Remarks at the Topping Out Ceremony

Wriston, Walter B.


We are not here this afternoon for a dedication, but a topping-out --which is a special kind of ceremony. In the old days, they called it raising the roof, and it was a time when you needed your neighbors to help you lift the rooftree.

Today we have specialists to do the job. And the specialists assembled here are the best in the business. As a result of their skill and plain hard work Citicorp Center promises to become that rare modern commodity: a new building which not only opens for business on time, but which enhances the neighborhood in which it stands.

Many things go into creating a great building. It takes --besides large amounts of money-- the skills and vision of all kinds of people: planners, architects, bankers, realtors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, efficiency experts, personnel directors, stockholders, interior decorators, lighting experts, traffic managers, system analysts, and countless others. But, in the end, the most important, absolutely indispensable people are the men and women who actually put it all together. This day really belongs to them.

And not only today. One feature of the new building will be a plaque on which will be inscribed the name of every man and woman who has worked on its construction --a reminder as permanent as the structure itself of where the credit really belongs. Citicorp Tower will be the world's seventh tallest, but that's not the really important thing.

What is important is the preservation of St. Peter's Church, the spiritual values which it represents, and the beautiful new home which this complex has created for it. What is important will be the atrium, the arcades, the cafes and the international shops through which will flow much of the life of our city. What is important is the constructive contribution the men and women who will work in this building will make to our city and nation.

The Center will not be a place where men and women come to work from nine to five and then forget about. It is designed to be a living, positive part of the neighborhood it stands in, twenty-four hours a day, and for decades to come. It is a giant step toward the goal of erasing and replacing what critics have so long described as "the impersonal architecture of the city."

I would like to add one final word about the city of which the new Center is now a part. The people who have worked for the Citibank have been part of the life of New York City for one hundred and sixty-four years. Those of us who work here today know that New York is not just an assembly of shops and buildings. It is more than a collection of goods and services. It is a community where men and women come together because they believe that whatever they seek in life is more likely to be found here than anywhere else. And they are right. The history of civilization is really the history of cities. Like it or not, the most impressive achievements of human art and skill, the highest expression of man's spirit, are always found in his cities.

Like every city, New York has its critical moments. There are times not suited in Tom Paine's words, for the summer patriot and the sunshine soldier --but the final result is never in doubt. In the end, the city not only survives, but prevails. This new building is a very tangible expression of our faith in New York and New Yorkers.

  • The document was created from the speech, "Remarks at the Topping Out Ceremony," written by Walter B. Wriston for the Topping Out Ceremony at Citicorp Center on 6 October 1976. The original speech is located in MS134.001.003.00010.
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