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Thread: Endangered NYC - Lost & Threatened Treasures

  1. #376
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Yes, the Adams Express Building (later the American Express Building) is at 57-61 Broadway (at Exchange Alley).

    Berenice Abbott took some photos of it in 1936.

    And there, down in front of the Adams, is the little old mansard-roofed thing at 50 West, sacrificed for what's now the hole of the maybe-to-be 63-story tower from Helmut Jahn.

  2. #377
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2010
    Staten Island, NY


    I ran into this earlier trying to find a date on a photo. Used it briefly to find out it’s dates. It used to be at 15 ½ Wall Street in NYC from 1824-1914 as I can determine. It stood next to the Customs House on Wall Street. It was I believe donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1924 and I do not know if it was exhibited in the Museum or left in storage until the opening of the American Wing in the eighties.

    It is just a façade and it leads into period rooms. Have not been to the Met I think in twenty years or more. It started life as the New York Branch of the First Bank of the United States, which was an early attempt at a federal reserve type bank that Andrew Jackson threw out with the bath water. It continued into the twentieth century as a banking establishment of sorts.

    My research has the Architect as Martin E. Thompson 1786-1877. Two other of his buildings in NYC are the “Arsenal” in Central Park, now offices for Parks and Recreations, as well as the “Admiral’s House” on Governor’s Island.

    In the bottom center of the photo above is a working model or small scale replica of the Statue of Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens which in full scale was the weather vane on top of the second Madison Square Garden by McKim, Mead and White, 1892-1925.

    The statue was given life in an O. Henry short story The Lady Higher Up in mythical conversation with the Statue of Liberty as two grand dames of old.

    The statue weather vane got sold as scrap metal for $38 and luckily ended up as the centerpiece of the Grand Hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    So in topic with lost architecture and treasures of New York, there is at least a recycled after-life story on a stone bank façade and a forgotten statue of old New York.
    Last edited by Statun-Ilandur; March 7th, 2010 at 02:17 PM. Reason: add additonal photo

  3. #378


    All those shadow patterns in the American wing are as distracting in real life as they are in the photo.

    The Philly installation is much better if you like art, which is best with more modulated lighting. Diana's relationship to the staircase is the same as that of the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre.

  4. #379
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    A Once Proud Bank, Brought Low


    The Mount Morris Bank, on the corner of Park Avenue and East 125th Street after the Department of Buildings ordered that the upper stories be removed for safety reasons.

    IT is hard to give up hope on an old friend who is brain-dead, but there is no indecency in performing an early inquest on the 1883 Mount Morris Bank Building, at Park Avenue and 125th Street. Now slashed from six scrumptious red-brick-and-brownstone stories to one, it’s hardly more than a flutter on a hospital monitor.

    The customary search for the guilty has begun, but shall the verdict be murder, or was it just natural causes?

    The Mount Morris Bank hired the architects Lamb & Rich, known for their flair with the picturesque, to design a building with a banking office below and an apartment house above, all in the new Queen Anne style. They obliged, with asymmetrical masses, multipane windows and somber brownstone in tangy contrast with the incandescent masonry called Philadelphia brick.

    The critic Montgomery Schuyler reviewed the building in The Real Estate Record and Guide in 1883. Mr. Schuyler admitted he had previously said “some pretty hard things about the architects,” but he did find the new work “a very grateful exception” for Harlem, architecturally “one of the most depressing quarters of New York.”

    He admired the rugged, rock-faced brownstone porch projecting at the corner, and the thicket of gables, dormers and chimneys animating the skyline. But he took exception to the bases of the two oriels on the 125th Street side, galvanized iron painted to look like extensions of the flanking brownstone banding — “a puerile sham,” he said. Mr. Schuyler took few prisoners.

    The jittery stepped gables, the little witch’s hat dormers, the interleaved layer cake of brownstone and red brick on the main floor: all these gave the Mount Morris Bank Building the effect of half a dozen cups of strong coffee.

