Posted by: Chris Kretz | April 23, 2009

Who Was Robert Dowling? Part 2: Inventing the Glass Door

In 1935, Robert Dowling was working for the Starrett Corporation (builders of the Empire State Building). As quoted in a New Yorker profile from 1960, Dowling relates the idea he had for brightening up the lobby of the company’s Bank of Manhattan building at 40 Wall Street:

We built a set of doors, using glass that was fired very hard, and installed them, and threw a big opening ceremony. Grover Whalen broke a bottle of champagne over one of the doors and didn’t even scratch it, but I can tell you I was holding my breath. Then Hank Greenberg batted some baseballs as hard as he could against the other one, and still nothing happened, so the doors were a great success. The next day, though, Paul Starrett, the head of our company, tried to walk right through one of them and broke his glasses.”

“Profiles: Useful on the Grand Scale”
The New Yorker
Robert Shaplen
November 5, 1960

The 40 Wall Street building, by the way, was momentarily the tallest building in the world when it was completed by the Starret Corporation in 1930, only to be surpassed by the Chrysler Building that same year. Starret had their revenge when their  Empire State Building was completed in 1931, which stood as the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center went up in 1972. 40 Wall street is now owned by Donald Trump.


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