MetLife is an iconic Tower in New York City

MetLife skyscraper or Metropolitan Life Tower, as it is commonly known among locals, is one of the numerous famous historical skyscrapers found at one of the intersections in Middletown of Manhattan, New York City, USA, and inhabiting the entire block in the area. You can visit it alone, but it will be much more exciting to have such a private tour accompanied by a local private English-speaking tour guide who will arrange it for you in a language convenient for you and at the time you need. Our site features local New York City English-speaking tour guides who will be happy to plan an itinerary for you that includes the MetLife edifice and other unique sights of Manhattan.

MetLife Tower was invented by Napoleon LeBrun and its original structure was assembled in 1894 by Heddon Construction Company. This tower experienced many transformations during its life, especially dramatic in 1961-1966, and finally, at the end of 1977, it received the status of a “national historical monument”.

History of the Tower

In 1910, John Rogers Hegeman, a president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company authorized the company of Napoleon LeBrun to invent a belfry-style tower to expand the company's base. The construction started later and in 1910 the building was already opened, confirming the company's position as the biggest insurance company on the planet.

With its thin shaft, high roof, and lantern, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower resembles the famous San Marco Campanile in Venice, Italy. Initially scheduled at 200 meters (658 feet), the last altitude increased to 213 meters (700 feet). Encased in white Tuckahoe marble, the edifice grows above Madison Square at 23rd Street and Madison Avenue, where during dark the "light that never goes out" shines from a lantern, sparking hours and quarters of an hour.

In 1960-61, the tower underwent a bold renovation that extracted most of the classic details, including the patios and projecting cornice. The marble walls were substituted with pure limestone panels to match the Tower's modernized bottom. Today, the four dials remain the only memory of the ornate façade, although the scornful tower is still the illustrative element of the downtown skyline.

The Metlife Tower interior, which was reopened in 2015, is the luxurious 272-room New York Edition Hotel. The address of this hotel is 5 Madison Avenue and its office building, which is fully colonized by Credit Suisse, is known as 1 Madison Avenue. MetLife's original headquarters edifice was 11 levels tall, and the tower existed as a new expansion to the current form, which was finished in 1894 by Napoleon Lebrun and made in the Venetian towers’ style.

This initial facility was superseded between 1954 and 1958 by a new building designed by D. Everett Wade and modernized again during the 1960s. There are 4 clocks on each side of a tower leveled on the 25th and 26th floors, which are 8 meters (26.5 ft) in diameter. Any number on the dial measures about 1.20 meters (4 feet), and the minute hand weighs about 500kg.

The numbers and minute markers on the dials are decorated with copper plates, and the minute and hour hands are made of iron and completely covered with copper. The minute hand is 18 feet (5.5 m) long and the hour hand weighs 710 pounds (322 kg) and is 14 feet (4.26 m) long. The entire clock mechanism was powered by electricity, which was an absolute novelty in those days. The main tower clock, from which signals were sent to large external dials, as well as dozens of other smaller clocks located inside in the same complex, and located on the ground floor of the former home office, all these mechanisms worked with a maximum erroк of not more than six seconds per month.

At the time of their completion, the watch faces were the largest in the world. And at the same time, they were made of reinforced concrete. A blue tile runs around the circumference of each side and is glazed; in addition, inside each face, there is a unique insert of a mosaic crown. The dials themselves are adorned with designs by Pierre Lebrun from Napoleon LeBrun, which include shells and dolphins and shells at the corners, as well as wreaths with fruit and floral motifs in marble on the faces themselves. Takaho marble was originally the material that was purchased for the tower, as the main material for its facades but after later restoration work, it was substituted with limestone to shield not only the tower but the entire East Wing of the edifice with the same materials. This certainly significantly changed the old Renaissance look, but this was done primarily in order to convey a more elegant and modern appearance, while most of the decorations on the tower's facade were also dismantled at that time. The building was declared a New York City Landmark in 1988 and before the National Historical Landmark in 1977.

Metropolitan Life North Building

Around 1928, both the skyscraper and the North Extension became undersized to accommodate the booming business of the Insurance Company of Metropolitan Life. This is why it was decided to build a whole block between 24th East and 25th East streets.

The original plan was to design a 100-floor skyscraper, but unfortunately, the depression of the 1920s forced the business to change its strategies, and only part of the tower was made. The Met Life Building was constructed in 1950 and had 32 floors instead of the 100-story initially scheduled for the project. The primary resident of the Metropolitan Life North Building is Credit Suisse Bank.

