Rockefeller Center Is Giving Guests The Opportunity To Recreate The Famous ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ Photo

Published December 8, 2023

"The Beam" raises visitors up about 12 feet and spins them around for a gorgeous, panoramic view of New York City.

Rockefeller Center Beam

X (Formerly Twitter)The Beam at the Top of the Rock.

New York City isn’t lacking in scenic views, but a new ride at Rockefeller Center promises to provide a unique — and historical — twist on the experience.

Called “The Beam,” this ride recreates the famous photograph “Lunch atop a Skyscraper”, which captured 11 construction workers enjoying their lunch from a beam 850 feet above ground during the construction of Rockefeller Center in 1932.

As of December 1, visitors looking to get a remarkable view from the Top of the Rock can have their photo taken on The Beam as part of the VIP pass, which starts at $160.

The experience takes place on the 69th floor observation deck, more than 800 feet above the ground — the same height at which the iconic photograph was taken. Visitors are strapped into a seat along The Beam, which then rises up about 12 feet before rotating 180 degrees, providing stunning views of Manhattan and Central Park that match the backdrop of “Lunch atop a Skyscraper.”

The Beam then swivels back around, allowing visitors to have their photo taken in the style of the famous photograph — which is still shrouded in some mystery.

Despite the original photo’s widespread fame, various theories about who took it and the identities of the men within the image have circulated in the 91 years since it was released.

The photograph was first published in the New York Herald-Tribune on Oct. 2, 1932. At the time, it resonated deeply with the American public, becoming a symbol of hope that America could rebuild amid the Great Depression.

Lunch Atop A Skyscraper

Wikimedia CommonsThe original photo, “Lunch atop a Skyscraper.”

While the candid appearance of the workers in the photograph is certainly part of its appeal, the image was actually staged by the photographer as part of a publicity campaign. But to this day, no one knows for certain who actually captured the picture.

There were three photographers at the site that day — Charles Ebbets, Thomas Kelley, and William Leftwich — but it’s not clear which of them took the photograph.

The story of “Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” and the various rumors surrounding it, was later explored in the 2012 documentary Men At Lunch, which showed filmmakers Seán and Eamonn Ó Cualáin tracking down the photo’s original glass plate negative.

In doing so, they debunked rumors suggesting the photograph was fake. But there was still much for them to discover.

Of the 11 workers in the photo, for example, only two have been officially identified: Joseph Eckner, the third man from the left, and Joe Curtis, the third man from the right.

The brothers also spoke with a pub owner named Patt Glynn, who was convinced that his father, Sonny Glynn, is the man in the far right of the photo with a bottle in his hand, and that his uncle, Matty O’Shaughnessy, was the man on the far left with a cigarette. Unfortunately, the Ó Cualáin brothers were never able to confirm Glynn’s suspicions.

But perhaps all of the mystery surrounding the original photograph is part of what has made it such a lasting image. Since it was first published in 1932, it has been recreated countless times and referenced in works of pop culture like The Simpsons. Now, The Beam at Rockefeller Center is making it easier than ever before to recreate this iconic photograph.

After reading about Rockefeller Center’s newest attraction, read the heartwarming story behind the first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Or, see our gallery of 50 famous photos that changed our world.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Harvey, Austin. "Rockefeller Center Is Giving Guests The Opportunity To Recreate The Famous ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ Photo.", December 8, 2023, Accessed June 13, 2024.