Did you know there are 23 house museums across the five boroughs? All of which are supported by the Historic House Trust, a nonprofit that works in conjunction with the Department of Parks & Recreation to preserve these sites of cultural and architectural significance. From farmer’s cottages to gilded mansions, these public museums span 350 years of city history and offer fun additions such as art collections, historic holiday-themed events, and specialized tours. Ahead, 6sqft has put together a list of 10 house museums that represent some of NYC’s most storied history.
In New York City, where buying and selling real estate is a high-stakes endeavor, the topic of historic and landmark designation is frequently raised. There are heated discussions on the subject of listing neighborhoods or buildings on the State and National Register of Historic Places or having them designated by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. It’s important to know what those organizations do and the distinctions between them. You could even be eligible for significant financial aid for your renovations if you own property in an historic district.
This year is full of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the New York City Landmarks Law, and in marking this milestone we tend to look at all of the historic buildings that have been perfectly preserved in their appearance and function. But what about those that retain their original character, yet have a new use? The folks over at CityRealty have taken a look at this group, focusing on city landmarks that have been converted from commercial spaces into condominiums. Zoning in on the five largest landmarks (by number of units), they found that owning a piece of history will cost you. In fact, the average unit price in these Manhattan landmarks was 45 percent higher than other condos; in Brooklyn, 26 percent.
Yesterday we rounded up some of the most heinous crimes committed against architecture in New York City, but today we’re taking a look at the sunnier side of things. Our list of architectural saviors includes sites saved from the wrecking ball, as well as those that have remained intact and been adaptively reused. And with city-wide preservationists celebrating this year’s 50th anniversary of the landmarks law, what better time to take a look back?
The exhibit’s title image © Iwan Baan for the Museum of the City of New York
Last night we attended the Museum of the City of New York‘s symposium, “Redefining Preservation for the 21st Century,” which explored the challenges and the opportunities of the preservation movement today and in the future. The event included such distinguished speakers as New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, starchitect Robert A.M. Stern, preservation guru Roberta Gratz, and president of the Real Estate Board of New York Steven Spinola (needless to say, it was quite the lively discussion), and it kicked off the opening of the museum’s exciting new exhibit “Saving Place: Fifty Years of New York City Landmarks,” which marks the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law in NYC. As part of the symposium we got a first look at the exhibit, which opens to the public today.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, via Wiki Commons
With declining memberships, it has become a common issue among New York City religious institutions that they’re land-rich but cash-poor. To solve the problem, religious leaders are turning to the sale of air rights, allowing developers to build on unused land or above the existing structure or altogether transferring the rights to an adjacent property. It’s the latter trend that’s become the center of debate with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, along with other landmarked institutions, as they’re looking to change the air rights rules to allow transfers to properties that are not directly adjacent. The Wall Street Journal takes a close look at this trend and a city plan that would allow East Midtown landmarks to sell their air rights to sites that are several blocks away.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and thereby the Landmarks Law, the city has launched a new educational website, landmarks.nyc, that will grow its content throughout the year. The site offers digital features, a schedule of free- and low-cost events at landmarked sites throughout the city, slide shows from the agency’s historic photo archives, various blog posts, and walking tours.
Magnolia Grandiflora via Wiki Commons (L); Weeping Beech Tree via NY State Archives (R)
Last week we looked at the city’s oldest and tallest tree in Alley Pond, Queens, which got us thinking about one of the questions at the Preservation Trivia night we recently attended. What are the only two living things in NYC to have ever been landmarked? We’ll admit, we were stumped. We guessed Peter Stuyvesant’s pear tree and the World Trade Center Survivor Tree, which were both wrong. But they are trees: the Weeping Beech Tree in Flushing, Queens and the Magnolia Grandiflora in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. And to make it even more exclusive, only the latter still survives; the Beech Tree died and was cut down in 1999.
The Rainbow Room served its first guests on October 3, 1934, and now, almost 80 years later to the day, the historic restaurant and event space has reopened after a restoration by Gabellini Sheppard Architects.
Located on the 65th floor of the Raymond Hood-designed 30 Rockefeller Plaza (30 Rock), it was the first restaurant located in a high-rise building and for decades was the highest restaurant in the country. Suffering from a decline in business, the fine-dining establishment closed its doors in 2009. But in 2012, the Rainbow Room was declared an official interior landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), and a year later it was announced that the storied space would reopen this fall. Right on schedule, the new incarnation of the venue opened last night for a preview by the Sir John Soanes Museum Foundation.
Image credit: MAAP
The Fraunces Tavern Museum at 54 Pearl Street in FiDi has a long history of use, changing hands and purpose countless times since it was constructed back in the 18th century. What started as a simple rental home was later turned into a dance studio, eventually finding itself as a popular tavern-slash-boarding-home-slash-community center throughout and after the Revolutionary War. The building even had a stint as the first offices of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War and Treasury. But it wasn’t until 1904 that The Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York, Inc. took over and decided to restore and preserve the historic building as a museum and restaurant. Our friends over at Find Everything Historic recently sat down with the Fraunces Tavern Museum’s executive director Jessica Baldwin Phillips to chat about what it’s like to maintain a storied building in a constantly changing city.