Tag Archives: 1907

2 Cornelia Street

2 Cornelia Street

2 Cornelia Street, also known as the Varitype Building and “the Greenwich Flatiron,” is a distinctive wedge-shaped loft building turned residential condominium in 1982.

The building was originally intended for light manufacturing, offices, and artists’ lofts, according to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. As a result, the apartments have ample windows under 11-foot ceilings. Thanks to the neighborhood’s landmark status, views all around are protected from high-rise incursion.

Even though the building isn’t particularly luxurious, a 2 BR/2 Bath unit on the 2nd floor is renting for $7,500/month, while a 4 BR/3.5 Bath 10th/11th floor duplex is offered at $23,000/month. A 6th floor 2 BR/2.5 Bath apartment is listed for sale at $2.5 million.

2 Cornelia Street Vital Statistics
2 Cornelia Street Recommended Reading

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84 William Street

84 William Street was originally the headquarters of Royal Insurance Company (before it moved to 150 William Street). Now, it’s a residence hall shared by The New School and Pace University.

The base of the building – three stories now clad in polished black stone – were originally rusticated white marble; the clock over the rounded corner entrance was originally surrounded by ornate terra cotta.

In the photo gallery above, the black & white photos are from bound copies of Architecture (May 1907) in the Princeton University Library, digitized by Google Books. You can get a pdf version here (pdf link at far right on Google Books page). The century-old issues of Architecture are fascinating. The bookplate in this volume says it was donated by Mrs. Michel LeBrun – whose husband was part of the eminent architectural firm Napoleon LeBrun & Sons.

84 William Street Vital Statistics
  • Location: 84 William Street at Maiden Lane
  • Year completed: 1907
  • Architect: Howells & Stokes
  • Floors: 17
  • Style: Classical with English Baroque
84 William Street Suggested Reading

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90 West Street Building

The 90 West Street Building is an extraordinary building – for its architecture, and for surviving 9/11.

But to begin at the beginning: The West Street Building was built as an office building for shipping and rail companies – West Street in 1907 was on the Hudson Riverfront. The architect, Cass Gilbert, was a master of the tripartite design commonly used for tall buildings, but the West Street Building was different. Gilbert de-emphasized the base, emphasized the vertical lines of the shaft, and finished with a “Gothic fantasy” capital, including a three-story mansard roof. (Gilbert’s initial plans included a five-story tower at the top.) Where Gilbert’s earlier Broadway Chambers Building used terra cotta ornament in its upper stories, the West Street Building was almost entirely clad in terra cotta. Even the inside of the building used terra cotta, for fireproofing.

The building changed hands in 1923, and was modernized in 1933 – including a new Gilbert-designed lobby. In 1998 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the West Street Building a landmark. It was still in use as an office building on Sept. 11, 2001, when debris from the South Tower of the World Trade Center rained down on 90 West Street.

The north (Cedar Street) facade was gashed, the roof was destroyed, and eight floors of the building were gutted or heavily damaged by fire. Although the building changed hands several times and was in limbo until 2003, the new owners were able to restore the shell thanks to the terra cotta fireproofing.

The three-year restoration converted the offices to 410 rental apartments. Contractors had to replace 75 percent of the north facade’s granite, and 7,853 pieces of terra cotta. Explore the Suggested Reading links for the full story on the restoration.

90 West Street Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 90 West Street between Albany and Cedar Streets
  • Year completed: 1907
  • Architect: Cass Gilbert
  • Floors: 23
  • Style: Gothic Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1998
  • National Register of Historic Places: 2007
90 West Street Building Suggested Reading

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Grand Madison Apartments

Grand Madison Apartments is now in its third life. It was originally conceived as a replacement for the Brunswick Hotel, but built as offices instead under the name Brunswick Building. Later it became a showroom center, the Gift and Art Center Building. And since 2006, it has been luxury condominium apartments, attracting the likes of Chelsea Clinton and her husband (who have since moved, but I felt like name-dropping).

Curiously, although Grand Madison Apartments overlooks Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building, the official website identifies instead with Gramercy Park – eight blocks away.

Grand Madison Apartments Vital Statistics
Grand Madison Apartments Recommended Reading

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Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House is one of New York City’s most important landmarks, both for its history and for its architecture.

