Great Fortune

Great Fortune

The Epic of Rockefeller Center

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780142001776
  • 528 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


In this hugely appealing book, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, acclaimed author and journalist Daniel Okrent weaves together themes of money, politics, art, architecture, business, and society to tell the story of the majestic suite of buildings that came to dominate the heart of midtown Manhattan and with it, for a time, the heart of the world. At the center of Okrent?s riveting story are four remarkable individuals?tycoon John D. Rockefeller, his ambitious son Nelson Rockefeller, real estate genius John R. Todd, and visionary skyscraper architect Raymond Hood. In the tradition of David McCullough?s The Great Bridge, Ron Chernow?s Titan, and Robert Caro?s The Power Broker, Great Fortune is a stunning tribute to an American landmark that captures the heart and spirit of New York at its apotheosis.

Great Fortune

Great Fortune

Daniel Okrent


New York Times Notable Book – Winner


A great book. Nuanced, clever and rollicking, itÆs nonfiction as a work of art. (The New York Observer)

Altogether stirring and vivid and enjoyable. (The New Yorker)

Puckish good humor and elegant prose. (The Wall Street Journal)

Delightful and exhaustive (but never exhausting)à the dazzling, complex story of how New YorkÆs acropolis came to be. (The Smithsonian)

Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader

Prologue: May 21, 1928 and September 30, 1939

  1. The Heart of This Great City
  2. A Commonplace Person
  3. These Properties Will Be Greatly Increased in Value
  4. I Chose the Latter Course
  5. Architecture Never Lies
  6. Tears of Joy to a Small Business Man
  7. I Like Having a Lot of People Against Me
  8. A Genius
  9. A Hundred Lawsuits
  10. Let Owen Young Do It
  11. Who Designed Rockefeller Center?
  12. Wondering Where I’m Going to Get the Money
  13. Our Architects Deserve to Remain in Chains
  14. Desperate for Business
  15. Give ‘Em Something Better
  16. Ruthlessness Was Just Another Word for Good Business
  17. All the Finns in Helsingfors
  18. What Do You Paint, When You Paint on a Wall?
  19. I Was Not Interested in Sitting and Listening
  20. Visitors Give Him Dollars
  21. The Snake Changing Its Skin
  22. The Kingdom of the World
  23. The Demand is Almost Unbelievable

Epilogue: 1948-2003

Illustration Credits

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