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Ayn Rand described it as “the most beautiful building in New York City.” It’s called the Art Deco Tower – but this National Historic Landmark has also been called the “Green Kremlin” and an “ugly green elephant.”

The Lobby of the Art Deco Tower at 330 W42nd Street. Photo: Samuel Herman Gottscho/Museum of the City of New York.

The 35-story building at 330 W42nd Street was completed in 1932, the same year as the Empire State Building, for publishing giant McGraw-Hill, which had outgrown its original offices on 10th Avenue (where you’ll find Cafe Grind and Sean Kelly Gallery today).

The building was the creation of architectural “bad boy” Raymond Hood, who rose to fame after winning a competition to create the Chicago Tribune Tower. As well as 330 W42nd Street, he designed other New York skyscrapers including the Daily News Building and the RCA building at Rockefeller Center.

The color could have been very different. Colors considered included yellow, orange, green, gray, red and even Chinese red. But the eventual blue-green was said to be McGraw’s own choice. Hood himself called it plain blue. McGraw-Hill always called it terra cotta green. The New Yorker, meanwhile, described it as “a rather dispiriting grayish-green tile.”

The color scheme was carried through to the interior. The entrance lobby (pictured) was finished in sheet steel bands enameled dark blue and green alternatively, separated by metal tubes finished in silver and gold. Even the elevators were finished in “green-backed enamel on steel” and the elevator operators wore green uniforms with silver stripes.

The building remained the tallest building in Hell’s Kitchen for decades, until One Worldwide Plaza rose up to the north in 1989.

The 10th floor of the building is where Martin Goodman founded the company that later became known as Marvel Comics, under the name Timely Publications in 1939. Timely Comics moved into the Empire State Building and Room 1010 at 330 W42nd Street is now a pensions office.

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