Rockefeller Center

An Opera House to Mitsubishi Estate

Construction of Rockefeller Center

The land under Rockefeller Center was leased to John D. Rockefeller Jr. by Columbia University in 1928. It was a project lease of 27 years, and with an option for three 21-year renewals for a total of 90 years. When the stock market crashed in 1929, Rockefeller was prompted to quit the project, or become the sole financier after investors left it for something more promising. Originally the project was for an Opera House, but Rockefeller worked with Raymond Hood, the principal architect to the project, and came up with the fourteen original buildings in the ArtDeco style. Construction began in 1930, and finally ended in 1939. In 1931, Ivy Lee, an advisor to the Rockefeller family, suggested the name Rockefeller Center, contrary to what John D. Rockefeller had intended; he didn't want his family's name attached to the complex, but was persuaded when he heard that it would attract more people to the complex. While the building complex was beginning to be constructed, approximately 40,000 people worked on the construction. Rockefeller Center was one of the largest building project ever worked on in modern times. Buildings were completed and opened in 1939. In 1985, Columbia University sold the land to the Rockefeller Group, and then later, the Rockefeller Group sold it to the Mitsubishi Estate in 1989.

How The Complex Was and Is Being Used

During the mid-1930s, German Intelligence wanted to use the space, but after John D. Rockefeller found out about the Nazis and World War II, they were turned down. In Room 3603, the Rockefellers rented out the space to British Intelligence, and soon became the center for Allied Intelligence. These meetings were arranged and organized by the CIA's head, William Stephenson.

Celebrations are often held in Rockefeller Square. The Annual Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting. This began on Christmas Eve of 1931, when the workers were receiving their paychecks, an unusual prospect at the time. The workers lifted a 20-feet tall Christmas tree, and in 1933, the first annual tradition of the lighting of the Christmas tree. Also, during November through March, Rockefeller Square hosts an ice skating rink.