The perfect central location of the modern Metlife Tower

The Met Life Building is found in the heart of downtown Manhattan among its prominent office submarket, along Grand Central Station and East 45th Street This 58-story building includes 3,078,513 square feet of luxury office and retail space, as well as a 4-level garage available to residents. This was part of a renovation project that was planned along with the renovation of the Central Station, which we also recommend that you visit accompanied by our local private English-speaking tour guide, which you can find on our website or in the application in just 2 clicks.

The site was purchased by the Met Life Insurance Company in 1981 and was renamed the MetLife skyscraper in 1993. The famous signs seen on the tower are about 7x7 meters, and the two uppercase letters weigh about 4,000 pounds each, which is incredible.

Highlights of the Metlife Tower

The Metlife edifice provides easy and convenient access to Times Square, Grand Central Station, and the New York Public Library due to its central location in Midtown Manhattan. It offers fantastic views of Bryant Park and many means of transport are available to local commuters, from the subway to bus routes.

You can also find a four-level car park that can accommodate almost 248 cars. To ensure maximum security, a modern security system has been installed on the territory. Get access to the best amenities, including first-class retail stores, top restaurants, a health club, child care facilities, and ATMs in this building close to Central Station.

New developments that defined the future of the Met Life skyscraper

The Metropolitan skyscraper underwent a radical renovation that began a 3-year repair assignment, with most of the structure hidden in the frame, that was finally ended in 2002. As with the Empire State Building, the tower featured more innovative technology. with multi-colored illumination that enlightened the facade of the tower. At the top of the building is a gilded dome that continues to illuminate the structure even at night.

For years, this skyscraper has been advertised by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company by the rays pouring from the top of the spire. In 2011, Tommy Hilfiger took a keen interest and autographed an agreement to purchase the facility to turn it into a hotel with extravagant flats. But he later abandoned the assignment and in October 2011 it was marketed to Marriott International for around $166 million. In January 2012, Marriott declared their plans to turn the edifice into a New York Edition hotel. Three Edition hotels in London, Miami, and New York were finally bought by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in 2014 for $812 million. However, Marriott continues to operate the hotel thanks to a long-term agreement that was extended in October 2015.


Initially, the appearance of the building, like the facades of many early skyscrapers, was visually divided into three horizontal sections, similar to the components of any building retaining column, including the base, shaft, and upper decorating part of any column the capital, both in its original and in an updated form. These three sections have a total height of 200 m (660 ft) and include usable space within the structure. The edifice is topped by a pyramid-shaped roof 12 m (40 ft) high. At the time of reconstruction in 1966, the familiar Tuckahoe marble cladding was substituted by plain limestone to maintain a uniform style of covering the east side and main base structure, including the tower itself the victims of these serious changes were the old Renaissance components, which were substituted by a simplified contemporary look.

The roof of the tower in the form of a multi-layered pyramid with dormer windows is decorated with a peristyle and a dome. The pyramid-like roof is located on the 39th floor and above and is accentuated by a cornice at the level of the 39th floor. From the 39th to the 43rd floors, dormer windows are scattered throughout the roof, some of the dormer windows have half-circle hoods, but the dormer windows on the 39th floor do not have hoods at all. On every side, the number of windows on the upper floors of the roof becomes smaller. The 44th floor is illuminated only by 2 small windows on the apiece side, these windows are found between the ribs of the construction, which rise to fix the square viewing terrace on the 45th floor. The 46th and 47th floors make up a two-story peristyle a space surrounded by columns, a rectangular courtyard, garden, or square, surrounded on all four sides by separate porticos or a covered colonnade. Such a peristyle comes from the ancient Roman atrium, the interior of a residential building. Copying the classic idea in the MetLife skyscraper, the peristyle is supported by eight columns. The gold-plated aluminum dome with eight windows is located on the 48th floor. The topmost 49th floor consists only of a platform with an aluminum railing also plated in gold. The next floors from 41st to 45th can only be visited by climbing up a narrow staircase. The observation deck at the MetLife Tower was originally open to the curious public, and there are statistics that from 1908 to 1913, about 120,000 tourists from all over the world visited it.


