Summer Film Night: Men at Lunch: The Untold Story of a City’s Legend

  • Date

    Friday, August 20 2021

  • Time

    8:00pm - 9:15pm

  • Location


New York City, 1932. The country is in the throes of the Great Depression, the previous decade's boom of Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants has led to unprecedented urban expansion, and in the midst of an unseasonably warm autumn, steelworkers risk life and limb building skyscrapers high above the streets of Manhattan. 

In Men at Lunch, director Seán Ó Cualáin tells the story of "Lunch atop a Skyscraper," the iconic photograph taken during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza that depicts eleven workmen taking their lunch break while casually perched along a steel girder—boots dangling 850 feet above the sidewalk, Central Park and the misty Manhattan skyline stretching out behind them. 

For 80 years, the identity of the eleven men—and the photographer that Immortalized them—remained a mystery: their stories, lost in time, subsumed by the fame of the image itself. But then, at the start of the 21st century, the photograph finally began to give up some of its secrets. Part homage, part investigation, Men at Lunch is the sublime tale of an American icon, an unprecedented race to the sky and the immigrant workers that built New York. 


Run Time: 1h 7 min 

Year: 2012 

Film by: Seán Ó Cualáin 

Produced by: Éamonn Ó Cualáin 

Available on Google Play and Kanopy. You may need to set up an account and/or rent to view this film.

Organized by: Washington Architectural Foundation

This program is part of Summer Film Nights, a weekly film pick showcasing architecture, design, or urbanism all summer long. Grab some popcorn, get comfy, and enjoy the film!