Tag Archives: McKim Mead & White

Goelet Building

Goelet Building * looks surprisingly modern for architecture more than a century old. The structure was built in two stages. The first five floors were completed in 1887. The original sixth floor was demolished in 1906 and replaced with five floors that more or less mimicked the three floors below.

The Maynicke & Franke addition blends very well with the McKim, Mead & White original. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission notes minor differences in materials and patterns, but the final result maintains a colorful, yet elegant appearance. This is no small accomplishment; add-on floors can be disastrous. Just take a look at De Lemos & Cordes’ 1889 Armeny Building, defaced by a two-story addition in 1893.

As with their Warren Building diagonally across the street, McKim, Mead & White faced the challenge of a non-rectangular plot. They rounded the corner, to avoid the awkward corner dictated by the property line.

In his New York Times Streetscapes column, historian Christopher Gray lauds the Justin family for rescuing the Goetlet Building from decline. Zoltan Justin bought the building in 1977. He and son Jeffrey cleaned the facade, removed non-historic elements, and restored the structure to its original glory.

* Not to be confused with the 1932 Goelet Building, now known as Swiss Center Building, located at Fifth Avenue and W 49th Street.

†See Tom Miller’s post in Daytonian in Manhattan for a look at the original six-story building.

Goelet Building Vital Statistics
Goelet Building Recommended Reading

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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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Morgan Library

The Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue comprises three classical, landmark buildings and a fourth, modern addition that joins the three into a complex that’s doubled in size.

The original buildings are J. P. Morgan, Jr.’s House (1853, originally built for Isaac N. Phelps), on the SE corner of Madison Avenue and E 37th Street; J. Pierpont’s Private Library (1906, designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White), mid-block on E 36th Street between Madison and Park Avenues; and J. Pierpont’s Private Library Addition (1928, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris), on the NE corner of Madison Avenue and E 36th Street. The library addition was built on the site of J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr.’s mansion, after his death. (J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. opened the library to the public in 1924.)

In 2006, the museum built a further addition, planned by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The modern addition connected the three original buildings and also filled the lot east of the 1853 brownstone.

In 2010, the museum restored the original library – the McKim building – to its original splendor under guidance of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The interior restoration included new lighting and the re-installation of the original chandeliers, deep cleaning, and replacement of plexiglass exhibit covers with non-glare acrylic. You can see before and after photos of the interior here.

Incidentally, the lionesses guarding the Morgan Library entrance on E 36th Street – Prudence and Felicity – were carved by Edward Clark Potter, the same sculptor who created the New York Public Library lions Patience and Fortitude.

Morgan Library Vital Statistics
  • Location: Madison Avenue between E 36th and E 37th Streets
  • Year completed: 1853 (house), 1906 (private library), 1928 (addition), 2006 (second addition)
  • Architect: McKim, Mead & White (private library), Benjamin Wistar Morris (addition), Renzo Piano Building Workshop (second addition)
  • Style: Italian Renaissance (private library), Florentine Renaissance (addition)
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1966
Morgan Library Suggested Reading

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Municipal Building

When the well-respected McKim, Mead and White entered the design competition for the Municipal Building as a favor to then-Mayor George B. McClellan, the firm had never designed a skyscraper. Yet their William Mitchell Kendall came up with a plan that not only won the competition, it served as a model for at least ten other buildings in the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The design inspired Cleveland’s Terminal Tower (1930), Chicago’s Wrigley Building (1920) and Moscow’s “Seven Sisters” – seven Stalin-era structures designed at the end of World War II (an eighth was designed but never built).

The Municipal Building, in turn, was inspired by the 1196 Giralda Tower in Seville – originally a mosque’s minaret, then annexed by the cathedral that replaced the mosque. An earlier minaret – Koutoubia, in Morocco – may have inspired Giralda tower. (See the New York Architecture – Giralda Towers article.)

The Municipal Building also borrowed its central arch from Rome’s Arch of Constantine, and the colonnade from Bernini’s at St. Peter’s. (Chambers Street used to pass under the Municipal Building, through the arch.)

The building is the first building in New York to incorporate a subway station in its base. (The 4, 5 and 6 Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall and J, M and Z Chambers Street stops have a common entry via the building’s southern arcade.)

“Civic Fame,” the 25-foot-tall gilded statue atop the Municipal Building, is New York’s third-tallest statue, after the Statue of Liberty and “Bellerophon Taming Pegasus” at the Columbia Law School. Like the Statue of Liberty, “Civic Fame” is a hollow copper shell on an iron frame. The statue’s left arm fell off in 1936, crashing through a 26th-floor skylight into what was then a cafeteria.

Municipal Building is among the world’s largest governmental buildings, built to accommodate the agencies governing the five boroughs, consolidated in 1898. The 40-story monument houses more than 2,000 employees in nearly 1 million square feet of space.

The Municipal Building has appeared in several films (including 1984’s Ghostbusters), television shows and video games. The building was designated a NYC landmark in 1966 – only 52 years after completion. (And the Landmarks Preservation Commission itself moved into the building in 2001.)

Municipal Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 1 Centre Street at Chambers Street
  • Year completed: 1914
  • Architect: William M. Kendall (McKim, Mead and White)
  • Floors: 40
  • Style: Renaissance
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1972
Municipal Building Suggested Reading

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Warren Building

Warren Building is a neo-Renaissance gem with exquisite detail, refurbished in 2012. Though stripped of its original first floor colonnade and fourth floor balconies, the building’s marble and terra cotta trim, combined with roman brick, are stunning.

The prominent firm of McKim, Meade & White designed this seven-story building – and also designed the Goelet Building diagonally across Broadway. Broadway cuts diagonally across E 20th Street, making corners a little awkward (because we expect building corners to be right angles). McKim, Mead & White finessed the Warren Building’s corner with a chamfer; the Goelet Building’s corner is rounded.

Warren Building Vital Statistics
Warren Building Recommended Reading

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