    The bank never opened any branches, and in 1913 the Corn Exchange Bank absorbed it. Because the muscular brownstone porch at the corner projected beyond the building line, it bit the dust.

    The most notable event in the building’s banking history occurred in 1934 when a Corn Exchange teller, William R. Strong, grew suspicious of a depositor’s $10 gold certificate, which turned out to be part of the ransom paid for Charles and Anne Lindbergh’s kidnapped son, Charles Jr. It was traced to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was arrested within the week and eventually executed for the baby’s murder.

    By the 1970s, the city was in a sustained decline, tenants were leaving and New York took the shabby, worn-out building for back taxes. Properties were being abandoned all over the city.

    After inconclusive landmark consideration in 1981 and 1985, I visited the building for a 1987 Streetscapes column and found “a few dingy curtains blowing in its broken Queen Anne windows.” That was the year the city patched the roof and sealed up the ground story with cinder block, an attempt at cryonic preservation, a hope that in better times it might be revived.

    Neither cinder block nor landmark designation, which came in 1993, do a building’s health assure. And even as the city revived, no developer clamored to renovate a ramshackle landmark on gritty 125th Street.
    In 1997 a fire took off the two-story mansard. The New York Landmarks Conservancy, a private group, said rehabilitation would require $7.5 million; that is more than the combined present-day annual budgets of the Conservancy and the Landmarks Commission.

    In 2003 Ethel Bates, a community activist, paid $10,000 for the structure. But her plans to rebuild it as a culinary school never got much past the rendering stage. And last year the Department of Buildings declared the building unsafe above the second-floor level and ordered a teardown. Only a stump remains.

    Now the once-proud Mount Morris Bank Building evokes Shelley’s “Ozymandias”: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/Stand in the desert.”

    Who is to blame for this “colossal wreck,” to further quote the sonnet? It is tempting to go after Lamb & Rich, for if they had designed a nice cubic granite bank instead of a complicated, fragile fancy, it might still be standing — but it would be ordinary instead of extraordinary. Nor can one indict any single one of the owners who let it run down over many decades.

    That the city, with hundreds of buildings dropped on its doorstep, was not equal to such a task is no surprise. The Landmarks Commission is, by design, great at protecting buildings that someone wants to demolish, but not set up to protect those that no one wants at all. This is particularly true with city-owned property, over which the commission’s powers are solely advisory. The Department of Buildings reacted only to what had already happened. It would be as well to blame the wind and the rain.

    And the future of the much-abridged Mount Morris Bank? At some point it may be obsessively reconstructed in new materials, or perhaps serve as the base for some modernist flight of fancy, its chunky vitality lost.

    Or it may remain as is, a battered, silent Sphinx. For now, a slow walk around the Mount Morris Bank is still a pleasure. You can admire up close the little rivet-head bricks scattered over the wall; the cake-frosting surface of the brownstone blocks; the traces of the brownstone lettering, chiseled off and resembling some ancient tomb desecration. It will never look better than it does now.

  5. #380
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Bensonhurst, Brooklyn NY


    I, after days and days of looking through this thread, JUST finished. These pictures are amazing. It's really great to see what this city looked like years, decades and even a century before I was born.

    It's also a damn shame when you look at some of what we have now. This city could have been gorgeous. Not that it's not a great city to look at, especially at night, but there was so much more to it.

  6. #381


    These were torn down for 1 Wall Street.

  7. #382


    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    Conservancy’s Technical Director in Midst of Fight to Save Historic Brownstones

    329 & 331 MacDonough Street.
    Photo by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

    Initial steps were taken today to stabilize two historic Brooklyn brownstones at 329 & 331 MacDonough Street. The Conservancy has worked to prevent the demolition of these circa 1870 houses designed by prolific Brooklyn architect Amzi Hill. They are part of a row in the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, which was designated in 1971.

    MacDonough Street is one of the most architecturally distinguished streets in the borough.

