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Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City

Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City

The Roaring Twenties in New York was a time of exuberant ambition, free-flowing optimism, an explosion of artistic expression in the age of Prohibition. New York was the city that embodied the spirit and strength of a newly powerful America.

In 1924, in the vibrant heart of Manhattan, a fierce rivalry was born.  Two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former friends and successful partners, but now bitter adversaries), set out to imprint their individual marks on the greatest canvas in the world-the rapidly evolving skyline of New York City.  Each man desired to build the city’s tallest building, or ‘skyscraper.’ Each would stop at nothing to outdo his rival.

Van Alen was a creative genius who envisioned a bold, contemporary building that would move beyond the tired architecture of the previous century.  By a stroke of good fortune he found a larger-than-life patron in automobile magnate Walter Chrysler, and they set out to build the legendary Chrysler building.  Severance, by comparison, was a brilliant businessman, and he tapped his circle of downtown, old-money investors to begin construction on the Manhattan Company Building at 40 Wall Street.

Prologue: The Soaring Twenties

Part One

Chapter 1. A Hunch, Then a Demand

Chapter 2. The Architect-Artist

Chapter 3. A Proud and Soaring Thing

Chapter 4. The Organization Man

Chapter 5. Make the Land Pay

Chapter 6. An American Invention

Chapter 7. The Poet in Overalls

Chapter 8. To Scrape the Sky

Chapter 9. Equivalent to War

Chapter 10. A Three-way Race

Interlude: Oxygen to the Fire

Part Two

Chapter 11. Call It a “Vertex”

Chapter 12. A Monument to the Future

Chapter 13. The Prize of the Race

Chapter 14. The Butterfly and Its Cocoon

Chapter 15. Crash

Chapter 16. Pharaoh Against Pharaoh

Chapter 17. Aladdin’s Genii and Paper Fights

Chapter 18. The Chase into the Sky

Chapter 19. Excelsior

Epilogue: Spirit—Not Steel and Stone



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