Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings between 48th and 51st streets and spans the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in New York City. John D. Rockefeller Jr., leased the massive space from Columbia University in 1928 and started construction in 1930 with what they originally thought was to be an Opera House for the Metropolitan Opera. This idea however fell apart after the stock market crash of 1929. Construction began on May 17, 1930 and was completed on November 1, 1939. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Presently, Rockefeller Center is a combination of two building complexes, the older and the original 14 office buildings from the 1930s, and a set of four towers built along the west side of Avenue of the Americas during the 1960s and 1970s. The newer Rockefeller Center buildings now are home to The Time-Life Building, McGraw-Hill and News Corporation/Fox News Channel headquarters, owned and managed by the Rockefeller Group.(rockefellergroup.com)
The Radio City Music Hall is also a part of Rockefeller Center and was completed in 1932. During the years of its completion it was promoted as the largest and most luxurious theater in the world. Although at first it was not successful, with the help of David Sarnoff, founder of NBC, and Samuel Roxy Rothafel, founder of the Roxy Theater Radio City Music Hall was able to get off the ground with success it would need. Radio City Music Hall was originally going to be called “International Music Hall” in the beginning but was changed however to reflect the name of its neighbor, Radio Corporation of America or RCA. RCA was one of the complex’s first and most important tenants and the entire Center. After decades as a premiere showcase for motion pictures and elaborate stage shows, the theater converted to presenting touring performers and special events in 1979. Each holiday season features the annual musical stage show, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a tradition for more than 70 years. The Music Hall seats 6,000 people and after an initial slow start became a popular tourist destination in the city. Its interior was restored in 1999. (rockefellergroup.com)
The General Electric (GE) building is also another main attraction for Rockefeller Plaza. This building is the center of Rockefeller Center and is the ninth tallest building in New York City. The building was renamed in the 1980s after General Electric re-acquired RCA or NBC, which it helped found in 1919. The famous Rainbow Room club restaurant is located on the 65th floor; the Rockefeller family office covers the 54-56th floors. (time.com) The GE Building, also known as 30 Rock, was also famously constructed as a slab with a flat roof, where the Center’s newly renovated observation deck, the Top of the Rock is located, which was first built in 1933. (gonyc.com)
The ethnographic assignment is by definition a combination of being both objective and subjective through the use of facts along with our own opinion and reflection. This assignment challenged all of us to use the blend of these two very different ideas and creatively use them to make our streets or areas come alive for the reader. In order to fully have this effect, ethnographic research needed to be conducted as thoroughly as possible. This required researching facts and the history of our area or street and using this research to formulate our own ideas about the area. For example,
In essence, people create knowledge for other people. We all leave behind history through word of mouth, documents, etc. For this ethnographic assignment and for my area specifically, I found that knowledge for Rockefeller Center did come from people, but also more so from the buildings that comprise the Plaza. Of course, people are responsible for making these buildings, but the buildings are their legacy. John D. Rockefeller’s legacy is obviously the Plaza including the GE Building, Radio City Music Hall, and the incorporation of public art; all of which make up knowledge of the area through their endurance from their construction to present day.
The role of the ethnographer in relation to the place is to take the time to be as thorough and detailed as possible in order to give the area as much justice as possible. The ethnographer’s responsibilities are very crucial as well and very similar. The ethnographer is responsible in making all the research reach the desired conclusion, having it come alive, as referenced earlier. These responsibilities include, in my opinion, making sure all of the factual research is accurate and properly cited as well as making sure the research is thorough and covers all of the important aspects of the area are incorporated.
1. “A Brief History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – Photo Essays – TIME.” Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com. Web. 26 Aug. 2010. .
2. Cross, By Heather. “Rockefeller Center – Visitors Guide to Rockefeller Center.” New York City Travel from About.com – Guide to New York City Tourism, Restaurants, Hotels, Etc. Web. 26 Aug. 2010. .
3. “History of The Rockefeller Group.” History of the Rockefeller Group. Web. 26 Aug. 2010. .