SkyHouse is residence constructed within a previously unoccupied penthouse structure at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in New York City.
With its steep hipped roof of projecting dormers and chimneys set over a base of enormous arched windows, the exterior of the penthouse gives the impression of an ornate Beaux-Art mansion suspended midway within the iconic vertical cityscape of Lower Manhattan. But this exterior shell was essentially an ornament for the skyline; inside was a raw space with only the original riveted steel structure -among the earliest steel frame of any surviving tower in New York- providing evidence of the late 19th century when the building was built.
The enormous angel caryatids at the corners of the four-story penthouse which crowns this building serve to advertise its original role the headquarters of the American Tract Society, a publisher of religious literature which constructed this early skyscraper in 1895.
The American Tract Society building is one of the earliest -and one of the oldest surviving- steel framed skyscrapers in New York. It is the last survivor of a group of early skyscrapers, built across from City Hall to house competing publishers, which were the tallest buildings in the world at the time they were constructed in the late 19th century. The New York Tribune Building just to the north was constructed in 1875 and the domed New York World Building was the tallest in the world when completed in 1890. The World was demolished in 1955, and the Tribune in 1966, leaving the Tract Society Building as the only surviving skyscraper from Newspaper Row.
The height of the penthouse and the configuration of the existing steel framing supporting it, permitted four interior levels: a main level occupying the full floor at the base of the penthouse, a mezzanine of home office space overlooking the main level, a third level of bedrooms set at the base of the tapering roof, and a fourth attic level set into a triangular prism of space just beneath the truss which supports the roof ridge.