Lunch Atop a Skyscraper

"Lunch Atop a Skyscraper," Charles C. Ebbets

Now that the excitement of the publication of America’s Medicis: The Rockefellers and Their Cultural Legacy is receding, my existence has returned to the day-to-day dullness that often dominates a writer’s life. So I was excited when I received a call from Matthew Miele, asking me to serve as one of his experts concerning the building of Rockefeller Center, a story that figures prominently in my book.

Matthew, an independent filmmaker, is making a film about the iconic photograph “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper.” Most everyone is familiar with the eleven guys that nonchalantly sit atop a T-beam, way above Manhattan, reading their papers, eating a sandwich, smoking, chatting and otherwise relaxing during a well-earned break. According to the Rockefeller Archive in Sleepy Hollows, NY, this is the center’s most requested image. Until Miele came along, the photographer who took the picture was unknown, as well as details about how it was taken. Some expert sleuthing on Matthew’s part revealed not only the identity of Charles C. Ebbets, the photographer, but also that of the intrepid skywalkers to whom America owes the now ubiquitous architectural structures the country bequeathed the world. Matthew Miele is in the process of interviewing the descendents of Charlie Ebbets, as well as those of the construction workers themselves. The film will be released in 2012, celebrating the eightieth anniversary of when this amazing photograph was snapped. I can hardly wait for its release. In the meantime, you may wish to explore some wonderful photographs and other details at

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