, Thu, September 21, 2017
827-831 Broadway today via Wiki Commons (L); Willem de Kooning in his Fourth Avenue studio, April 1946. Harry Bowden, photographer. Harry Bowden papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.Via The Willem de Kooning Foundation. (R)
Underneath the lyrical and much-admired sherbet-colored facades of the twin lofts at 827-831 Broadway lies a New York tale like no other. Incorporating snuff, sewing machines, and cigar store Indians; Abstract Expressionists; and the “antique dealer to the stars,” it also involves real estate and big money, and the very real threat of the wrecking ball. Ahead, explore the one-of-a-kind past of these buildings, which most notably served as the home to world-famous artist Willem de Kooning, and learn about the fight to preserve them not only for their architectural merit but unique cultural history.
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102 Bedford Street in 2015 (left) via Wiki Commons, and as of today, via GVSHP
Few buildings capture the whimsy, flamboyance, and bohemian spirit of early 20th century Greenwich Village as does the building known as “Twin Peaks” at 102 Bedford Street. Described as a “wonderfully ludicrous mock half-timbered fantasy row-house castle” by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the present incarnation of the building was born in 1925 as a radical remodeling of an 1830 rowhouse into a five-story artists’ studio apartment building. In the mid 20th-century, the building became even more iconic with a cream and brown paint job that mimicked its Alpine cottage inspiration. However, a more recent paint job stripped away this history, resulting in a controversial landmarks battle.
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In May, State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger drafted a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking them to designate the Rose Main Reading Room (one of the largest uncolumned interior spaces in the world) and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue as interior landmarks. Though the LPC has been criticized in the past for their backlog of potential landmarks, they quickly put the request on their schedule and just this morning voted unanimously in favor of the designations, which protect the spaces’ murals, decorative plasterwork, metal and woodwork, light fixtures, windows, doors, balconies, built-in bookcases, and decorative elements.
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Rose Main Reading room via NYPL
State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger have asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library’s main branch and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room at the 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue branch as interior landmarks, according to DNAInfo. The library’s main branch, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, was given landmark designation in 1967 and Astor Hall and the grand staircases within the building were designated as interior landmarks in 1974. Interior landmark designation would give the two reading rooms–favorites of literary greats including Norman Mailer, E.L. Doctorow and Elizabeth Bishop–the same protection moving forward.
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In a rare case, the RKO Keith’s Flushing Theater is an interior landmark, but the building it’s inside is not landmarked. Built in 1928 to the designs of noted theater architect Thomas Lamb, the elaborately ornamented Churrigueresque-style movie palace has sat decrepit for the past three decades, until Chinese firm Xinyuan Real Estate (they’re also behind Williamsburg’s Oosten condo and the forthcoming Hell’s Kitchen condo that will be anchored by a Target) bought the vacant theater for $66 million last year with plans to develop it into a 269-unit luxury condo. Moving ahead with this vision, they’ve tapped Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and preservation specialists Ayon Studio to erect a 16-story glass tower at the site, which includes plans to “enclose the interior landmark, and to disassemble, restore off-site, and reinstall salvaged ornamental plasterwork and woodwork and replicas” in a new residential lobby. Despite some opposition from the Historic Districts Council (HDC) regarding public accessibility, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted in favor of the plan, congratulating the architects and expressing great admiration for their design.
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Joan Geismar boasts a job that’ll make any urban explorer jealous. For the past 32 years, she’s operated her own business as an archaeological consultant, digging underneath the streets of New York City to find what historical remnants remain. Her career kicked off in 1982, with the major discovery of an 18th-century merchant ship at a construction site near the South Street Seaport. (The land is now home to the 30-story tower 175 Water Street.) Other discoveries include digging up intact remnants of wooden water pipes, components of the city’s first water system, at Coenties Slip Park; studying the long-defunct burial ground at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and working alongside the renovation in Washington Square Park, in which she made a major revelation about the former Potter’s Field there.
With 6sqft, she discusses what it felt like unearthing a ship in Lower Manhattan, the curious headstone she found underneath Washington Square Park, and what people’s trash can tell us about New York history.
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In news that will come as a surprise to no one, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously this morning to designate the interiors of the famed Waldorf Astoria a New York City landmark. According to Curbed, the decision was made within minutes without hesitation from any of the board members. The announcement also comes hot on the heels of the hotel’s closure just one week ago, as its new owners, Anbang Insurance Group, undertake what’s expected to be a three-year renovation and conversion that will bring forth 840 updated hotel rooms and 321 luxury condos.
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Image via Wiki Commons
On Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the 125-year-old Cathedral Church of St. John The Divine, the world’s largest cathedral; in addition, 115 neighboring buildings became the Morningside Heights Historic District. The designated district runs from West 109th to 119th streets between Riverside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue and includes the famously unfinished cathedral and surrounding campus. With the designation, calendared by the LPC in September, comes a 3-D online map that provides more information about the buildings in the district, most of which were constructed between 1900 and 1910, including townhouses dating back to the late 1800s as well as pre-war apartment buildings.
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It’s champagne and caviar tonight for billionaire hedge funder Steven A. Cohen, who received the official go-ahead to build a massive, six-story, single-family mansion at 145 Perry Street today. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted almost unanimously in favor of the plan despite outcry from local residents and, most notably, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) who had denounced the design in a statement as “starkly modern,” “fortress-like and massive,” and more like a bank or a luxury retail store you’d find in Miami or Los Angeles, not the “simple but charming” Village.
In 1984, a series of grime-covered windows at 714 Fifth Avenue caught the attention of an architectural historian by the name of Andrew Dolkart. Seemingly innocuous, and almost industrial in aesthetic—at least from afar—the glass panes would later become the foundation for a preservation victory.
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