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February 27, 2012

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Lizchair

Your comments about NYC growing upwards, instead of outwards, reminded me of a myth linking the appearance of telephones in offices and the building of office skyscrapers. Many writers (then and now) assert that the telephone made the existence of skyscrapers possible in two ways: firstly, in their construction (a line could be strung up so that workers on the ground could communicate with workers at the top of the building); and secondly, in their design. In such large buildings, with so many employees, the number of messages travelling around the offices would have been enormous. If staff relied on messenger boys to convey these messages up and down the skyscraper, they would have needed so many lifts that, from an architectural viewpoint, such a building would have been impossible. There is little in the way of direct evidence and it seems that the story just got repeated over the decades without being checked. Clause S. Fischer explains this more elegantly in his "America Calling."

Perhaps the upward movement was to do with prestige? A flashy office downtown in a high-rise building is more awe-inspiring, and if they can afford the higher property prices as well ....

I enjoy reading your posts - always so varied and unusual!

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