Tag Archives: romanesque revival

The Arlington

The Arlington is the last and tallest of four ornate Romanesque Revival/Queen Anne style apartment buildings built on Montague Street; the others, designed by the Parfitt Bros. firm, are The Montague (105), and The Berkeley/The Grosvenor (111/115). The 10-story tower makes this one stand out.

Playwright Arthur Miller lived here, as well as artist/filmmaker Marie Menken and poet Willard Maas.

An Arlington resident – Chuck Taylor – seems to be the building’s self-appointed historian: He’s written four blog pieces about the structure. His Smoking Nun essay includes vintage photos of Montague Street when it was a trolley route, and before.

The Arlington Vital Statistics
The Arlington Recommended Reading

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Pershing Square Building

The Pershing Square Building’s days may be numbered. Unless the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission intercedes, this tawny brick and terra cotta structure is in the path of the midtown rezoning proposal designed to encourage development of new office towers.

Although the building was completed in 1923, its foundations were laid in 1914 – thus escaping the 1916 zoning law that required setbacks on tall buildings. The polychrome brick and terra cotta was novel at the time.

The large terra cotta figures at the fifth floor level are Roman caduceators, or peace commissioners; one version holds his caduceus, the other holds a cornucopia of peace. Nice touch, for a building named for a World War I general.

The Pershing Square Building stands on the site of the original Pershing Square – the former site of the Grand Union Hotel, which was demolished in 1914 for construction of the Lexington Avenue subway. The city sold the land instead of developing the park and memorial to General John J. Pershing. Pershing Square moved across the street to the site now occupied by the Pershing Square (aka Park Avenue) Viaduct ramp and Pershing Square Cafe.

You may note that the Pershing Square Building blends in very well with the neighboring Bowery Savings Bank. It’s no accident. The same firm designed the bank in a complementary style.

Pershing Square Building Vital Statistics
Pershing Square Building Recommended Reading

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Franklin Trust Company Building

Franklin Trust Company Building (aka Franklin Tower Apartments) was built to impress. The bank is no more (absorbed through mergers into present-day Citibank), but the building still impresses.

The former bank/office building stands at the corner of Montague and Clinton Streets, on the block where Montague transitions from residential to “Bankers’ Row.” Diagonally across the street are three consecutive bank buildings.

In 2009 Rothzeid Kaiserman Thomson & Bee (RKTB) performed a $10 million “gut renovation” of the building, creating 25 condo apartments plus retail spaces while preserving and restoring the exterior.

Franklin Trust Company Building Vital Statistics
Franklin Trust Company Building Recommended Reading

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Fashion Center Building

Fashion Center Building, in the words of The New York Times, “is hardly a traffic-stopping landmark.” But its entrance and its terra cotta decoration are noteworthy – someone was paying attention to details.

The Seventh Avenue entrance was restored in 1994 to close to its original state – the ornate wrought iron grill had been removed and the vestibule had been enclosed with a line of modern doors. The restoration architect, George Ranalli, added modern touches in the floor, lighting and lobby desk, but otherwise preserved the spirit of the original.

Fashion Center Building Vital Statistics
Fashion Center Building Recommended Reading

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McIntyre Building

McIntyre Building is one of New York’s quirky oddities. For starters, people can’t agree on its architectural style, because architect Robert H. Robertson mixed several styles in the design. People don’t always agree on the building’s name – it was built by Ewen McIntyre, but the lobby mosaic spells it “Mac Intyre” – and the typo is how many refer to 874 Broadway. The owner was a druggist, but he never used the building – the ground floor was occupied by a now-defunct bank.

Over the years, occupants sometimes blurred the lines. In the ’60s, people started to live in the building – though it didn’t have a residential occupancy permit. A seventh-floor nightclub, Cobra Club, operated illegally in the ’70s. The club’s trademark snakes reportedly escaped the glass terrariums from time to time, and live snakes were reported on the loose for years after. It’s currently a co-op – and one that’s spent big bucks to preserve the McIntyre Building’s unique style. The residents even paid to restore century-old wooden windows rather than replace them with modern metal sashes.

McIntyre Building Vital Statistics
McIntyre Building Recommended Reading

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PS 1

PS 1, originally First Ward School, was built in 1892 when Long Island City was actually an independent city. The building’s 35 classrooms were supplemented with a new wing in 1905, which added 21 classrooms. New York City still owns the building.