Inside the tower are hidden 4 bells in the peristyle. These include the 3,200 kg (7,000 lb) B bell in the west, the 1,400 kg (3,000 lb) E bell in the east, the 910 kg (2,000 lb) F bell in the north, and the G south bell, which reaches 680 kg 1500 pounds). These 4 bells were the highest in the world at the time they were placed on the tower. These bells are struck respectively with 4 special individual hammers weighing 43, 32, 28, and 24 kg (94, 71, 61, and 54 pounds respectively). The fifth hammer, which weighs 59 kg (131 lb), strikes a 3,200 kg bell every hour. Smaller hammers strike the bells every quarter of an hour. On weekdays from 9 am to 10 pm and on weekends from 10 am to 10 pm every 15 minutes, the bells played Handel's melody from the world-famous MESSIAH "I know that my Redeemer lives" written by the author in 1741.

The octagonal lighthouse, 2.4 meters (8 ft) thick, is located on the spire of the dome. According to the architects' plan, the white lantern should be lit after 10 pm and turned off for a moment every 15 minutes, when the white and red lights begin to flash. The lighthouse was the most visible and well-defined feature of Manhattan's night skyline until the mid-20th century.


The building plan for the tower section provided granite floors and interior furniture made of special metal, and unlike other modern buildings, there was very little wood trim. Bronze bars and doorways were provided on the lower floors, especially around the lifts, while decorative iron was used on the upper floors for the metalwork around the elevators. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's premises and headquarters were located on the second floor and were sheathed in white marble with plaster cornices, and there were a lot of decorative elements, such as marble fireplaces, etched glass doors facing the executive offices, and doors made of rare mahogany, walls and window panels. The area of each of the floors of the tower is up to 500 square meters (5400 square feet), which is significantly less than the area of other office establishments located in the vicinity of the Metlife tower. The staircase leading to the upper floors of the tower has also retained its original finish, including cast-iron railings, ceramic tiles in the wall sheathing, pure marble steps, and landings with mosaic tiled floors.

During the beginning of another reconstruction in 1953, the company demolished the extra yard buildings to make room for a new office building. The tunnel to the northern part was left in place, but at the level of the 8th floor of the new building, a suspended sky bridge was built. Thus, all the buildings of the company were connected until 2020 by a suspension bridge that connected the tower (center), the east wing (left) with the north annex of Met Life (right). During the reconstruction, which began in November 2020, the sky bridge to the North Building was demolished. The glazing and renovation of the building at One Madison Avenue are expected to be completed in 2024.

During a rebuild in the 1960s, the tower received more modern furnishings, full interior air-conditioning, ceiling tiles to dampen the acoustics of adjacent offices, and automatic elevators. All this was to equalize the comfort level of the east wing and the reconstructed tower. As of 2014, part of the tower is a 273-room luxury inn named the New York Edition Hotel, with an average double room per night of $700 and up. One of the few remnants of the former decor, perhaps, only marble floors remained. Much of the historic interior detailing has been removed from some of the hotel's rooms, but there are some remaining reminders, such as the inimitable crenelated ceilings. On the second floor is The Clocktower, an elite gourmet restaurant that is listed with a Michelin star. The restaurant has a dining area, a separate bar, and a billiard room, and can only be accessed through the lobby of the skyscraper.

Metropolitan Life created the facility to promote the company's image, and the leader of the company called the tower nothing less than a “symbol of integrity”, which any insurance business should be. Thus, the tower was initially surrounded by public attention. The view of the tower flashed on the covers of famous magazines, on the sides of coffee bags, boxes of cornflakes, and on the sides of cars and buses. Metropolitan Life estimated the cost of such free advertising around its skyscraper at about $500,000 (which, taking into account the value and exchange rate of the dollar, is equivalent to $14 million in 2022 in our time).

The Metropolitan Life Tower featured wisely in commercial advertisements for lots of years, featuring the light emanating from the lid of its steeple and the motto "The Light That Never Fails." While other insurance corporations used sculptural images for their promotion campaigns, Metropolitan Life used the facility itself to represent the work and ideals of the best insurer in the country and on the continent.

In a chronology book documented soon after the construction was achieved, the campaign described it as "the most beautiful home office in the world." The clock tower was also overwhelmingly positively rated by general critics, with one unknown author very metaphorically describing the clock tower as "a hopeful melody you hear in a clear timetable".

The Metropolitan Life skyscraper of the South Building was recorded on the Historic Places National Register in 1973 and declared a Landmark of National Value in 1977/ This skyscraper is obviously New York's best sightseeing that any tourist visiting Manhattan can visit with a private local English-speaking tour guide, or on a local tour of the city!


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Comments (1)
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  • OOI Kim Beng 23:16 22 FEB 2023

    I think New Your is a crazy city, with crazy buildings and hectic everyday life. How the locals can survive in this chaotic rhythm and such high prices for a property?

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