Three historic East Harlem buildings designated as New York City landmarks

March 27, 2018

Photos via LPC

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on Tuesday officially designated three East Harlem buildings as individual landmarks, marking them as some of the neighborhood’s most culturally significant structures. The landmarks include a former 19th-century meatpacking house and two former public schools. The LPC chair, Meenakshi Srinivasan, said the buildings were designated for their architectural and cultural significance. “They embody East Harlem’s unique development history and recognize the civic institutions and businesses that helped shape the lives of the neighborhood’s immigrant groups,” Srinivasan said in a statement.

Located at 215 East 99th Street, Public School 109 was built in 1899 and features a limestone and brick facade. The LPC chose to designate this building because of its modern approach to design, which uses H-plan layout, and its representation of education reform in cities at the turn of 20th century. The school and surrounding area were home to a diverse community, as it was located between German and Italian enclaves in Yorkville and East Harlem, respectively. The school stayed open until 1996 and in 2015 became El Barrio’s Art Space PS109, an affordable housing complex for local artists.

Recognized as East Harlem’s first high school, Benjamin Franklin High School was known for its citizen-focused education. Eric Kebbon, the lead architect for the city’s Board of Education, designed the two-block-long brick and limestone building and completed it in 1942. The school was first opened as a way to improve opportunities for Italian immigrants through bilingual classes and community activities. As more Puerto Ricans moved to the neighborhood, the school shifted to meet the needs of this new group of people.

Located between the Harlem River and Thomas Jefferson Park, the building now holds the Manhattan School of Science and Math and the Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science.

The LPC designated the former commercial slaughterhouse, meatpacking and retail complex found at 207-215 East 119th Street. Built in 1895, the Romanesque and Renaissance Revival-styled building was designed by Bartholomew & John P. Walther. The structure, which features Roman arches with Byzantine and Corinthian capitals, remains one of the few in East Harlem from the late 1800s.

According to the commission, the meatpacking house represents “the evolution of the neighborhood and a specific time in East Harlem’s History, and the industrialization of food production in the early 20th century needed to serve the growing residential community. ”

The commission also designated the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh as an individual landmark, citing its “elegant design and history associated with Williamsburg’s growth and development as a financial center.” The neo-Classical building was built between 1906 and 1908, a period of tremendous growth in the Brooklyn neighborhood. While some upgrades have been made to the building, it retains its classical design.


All photos courtesy of LPC

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