Historically, this is the site of New York’s first Custom House; the first building burned down. The choice of architect was the first major use of the 1893 Tarnsey Act, which allowed private architects to design public buildings. Cass Gilbert won the commission, after heated (and controversial) competition. The United States Custom House also served as a test of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission: In 1965 the then-new agency was designating a federal building as a city landmark, and the regional administrator for the General Services Administration (GSA) argued that the city had no authority to regulate federal property. (Nonetheless, the city returned in 1979 to declare the interior as a landmark!)

The building was hugely important to the nation: Import duties charged here and at other ports financed the government, in the days before an income tax. The Customs Service moved to the World Trade Center in 1971. The building was empty for a decade, and slated for demolition until Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D, NY) sponsored a bill to restore the Custom House. Additional legislation required the GSA to find new uses for unused federal buildings (they needed a law to figure that out?). Now, the building is shared by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the National Archives, and the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution).

You can’t tell it from these photos, but the Custom House is actually trapezoidal: The back of the building is wider than the front.

Cass Gilbert’s Beaux Arts design is filled with symbolism and references to classical architecture. The four monumental sculptures in front of the building, sculpted by Daniel Chester French, represent the continents Asia, Africa, America, and Europe. Statues representing 12 seafaring nations stand above the front facade’s columns; the Corinthian capitals of the columns include the head of Mercury (representing commerce); second-story windows are topped by heads representing the “eight races of mankind.”

How did Belgium wind up among the top 12 seafaring nations? According to “Secret New York, An Unusual Guide,” the statue was originally Germany, but ordered changed after the outbreak of World War I.

Interior details are equally rich (and also designated a New York City Landmark). New York artist Reginald Marsh painted the murals in the second floor rotunda, as part of a Treasury Relief Art Project (an offspring of the W.P.A.) in 1937.

(The GSA has an extensive photo gallery showing interior details.)

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House Vital Statistics
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House Recommended Reading

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The Langham is an elegant bookmark separating the more famous Dakota (to the south) and San Remo. The building is a restrained Beaux Arts / French Second Empire; the lower 10 floors are dignified rusticated limestone and brick, with restrained decoration and Juliette balconies. The 11th floor is more heavily decorated, and the 12 and 13th floors – in the mansard roof – are the most elaborate.

Originally, the building had just four apartments per floor: Each a luxury home that included three or four bedrooms, two servant’s rooms, library, living room, and dining room. All were entered via an elegant foyer (or if you were a servant or tradesman, via a back service elevator). The Langham touted a central refrigeration system to provide ice to each apartment (before mechanical refrigerators), mail delivery via conveyor belt, and a central vacuum cleaning system. A carriageway on W 73rd Street provided access via a back lobby. More importantly, in the days before air conditioning, each apartment had windows facing in four directions, thanks to three light courts along the back (west) side.

The building now has 64 units. But the apartments now range from two to eight bedrooms (a combination of a five-bedroom and a three-bedroom), with rents ranging from $4,250 to $60,000 per month. In 2008, The Gawker listed The Langham as one of the 20 most expensive rentals in New York City.

The Langham has had more than its share of celebrity tenants: Irving Bloomingdale, vice president (and son of the founder) of Bloomingdale’s; Isadore Saks, with his son, Joseph. Isadore Saks founded Saks & Company; Martin Beck, head of the Orpheum theater chain, who built the Palace Theater; Edward F. Albee, head of the Keith and Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chains and grandfather of the playwright Edward Albee; Lee Strasberg, the actor and teacher. Last, but not least, actress Mia Farrow had an 11-room apartment in The Langham, which was used in the filming of Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

The Langham Vital Statistics
The Langham Recommended Reading

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Prasada is one of New York’s most distinctive pieces of architecture, though not everyone’s favorite. The Beaux Arts apartment building is too heavily ornamented for some, even those who appreciate the building’s landmark qualities. One critic derides the “banded limestone ‘marshmallow’ columns that I have always regarded as one of the truly tasteless architectural elements of all time.”*

Modern viewers have been deprived of the architect’s vision, however. The original French Second Empire mansard roof, balconies and iron railings were removed over the years, altering the structure’s visual balance. Prasada’s original three-apartments-per-floor has (through combination and division) ballooned to 47. Those apartments were two-, three- and four-bedroom affairs – plus one or two servant’s rooms!

Nonetheless, there’s high demand for Prasada’s cooperative apartments: In 2013, the penthouse changed hands for a reported $42 million. Monthly maintenance on the 6,500-square-foot unit is reportedly $19,114. That probably doesn’t include washing the 45 windows.

*Francis Morrone, “The Architectural Guidebook to New York City.”

Prasada Vital Statistics
Prasada Recommended Reading

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