December 17th marks the 80th anniversary of the AP’s move to The Associated Press Building at 50 Rockefeller Plaza. Although the AP left Rockefeller Center in 2004, Isamu Noguchi’s stainless steel sculpture, News, created for the building, still marks the place where 66 years of AP history unfolded.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. leased most of the land for Rockefeller Center on a long-term lease from Columbia University in 1928, eventually replacing the 229 brownstones on the site with 14 commercial towers. The 1929 stock market crash and the Depression that followed slowed progress on the development which was not completed until 1940.
Below is text from a December 19, 1938 AP story:
Associated Press Occupies New Home; Moves to Rockefeller Center Without Hitch
The Associated Press moved early yesterday morning into its new seventeen-story [sic] home in Rockefeller Center from its old quarters at 383 Madison Avenue. It accomplished the shift without the slightest interruption in its twenty-four-hour collection and distribution of worldwide news for 1,350 member newspapers of the cooperative, non-profit organization.
Transfer of the news department from old to new quarters presented one of the most delicate problems. But it was accomplished at the ebb-time of news, between 2 and 4 A.M. and Associated Press officials reported that there had not been a single hitch.
"Spare" or duplicate equipment was installed in the new home before the news department started on its six-block move. For about two hours the A.P.'s 285,000-mile leased-wire system operated from both old and new headquarters.
Ready for use in case of any emergency, the new wirephoto network was installed. In the old offices and in the new, teletypes pounded away in unison. Reporters remained on duty in the old news rooms while other reporters began to perform their duties in the new.
The change of operations to the new building was accomplished step by step, but rapidly. Teletypes stopped one by one in the old quarters while similar machines in the new building carried on without a break in the news sequence.
Operations in the old building finally were reduced to one main trunk wire. Over it came a last story of the favorite Christmas toy of "Sistie" and "Buzzie" Dall, grandchildren of President Roosevelt.
In a message to The Associated Press staff before the change was made, Kent Cooper, general manager of The Associated Press, said:
The Associated Press Building to which the New York offices are to move is a monument to its newspaper members and its empolyes [sic]. Through ninety years they have mutually striven that an accurate, unbiased chronicle of events, interestingly recorded, be available to newspaper readers. What you have aided in accomplishing in the past must continue in the future, so that “By The Associated Press” shall prevail as long as the rights of a free press continue to make possible an uncensored, unfettered collection and dissemination of truthful news.”
The new AP building was dedicated on December 25th, 1938 with a dramatization by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), celebrating what was then believed to be AP’s 90th anniversary. Since that time, documents have been added to the AP Corporate Archives which date the AP’s founding to 1846, not 1848.
Text written by Francesca Pitaro, AP Corporate Archives.
Written content on this post was not created by the editorial department of AP.