Tag Archives: beaux arts

Cable Building

Cable Building

Cable Building, at the southwestern corner of the NoHo Historic District, is the last remnant of a San Francisco-style cable car system that once served lower Manhattan. The nine-story* Beaux Arts building housed the massive steam engines and winding wheels that pulled 40-ton cables at 30 mph. Alas, the cable system was uneconomical. The last cable car ran just seven years after the first.

For architects McKim, Mead & White, this was their first all-steel-frame building. The four-story-deep basement held the machinery. Above ground, it was a doughnut of offices built around a central light court. Both of the building’s Houston Street corners are chamfered. Light orange brick and terra cotta rise above the two-story limestone arcade base.

While Broadway’s Bowling Green-to-36th Street cable cars did not survive, Cable Building did. Metropolitan Traction Company reorganized as New York Railways Company, and sold the building in 1925. For the next six decades the structure housed small businesses and manufacturers. Then in the late 1980s it went back to being an office building.

Angelika Film Center took up residence in 1989, using the four basement floors.

* The building appears to be eight stories, if you count the floors of large windows. But tiny square windows tucked under the cornice – and larger windows in the north facade – reveal an attic ninth floor.

Cable Building Vital Statistics
Cable Building Recommended Reading

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Beacon Hotel and Theater

Beacon Hotel and Theater share a Broadway facade, but it’s the theater’s interior that keeps getting rave reviews. Conceived as part of the Roxy theater chain, the showplace was described by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) as “…a lavish space with stylistic effects drawn from the traditions of Greek, Roman, Renaissance, and Rococo architecture.”

The buildings are a collaboration of Samuel L. Rothafel – better known as Roxy – and The Chanin Construction Company. LPC explains, “Undoubtedly pleased with the success of combining three theaters with the Hotel Lincoln, thereby providing common building services for all, the Chanins saw a combination theater-hotel structure to be a logical solution for the site.”

Alas, Roxy’s plans did not pan out. Warner Bros. Pictures wound up with the theater lease. The Beacon continued as a movie theater until 1974, when the programs switched to live performances. The LPC designated the interior a landmark in 1979. In 1986 developers wanted to convert the Beacon to a disco – plans that were halted by a judge who said the conversion would irreparably harm the landmark’s architecture. Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s parent company, Cablevision, leased the Beacon in 2006. Cablevision restored the theater at a reported cost of $10 million. Madison Square Garden Company now manages the Beacon.

P.S. It’s called Beacon Hotel because of an airplane beacon on the roof.

Beacon Hotel and Theater Vital Statistics
Beacon Hotel and Theater Recommended Reading

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Siegel-Cooper Buildings

The Siegel-Cooper Dry Goods Store, designed by DeLemos & Cordes (New York), was the world’s largest store when opened in September 1896. The Beaux Arts-style building on Sixth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets had the other distinction of being the first steel-framed store in New York City. The same architect designed the Siegel-Cooper warehouse a few blocks away. (And in 1902 De Lemos & Cordes designed Macy’s Herald Square – which took over the “world’s largest” title with its expansion in 1924.*)

The current tenants at 620 Sixth Avenue are Bed Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls.

The warehouse/wagon house is a block-through building with entrances on 17th and 18th Streets, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The 18th Street Side is currently used by Barneys New York.

Siegel-Cooper Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 616 Sixth Avenue between W 18th and W 19th Streets
  • Year completed: 1897
  • Architect: De Lemos & Cordes
  • Floors: 6
  • Style: Beaux Arts
Siegel-Cooper Warehouse Vital Statistics
  • Location: 249 W 17th Street block-through to 236 W 18th Street between Seventh and Eight Avenues
  • Year completed: 1902
  • Architect: De Lemos & Cordes
  • Floors: 6
Siegel-Cooper Buildings Suggested Reading

*Korean chain Shinsegae took over the title in 2009 with a store in Busan.

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New York Public Library

With Bryant Park at its back and ample space all around, it’s not just the jewel, it’s also the setting that makes The New York Public Library such standout architecture. (Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets)

The site of the library and adjacent Bryant Park had been the Croton Distributing Reservoir. Bryant Park, incidentally, is a “green roof” for the library’s expanded (in 1980s) storage space.

The fascinating history of the New York Public Library system – and the main branch, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Public_Library.

The library is about to undergo massive internal changes – a circulating library is being installed in space now occupied by book stacks. (See articles by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.)

New York Public Library Vital Statistics
  • Location: 476 Fifth Avenue between W 40th and W 42nd Streets
  • Year completed: 1911 (official opening)
  • Architect: Carrère and Hastings
  • Floors: 7
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1967 (exterior), 1974 (interior)
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1965
New York Public Library Suggested Reading

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Ansonia Hotel

The Ansonia Hotel was built as a luxury residential hotel in 1904; today it’s a condominium with a quirky history and a commanding presence on Broadway at 73rd Street (just north of the Amsterdam Avenue crossover).

The developer, William Earle Dodge Stokes, filled the Ansonia Hotel with architectural innovations: it was steel framed, the first air-conditioned hotel, and had a lobby fountain – with live seals. What’s more, there was a short-lived roof-top “farm” that provided fresh eggs and milk! The architect, Paul E. M. Duboy, also designed sculptures for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (90th Street/Riverside Drive).

Architecturally, the Ansonia is classed as Beaux Arts style, with huge terra cotta decorations, Parisian-style Mansard roof and corner turret-towers. The building has New York City landmark status and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Of historical note, the building was once home to Continental Baths (gay baths where Bette Midler and Barry Manilow performed) and later (in the same space), swingers’ club Plato’s Retreat. Babe Ruth, Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinksy, and Enrico Caruso were among the Ansonia’s celebrated residents. And, while it’s of absolutely no architectural content, don’t miss “Movies, books, scandals, and stars” in the Wikipedia entry!