The square tower at the building’s southwest corner originally had a clock and bell. The school closed in 1962; in 1978 the NYC Institute of Contemporary Art reopened the building as “Project Studios One” gallery and studio space. The Museum of Modern Art took over the museum (via merger) in 2000. MoMA appended a cast concrete entrance building to the site’s northeast corner in 2011.

The restored red brick and terra cotta structure is a joy to look at, but the concrete addition seems to shout, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

PS 1 Vital Statistics
PS 1 Recommended Reading

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Bleecker Tower

Bleecker Tower, originally the Manhattan Savings Institution, is a distinctive red sandstone and brick structure. Its chamfered corner and Romanesque arches are on a massive scale – appropriate for the bank that it was. (Lofts filled the upper stories.)

After mergers with two other banks, Manhattan Savings Institution became Manhattan Savings Bank – and closed the branch at 644 Broadway in the early 1940s. “MSI” remains embossed on the building’s copper pediment.

In the 1970s the owners converted the building to residential lofts; in the 1980s the building was converted again, to luxury loft apartments. In 2000 the owners embarked on a major facade restoration.

Bleecker Tower is in good company: Landmarked Empire State Bank Building is across the street; landmark Bayard-Condict Building is next door.

Bleecker Tower Vital Statistics
Bleecker Tower Recommended Reading

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700 Broadway

700 Broadway seems to have an ongoing identity crisis. Originally the Schermerhorn Building*, it was designed by George B. Post as a store. A decade later the Romanesque Revival structure was converted to showrooms, offices, storage and workshops. Then it became lofts. The building was vacant and abandoned for most of the 1980s, until the National Audubon Society took it over as their national headquarters in 1989. Lincoln Property Company bought the building in 2006, but sold it in 2008 to the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg.

The building became “green” as the Audubon House: A two-year restoration project triple-insulated the structure’s walls and roof, rebuilt interior spaces to make better use of natural lighting, and installed high-efficiency lighting and heating/cooling systems, among other improvements.

When Weitz & Luxenberg took over, the firm discovered that routine facade maintenance was anything but routine: Years of subway vibrations and freeze/thaw cycles had created severe structural damage – major cracks had developed and parts of the walls were leaning out over the street. Another two-year restoration project ensued, rebuilding and repairing the walls, cornice, and terra cotta ornamentation.

Architect George B. Post also designed the landmark New York Stock Exchange and Brooklyn Historical Society.

* Not to be confused with the Schermerhorn Building just two blocks away at 380 Lafayette Street.

700 Broadway Vital Statistics
700 Broadway Recommended Reading

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Main Brooklyn Post Office

Main Brooklyn Post Office, aka Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse, is one of downtown Brooklyn’s architectural gems. The four-story (plus tower) granite structure is boldly detailed Romanesque Revival. The building originally included federal courtrooms – but the courts have now pushed the original post office functions into the addition, built in 1933.

Both the original building and the annex were restored, inside and out, from 1996 through 2013. But prior to the restoration, the Federal Government wanted to demolish the annex to build a 415-foot-high courthouse tower – a structure that would dwarf the original building.

As The New York Times reported in 1992, “Deirdre Carson, a vice president for land use for the Brooklyn Heights Association, said that the 1891 building was one of the classic architectural structures in downtown Brooklyn and that putting a large building next to it would ruin its visual impact. ‘We’re trading two years of jobs for generations of ugliness,’ she said.” (full story)

Main Brooklyn Post Office Vital Statistics
Main Brooklyn Post Office Recommended Reading

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249 West End Avenue

249 West End Avenue stands squeezed between apartment buildings three times its height, thanks to the perseverance of its owner, Mary Cook.

The five-story building, once typical of West End Avenue townhouses, was constructed as one of five homes designed to look like one large building (see the Daytonian in Manhattan blog for the “before” picture).

Mrs. Cook, a widow, declined offers from developers both north and south of her home. In 1915, 255 West End Avenue rose 14 stories to her north. In 1925, 243 West End Avenue rose 15 stories to her south.

Mrs. Cook died in 1932; the building became home of the Continental Club, and in the late 40s it was converted to apartments.

249 West End Avenue Vital Statistics
Recommended Reading

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