Michelle Kung
October 10, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Now a mecca for tourists, New York City’s Rockefeller Center began rather humbly. In GREAT FORTUNE, EW contributor Daniel Okrent traces the 11-acre tract’s development from the Elgin Botanical Garden in the early 19th century to today’s media megaplex. After John D. Rockefeller Jr. took over the land from Columbia College in 1929, he intended to build a new home for the Metropolitan Opera — but his plans evolved into one of the Depression era’s most ambitious building projects. Designed by a team of ideologically incongruous architects, the landmark endured vitriolic attacks from the press, the usurpation of family power by favored son Nelson, and even a brief flirtation with cash-rich Nazi Germany as a tenant before emerging as an aesthetic and commercial success.

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