed the enormous structure, which looked like a giant steel planet sitting on the Eiffel Tower base and topped with flood lights and telescopes. It was divided into 11 floors, each 50-feet high, and massive elevators moved between the stories. Friede leased a plot of Steeplechase property on Surf Avenue to build the globe, and he urged investors to help him raise the $1,500,000 it would cost to build. The cornerstone was laid in 1906, and the Tribune featured the proposal on the front page of the newspaper in January 1907, proclaiming that New York would soon be home to the second tallest structure in the world.
Friede originally tried to build a similar structure for the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. When that didn't happen, he moved on to Coney Island. An article by Jeffery Stanton on Westland details the plans for the globe, which can only be described as mindboggling. The first level would sit 150-feet above the ground and host a roof garden, restaurant, vaudeville theater, roller skating rink, bowling alley, and slot machines. The next level would hold an "aerial hippodrome seating 5000 people," featuring four circus rings representing different continents and four large animal cages. A miniature passenger train would circle the whole thing, naturally.
The main hall would be located on the third level. Here, one would find the world's largest ballroom, the moving glass restaurant. "A revolving strip twenty-five feet wide would carry tables, kitchens and patrons around the outer edge of the Tower to give the effect of eating in an airborne dining car," writes Stanton.
Next up: a hotel, with "small, but luxuriously equipped and padded with sound proofing for undisturbed sleep." Atop that, another, fancier restaurant situated within an Italian-style palm garden. Finally, on the highest level, there would be an observatory with telescopes that could see more than 50 miles and the largest search light in the world. On the outside, the whole thing would be ablaze with lights, so it resembled "a gigantic tower of fire," of course.
If this sounds too bonkers to be true, that's because it was. The cornerstone ceremony in May 1906 featured speeches, bands, and fireworks, but investors became anxious when, eight months later, no foundations had been laid. Another ceremony was hosted in February 1907, with more fireworks and speeches, and Friede said they were driving 800 concrete foundation piles?what was even more insane, is that he said that half the structure would be operational by May.
By the next year, it was clear to everyone that the whole thing was a big swindle, and the poor property owner George Tilyou was left with 30 foundation piles on his property. Had it been realized, the globe would have been the first resort in the world. What a shame Coney Island doesn't hold that distinction.
· Coney Island - Globe Tower Swindle [Westland]
· The New York City that Never Was: Part I, Buildings [Untapped]
· Curbed's Could Have Been archives [Curbed]