Fact Sheet: United Nations Headquarters
With the plans approved, action to carry them out moved ahead quickly. The 270 residential tenants were relocated at United Nations expense, the meat packers and bargemen departed, and the existing buildings were demolished. The construction contract was awarded in January 1949 to a combination of four large New York building firms. Nineteen months later, on 21 August 1950, the Secretariat workers moved into their new offices.
The first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie of Norway, laid the cornerstone at a dedication ceremony on 24 October 1949 (UN Day), in the presence of President Harry S. Truman of the United States. The inscription on the cornerstone is "United Nations" in the five official languages used in 1949 (Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) with the date in Roman numerals.
The cornerstone was prepared with a metal box containing a copy of the Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights, a copy of the schedule of meetings and documents such as the meeting records of the Headquarters Advisory Committee. The box was sealed by Secretary-General Trygve Lie and Director of Planning Wallace K. Harrison. The cornerstone is underground east of the Library Building on the southern boundary of the UN site.
The first major addition to the Headquarters complex was the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, completed in 1961.
Over the years, the interiors of the buildings have been altered to accommodate the many States that have joined the Organization since its inception. In 1947 when construction plans were drawn up, there were 57 Member States, and provision was made for an increase in membership to 70. This anticipated increase had been exceeded by 1955. An expansion programme was completed in 1964 providing space for a membership of 126.
To accommodate the greatly expanded membership of the United Nations, the General Assembly in 1976 approved a set of major alterations to refurnish and enlarge the seating capacity of the General Assembly Hall and all the large conference rooms. Alterations were completed in 1980.
Since the growth of the staff could not be accommodated in the existing Secretariat Building, it has been necessary to rent office space in adjacent buildings. A large number of staff, including the personnel of the United Nations Development Corporation (UNDC), is located across First Avenue on 44th Street. The Corporation is a public-benefit, non-profit Organization created by New York State to provide facilities for the United Nations and related Organizations.
A third building was erected in early 1987 by the Corporation to house the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
A modern documents reproduction plant was completed in June 1981. It occupies two levels beneath the broad lawn north of the Assembly Building.
Another project was a 750-seat cafeteria for staff and delegates, located in a two-storey building at the south-east corner of the Secretariat Building overlooking the East River. This structure was finished in 1982.
The most ambitious renovation to date was launched with a ground-breaking ceremony on 5 May 2008, marking the beginning of a five-year, $1.9 billion overhaul of the UN landmark complex.