The Atlantic’s CityLab recently posted some late nineteenth-century designs for a Great Tower of London. The first one in the stack was a 1,355 foot sky scraping behemoth designed in Rochester USA…
In 1889 the 1,000-foot Eiffel Tower had just been unveiled at the Paris Exposition. And although the Brits said they thought it hideous, they wanted one of their own. So a design competition was launched which drew 68 proposals from around the world, all of them at least 200 taller than Eiffel’s.
The design from Rochester was attributed to an M.T. Otis. But just who this Otis person was has me scratching my head.
Maps of Rochester are littered with references to an Otis, but that would be General Elwell Stephen Otis . General Otis commanded American forces in the Spanish-American War. Rochester even had an arch and an official “Otis Day” (June 15, 1900) for him.
Could M.T. Otis have been some relation to Elisha Otis and his famous elevator company? Otis Elevator Company did have offices in Rochester at 527 East Main Street, but I couldn’t find a connection there.
Emily Morry, Historical Researcher at Rochester Public Library was able to find a George T. Otis in the city directory of 1890. And as it turns out, George was an architect, and had a firm named “G.T. Otis and C.F. Crandall” located in the Ellwanger and Barry Building. Hmmm… G.T. but no M.T.
Perhaps the M.T. Otis in the catalog of design submissions had been a typo? That would be some insult added to injury after his design for the Great London Tower didn’t even get picked. Then again, the London tower never was built either so, humpf.
If it’s any consolation, George did get the opportunity to design Rochester’s Y.W.C.A. building on North Clinton Avenue and it DID get built in 1912. Aaaand then it was replaced by a much larger building in 1951. Doh!
UPDATE: Matt Denker correctly points out that these designs may have been from some other “Rochester USA” not necessarily NY. The search continues for the real M.T. Otis.
Tags: architecture, Emily Morry, England, G.T. Otis, G.T. Otis and C.F. Crandall, General Elwell Stephen Otis, Great Tower in London, London, M.T. Otis, North Clinton Avenue, Otis Day, Otis Elevator Company, Rochester, Rochester NY, Rochester Public Library, Scientific American, Spanish-American War, YWCA, YWCA building
This entry was posted on Monday, March 9th, 2015 at 10:13 am and is filed under Architecture, Rochester History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.