U.N. Headquarters

Rockefeller Keeps the U.N. in U.S.

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 1946

When the United Nations was created in 1945, after the trauma of World War II, it lacked a home. The organization initially met in cramped quarters at Manhattan’s Hunter College and on Long Island. The inadequate arrangements forced the new body to look for permanent accommodations in other cities or overseas. Switzerland was a possibility. Hours before a final decision was due, John Rockefeller Jr. swooped in with an irresistible offer: He would buy 17 acres along the East River in Manhattan and donate it to the international organization. The U.N. quickly accepted the multimillion-dollar gift.

Rockefeller was motivated by a hope that the U.N. could help avert future catastrophes like the previous world wars, and that having the organization in the United States made it less likely that it would stray into mistaken or irrelevant policies. He also saw practical benefits: New York City would enjoy economic benefits, American diplomats would have easy access to counterparts in a convenient location, and U.S. intelligence could keep an eye on foreign officials.

  • Raymond Fosdick, John D. Rockefeller Jr.: A Portrait (Harper & Brothers, 1956)
  • Peter Collier and David Horowitz, The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1976)