World’s First Skyscraper Plans for Auction

. January 17, 2011 . 0 Comments

An astonishing mid 19th century design for what would have been the world’s first skyscraper is for auction at Bonhams Gentleman’s Library Sale in London on 19 January.

After the Great Exhibition of 1851, it was decided to move the Crystal Palace from Hyde Park and proposals were invited to redesign the building. By far the most imaginative idea came from the architect Charles Burton who proposed stacking the iron frame upwards to fifty storeys. This made Burton the first man ever to suggest building a skyscraper.

His drawing of the proposed 1,000 ft high metal and glass building is set in the context of other famous large man-made structures, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Basilica of St Peter’s in Rome and the Pyramids, to show how tall it would have been. It is estimated to sell for between £800-1,000.

In the event, of course, the Crystal Palace was moved, in an enlarged form, to an area of Sydenham in south London to which it subsequently gave its name. It was destroyed by fire in 1936.

Bonhams 19th Century Picture specialist, Sam Travers, says, “The first skyscraper went up in America in the 1880s though there is some debate about which building can claim the accolade. It’s fascinating to think that 30 years earlier in London Mr Burton had quietly come up with the same idea.”

The Gentleman’s Library Sale is now in its 11th year. It features all kinds of objects that may have been found in a Victorian or Edwardian Gentleman’s Library from fossils to cigarette boxes, leather armchairs to globes, chess sets to family portraits.

Category: Auction News

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