The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

mighty temples

with 8 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neo gothic handiwork of architect Morrell Smith is hard to miss as one moves about Queens Plaza, and it is known to all as the former Bank of Manhattan Tower. Formerly the tallest structure in the borough of Queens at 14 stories (roughly 210 feet), the 1927 vintage building has since been dwarfed by the Citibank Megalith at Court Square. Smith was a noted architect of the early 20th century and had his hands in more than one landmarked structure in Queens (and Manhattan), and his projects also included the notable Jamaica Savings Bank which is found further east.

Crenellated, its spire carries a clock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal observation has revealed that these clocks are seldom if ever accurate, and often they do not match up with each other. My understanding, gleaned from municipal and real estate industrial complex propaganda, is that the hidden mechanisms which drive these clocks are undergoing some sort of restoration as is the rest of the building- although specific detail remains elusive. The building itself is another one of the “black holes” in the historical record which distinguish western Queens- a noteworthy structure erected to serve a high profile company sited in a prominent location which is nevertheless relegated to an architectural footnote because its location is outside of Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator acknowledges that, as always, whenever the subject of Queens Plaza and it’s locale comes up one must refer to the hierophants at the Greater Astoria Historical Society– however- one does not wish to stand on the shoulders of others forever and I have resisted making inquiries with them about the place. Unfortunately, independent research has offered little surcease to my curiosity about the clock tower or offered the deeper story and meaning of this building. Rumors of late 20th century bacchanals and Astorian apocrypha about certain rites conducted in its lofty heights during the thunder crazed nights of the the second world war era notwithstanding, there is a dearth of information available for me to share with you about the place. An open call is therefore made to you, Lords and Ladies of Newtown, for any information which might serve to inform your fellow citizenry on this enigmatic structure.


8 Responses

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  1. I don’t know anything historically about the building, but I certainly know that it’s not 2,100 feet tall. that would make it almost twice as high as the “King of All Buildings” the Empire State, at 1,250 feet. At 14 stories, that’d make each floor 150 feet tall.

    Jason A. Specland

    November 21, 2011 at 11:17 am

  2. Nice photos Mitch. “Crenellated, its spire carries a clock.” Clocks. Are there 2 more on the other sides? And the top is not spired. Man, I’d like to get up in that little tower on top of the tower. So this is now the 2nd tallest Queens structure? What’s the 3rd, 4th, etc.? The NYS Pavillion in FMCP seems taller to me. No?


    November 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  3. There is a 1200 ft Bank of Manhattan building (spire included) in Manhattan. The Bank of Manhattan building in Long Island City is only 178 ft. The tallest tower of the NYS pavilion is 225 ft but being merely an observation tower, it may not be considered a proper building.

    The history of the B of M building otherwise seems pretty straightfoward unless I’ve missed something.
    Mitch, can you please elaborate on what makes a bank building an object of mystery?


    November 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

    • Whoops, Typing too fast without looking- it’s the Bank of America building at 1200 ft in Manhattan.


      November 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  4. If thine apostrophe offend thee, pluck it out…


    November 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm

  5. Hey. love the blog. I have some questions about this site as well.
    What was the last company that occupied the ground floor?
    Who owns the building? Is it Andover or are they just the realtor/management company.
    Why wasn’t landmarked?

    But I did find this bit of new news…;

    1927: First skyscraper in Queens opens

    The first skyscraper in Queens, a branch of the Bank of the Manhattan Company in Long Island City, was dedicated 81 years ago this month.

    The 14-story tower was the largest office building in the borough and was built at a cost of $1 million, the Times reported. The building, located at 29-27 41st Avenue, has a four-faced clock tower, and was 85 percent leased when it opened.

    The tower is now home to unions, professional services and small businesses. During World War II, it housed the offices of the U.S. Employment Office of the War Manpower Commission.

    The building is not landmarked and was included in the 2001 rezoning intended to increase density in Queens Plaza. The 52,000-square-foot building is modest by today’s standards and since 1989 has been dwarfed by the tallest building in the borough, the 50-story Citibank tower located several blocks south, at Court Square.

    Compiled by Adam Pincus

    Lynn del Sol

    May 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm

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