Long Lines Building, 33 Thomas Street – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura
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New York, New York

Long Lines Building, 33 Thomas Street

An uber-secure, windowless tower of doom in the center of Manhattan is an NSA spyscraper. 

So you finally noticed that terrifying, windowless skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan? It’s fine, really. Now, move along.

Officially known as the “Long Lines Building,” New York’s doom-iest tower was designed in 1974 by architect John Carl Warneke. Though its most noteworthy feature is its utter lack of windows, the building is also noteworthy for its unusually high ceilings and for being designed to bear an extremely large amount of weight per square-foot. 

Not that the latter two details are something the layperson would ever be privy to witnessing on their own, of course. The name “Long Lines” suggests a lovely hat tip to the building’s architectural elements, but in reality the sky fortress was originally created to house AT&T’s carrier exchanges for their long distance telephone switches and equipment. Today it continues in that purpose, while also storing a portion of the company’s datacenter processing. This ephemeral element of the technological infrastructure has been deemed so important that the building is able to survive nuclear fallout and exist off-grid for up to two weeks without issue.

What’s more, it’s since come to light that this ominous building is used as a hub for NSA spying—a brick-and-mortar arm of the surveillance state. As reported by The Intercept, the fortified skyscraper was not only made to safeguard critical telecommunications equipment, a sort of fortress for the information age, it also houses equipment for controversial government data collection and wire tapping, codenamed TITANPOINTE.

One look at the skyscraper’s face should tell you that public admittance isn’t an option. But that beautiful, terrifying image you have in your head of stories upon stories of telephone cables and digital boxes stacked 18-feet high, glowing within 33 Thomas’ impenetrable walls might just be better than the real thing, anyway.