The building in 1905, via MCNY
This morning, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the former IRT Powerhouse (now the Con Ed Powerhouse) at 12th Avenue and 59th Street an official New York City landmark. The Beaux-Arts style building, designed in 1904 by McKim, Mead & White, is considered a remarkable example of the style applied to a utilitarian building. It was bestowed with such grandeur to convince the public to embrace the subway, a newly-created transportation option at the time. The monumental building not only powered the city’s the first subway line but upon completion 111 years ago it was the largest powerhouse in the world.
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Renowned architecture firm McKim, Mead & White hardly ever disappoints–they are, after all, the firm behind the original Penn Station–and this Westchester property now for sale lives up to the firm’s reputation. Located at 10 Sheldrake Road in the town of New Rochelle, this waterfront estate is known as “Four Chimneys” and was built in 1938. The exterior is a graceful brick, Georgian architecture surrounded by 1.65 acres of landscaping. On the interior, a renovation included converting the ballroom into a gym, installing an infinity pool on the edge of Sheldrake Lake, and building an indoor half-court for basketball. (Don’t worry, there are some lavish and historic interior details that remain on display, too.) To live 30 minutes outside of Manhattan on this impressive estate will cost $3.85 million.
You have to see the interior
Not only has this landmarked four-story home standing among the rarely available townhouses in Harlem’s Saint Nicholas Historic District–better known as Strivers’ Row–been featured in district house tours–it used to belong to Bob Dylan. The early 1900s townhouse at 265 West 139th Street is one of a handsome row designed the firm of McKim Mead & White; the current owners purchased it from the enigmatic Pulitzer Prize-winning polymath for $560,000 in 2000. Times have been a-changin‘ in the central Harlem neighborhood, and it’s now on the market for $3,689,000.
Take a closer look, this way
The Gilded Age mansions that once stood along 5th Avenue — nicknamed Millionaire’s Row — have mostly met the wrecking ball. But the Villard Houses remain remarkably preserved since their construction in 1884. The famed architecture firm McKim, Mead and White designed this visionary six-house complex for Henry Villard, a railroad magnate whose empire began to crumble as construction wrapped. Today — after many changes in ownership and a landmark designation — the buildings stand as the entrance to the Lotte Palace Hotel. The hotel has just offered several rooms inside the south wing of the property, the former home of Villard himself, up for lease, offering a rare look into the lavish interior that’s hardly changed since it was designed over 100 years ago.
More history and lots of interior photos this way
Alex Ohebshalom’s Empire Management may finally be moving forward with plans to convert a McKim Mead & White-designed bank building at 250 Fifth Avenue and construct a 21-story hotel-tower behind. The project is the latest to join Nomad’s recent hotel boom that has produced the Ace Hotel, Nomad Hotel, Flatiron Hotel, and the upcoming Virgin Hotel. While building permits filed in July have yet to be approved, the existing six-story building recently cleared out its retail tenants, and its upper office floors now appear empty.
Since the site lies within the Madison Square North Historic District, the owners, under the LLC Quartz Associates, had to secure approvals from both Community Board 5 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. With a proven track-record of steering projects in historically sensitive areas towards approval, architects Platt Byard Dovell White were commissioned. PBDW uncovered that a mid-rise loft building was once proposed for the site and this evidence allowed for LPC to more seriously consider a taller addition to the 1907, palazzo-like building designed for Second National Bank.
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At Monday’s MCNY symposium “Redefining Preservation for the 21st Century,” starchitect Robert A.M. Stern lamented about 2 Columbus Circle and its renovation that rendered it completely unrecognizable. What Stern saw as a modernist architectural wonder, notable for its esthetics, cultural importance (it was built to challenge MoMA and the prevailing architectural style at the time), and history (the building originally served as a museum for the art collection of Huntington Hartford), others saw as a hulking grey slab. Despite the efforts of Stern and others to have the building landmarked, it was ultimately altered completely.
This story is not unique; there are plenty of worthy historic buildings in New York City that have been heavily changed, let to fall into disrepair, or altogether demolished. And in many of these cases, the general public realized their significance only after they were destroyed. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the NYC landmarks law, we’ve rounded up some of the most cringe-worthy crimes committed against architecture.
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The Manhattan Municipal Building toward the end of construction in 1913, via Shorpy
When we think of the city’s early skyscrapers, landmarks like the Woolworth Building and Flatiron Building usually come to mind. But there’s an equally fascinating and beautiful icon that often gets overlooked–the 1914 Manhattan Municipal Building. One of New York’s first skyscrapers, the 580-foot Beaux Arts masterpiece influenced civic construction throughout the country and served as the prototype for Chicago’s Wrigley Building and Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, among others.
A new video from Blueprint NYC (produced by the Office of NYCMedia) takes us into this historic structure, discussing everything from the reason for construction (after the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs, there was a need for increased governmental office space) to interesting factoids (the building was designed from a rejected sketch of Grand Central Terminal Station) to the turn-of-the-century innovations that made this unique structure possible.
Watch the video