The building was converted to condominium in 1992.

Ansonia Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 2101 Broadway between W 73rd and W 74th Streets
  • Year completed: 1904
  • Architect: Paul E. M. Duboy
  • Floors: 17
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1972
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1980
Ansonia Hotel Suggested Reading

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The Dorilton

Although the Dorilton apartments (co-op) doesn’t take up the entire block, it certainly seems that way, towering over the intersection of Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue and 71st Street. Designed by the firm of Janes & Leo in the Beaux Arts style, the structure was completed in 1902 and remains an impressive piece of New York architecture.

The Dorilton’s ornate facade is best seen from Broadway/Amsterdam Avenue, though the nine-story arched entrance is on 71st Street.

The Dorilton is a New York City landmark and listed in the National register of Historic Places. The building has attracted many architectural critiques – see the sample below.

The Dorilton Vital Statistics
  • Location: 171 W 71st Street at Broadway
  • Year completed: 1902
  • Architect: Janes & Leo
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1974
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1983
The Dorilton Suggested Reading

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69th Regiment Armory

The 69th Regiment Armory, aka Lexington Armory, is notable for its design and its events. Unlike earlier armories in New York City, it is built in the Beaux-Arts style instead of mimicking a medieval fortress (though, for Beaux-Arts, the armory has very little ornament). The armory made history as the site of the 1913 Armory Show – where modern art was first publicly presented in the United States.

The armory is located on Lexington Avenue between East 25th and East 26th Streets; it was designed by the firm of Hunt & Hunt and erected in 1904-1906. The armory became a NYC Landmark in 1983, joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Besides the famous art show, the armory has hosted track and field events, roller derby, basketball games (NY Knicks between 1946 and 1960), Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, and Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festivals.

69th Regiment Armory Vital Statistics
  • Location: 68 Lexington Avenue between E 25th and E 26th Streets
  • Year completed: 1906
  • Architect: Richard Howland Hunt and Joseph Howland Hunt
  • Floors: 5
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1983
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1994
69th Regiment Armory Suggested Reading

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Masonic Hall

Masonic Hall and the associated Masonic Building owe their existence to a third building, the Masonic Temple, which was demolished in 1910. The Masonic Temple was designed by by Napoleon LeBrun (himself a Mason) and erected on W 23rd Street in 1870. The Masons built Masonic Hall on adjoining property on W 24th Street as an addition to the Temple, in 1909. Harry P. Knowles, head-draftsman of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons (and also a Mason), designed the addition. The Masons then decided to replace the Masonic Temple with a loft building, to generate income to finance the lodge’s activities. This building, too, was designed by Knowles and erected in 1913.

Both Masonic Hall and Masonic Building are designed on the three-part scheme that treats tall buildings as classical columns: base, shaft and capital. Masonic Hall was designed in Beaux Arts style, Masonic Building in neo-Renaissance style; both are built without setbacks, as they were erected before the 1916 zoning law change. The buildings are interconnected via a pedestrian passage with shops and a restaurant.

Masonic Hall and Masonic Building are included in the Ladies Mile Historic District, designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1989.

Harry P. Knowles also designed Mecca Temple on W 55th Street – now known as City Center.

Masonic Hall Vital Statistics
  • Location: 46 W 24th Street at Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1909
  • Architect: Harry P. Knowles
  • Floors: 18
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1989
Masonic Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 71 W 23rd Street at Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1913
  • Architect: Harry P. Knowles
  • Floors: 19
  • Style: neo-Renaissance
  • New York City Landmark: 1989
Masonic Hall & Building Suggested Reading

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Hotel Wolcott

Hotel Wolcott was built at the time when Herald Square was becoming New York’s “center of gravity” for entertainment, shopping, restaurants and hotels. While some prominent hotels were built on the avenues – Fifth Avenue and Broadway – mid-block properties offered quieter ambience without sacrificing convenience.

The Beaux Arts/Second Empire style was adopted for many hotels of the period. However, architect John H. Duncan designed Hotel Wolcott with oversized, flamboyant decoration to make it stand out on the mid-block location and to be unique among competitors.

John H. Duncan designed several NYC landmarks, the best-known of which are the General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb) and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.

Hotel Wolcott Vital Statistics
  • Location: 4 W 31st Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway
  • Year completed: 1904
  • Architect: John H. Duncan
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 2011
Hotel Wolcott Suggested Reading

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Herald Square Hotel

Herald Square Hotel, though grossly altered, remains a bright spot on West 31st Street – just across the street and down the block from the larger Hotel Wolcott. It’s also where some fascinating histories intersect.

The building, designed by Carrère & Hastings, was erected as the home of Life magazine in 1900. At the time, Life was the upscale humor magazine that discovered Charles Dana Gibson, the artist behind the famous “Gibson Girls.” Other contributors included Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley and Norman Rockwell. Gibson had a studio in the building, and took over Life magazine after John Mitchell, one of the founders, died in 1918. The magazine went into decline, and was forced to sell the building. Ultimately Henry Luce bought Life for its name.

The building was converted to an apartment hotel in 1937 and has changed hands several times. It was purchased by the Puchall family in 1970, and restored over the years. However, the family made drastic alterations to the top floors in 1995, eliminating the mansard roof.

Herald Square Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 19 W 31st Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway
  • Year completed: 1900
  • Architect: Carrère & Hastings
  • Floors: 8
  • Style: Beaux Arts
Herald Square Hotel Suggested Reading

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