Books: America's Town Square

Rockefeller Center is one of the world's most elegant places. How it got that way wasn't pretty

In 1935, many years before Katie Couric put her blessing on the place, the estimable Gertrude Stein laid eyes on the spanking-new Rockefeller Center. She planted herself on the Fifth Avenue side, gazed down toward the RCA Building and, in that singular way of hers, pronounced the view "the most beautiful thing I have ever seen ever seen ever seen."

Stand in the same spot today, and what can you do but agree agree agree? Let's concede that the place could use a few more outdoor cafes and trees. But outside of Central Park, Rockefeller Center is the handsomest great space...

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