Woolworth: Caissons

The book A History of the Singer Construction that I was mining last week is not unique. The position of skyscrapers in the early twentieth century – interesting expressions of the high-tech of the day, accessible to view by any passers-by – meant that they were popular subjects for magazines and newspapers, and that publicity …

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Singer: Caissons

There’s a stereotype that New York’s skyscrapers are all founded on shallow bedrock. There used to be a myth that skyscrapers were clustered around Wall Street and midtown because that’s where bedrock was high, making the foundations cheap. There are a lot of problems with this story, starting with the fact that if people only …

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Under Our Feet

Everyone knows that New York has subways, so even people new to the city who are fascinated to hear the sound of a train though a grating in the sidewalk are not surprised by it. The underground structures for other trains, including the station yard for Grand Central, are something else entirely. The yard is …

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Excavation As An Extreme Sport

That’s the beginning of the construction of Grand Central Terminal, in 1908. To place everything, both the second and third (current) Grand Central straddle Park (Fourth) Avenue on the north side of 42nd Street. This picture was taken from approximately the line of 45th Street, a half block east of Park Avenue, looking south. Grand …

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Construction History: Grillage Foundations

In any rapidly-changing technology, there are sometimes branches off the main stream that are critically important, highly developed, and short-lived. People work very hard to perfect something that they need, only to have it replaced by something better a few years later. Structural engineering is not now changing rapidly, but 125 years ago it was. …

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