    After Fight, a Brooklyn Brownstone’s Costly Rescue


    Published: March 31, 2010

    When he worked at one of New York’s most respected preservation firms, Timothy Lynch would have spared no effort to save brownstones like the two that sat before him on a January morning.

    Brian Harkin for The New York Times
    Robert Providence in front of his brownstone in the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District of Brooklyn.

    They were landmarks on one of Brooklyn’s prettiest streets. But contractors renovating one of the buildings had accidentally knocked down a load-bearing wall, threatening both with collapse.

    Mr. Lynch, an engineer who had once helped restore famous buildings like the Park Slope Armory and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, now worked for the city’s Department of Buildings; his priorities were different.

    Apart from the danger to residents and workers, engineers predicted that a collapse would probably bring down at least two other brownstones, leaving an unsightly gap in the more than 100-year-old visage of
    MacDonough Street.

    The choice facing Mr. Lynch, if not easy, was clear: He ordered the brownstones demolished.

    That provoked an outcry from Robert Providence, the owner of the brownstone under renovation, and from city preservationists and local homeowners who cherished the street.

    What followed was a concerted campaign to save the brownstones, a battle in which Mr. Lynch emerged an unlikely hero and Mr. Providence was left with a huge bill.

    In the end, about 36 tons of concrete and more than half a mile of lumber were deployed in a rescue effort that transfixed a corner of Bedford-Stuyvesant and underscored the difficulties and often high cost of historic preservation.

    When the demolition order on the two brownstones was lifted last week, amid rejoicing by the preservationists, Mr. Providence was left several hundred thousand dollars in debt, he said, having sunk his life savings into the rescue.

    And Mr. Lynch, who went from condemning the buildings to helping save them, was left exhausted from the work. His role was crucial, said John Weiss, the deputy counsel for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

    “He ends up being the redeemer,” he said.

    The brownstones are on a block in the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District that has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1800s. In January 2009, Mr. Providence bought his brownstone, at 329 MacDonough Street, across the street from the gargoyles of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, after a long exile from Brooklyn, where he had grown up.

    He was a litigation analyst at a large corporate firm, and the brownstone, built in the late 1800s in Italianate style, looked like a steal at $770,000. “It was an amazing block,” he said in a recent interview as he walked through a maze of wooden structures used to shore up his home.

    Planning to rent out the top two floors, he applied for permits for a gut renovation. Contractors renovated the upper floors, but subcontractors also dug in the basement, where they had no permits to do work. What they were doing is a matter of dispute: Mr. Providence said they were installing a boiler without his permission, but city buildings officials suspected they were digging a trench with the aim of lowering the floor in the cramped space.

    Sometime in the early morning of Jan. 20, the cellar wall collapsed, rupturing gas pipes in the basements of Nos. 329 and 331 next door.
    Mr. Lynch, the city engineer, arrived at the scene that morning. Without the cellar wall, he figured that about 180 tons of brownstone was essentially being held in place by the front wall, buttressed by a stoop, and the back wall, braced by a concrete shed.

    He had come to know the engineering challenges of brownstones well, having worked for 14 years at Robert Silman Associates, famous for its historic preservation work. “Our concern was public safety.” Mr. Lynch said. “You cannot endanger workers.”

    Within days of Mr. Lynch’s conclusion that the brownstones needed to be demolished, a fight had broken out. Preservation groups and residents rallied to save the brownstones. Mr. Providence’s lawyers filed motions to stop the demolitions, and his neighbors packed a Brooklyn courtroom for a hearing. Mr. Providence and a neighbor in the other brownstone, Doreen Prince, hired engineers. Other engineers offered opinions.

    The plan the assembled experts presented to Mr. Lynch was complicated and dangerous, but provided a sliver of hope. To shore up the cellar, cribbing boxes — essentially wooden columns — would be installed. Then, with the building better supported, concrete would be poured into timber frames to build another basement wall.

    It was all easier said than done: for safety reasons, only two contractors could work in the basement at a time. Constructing the cribbing boxes took two and half weeks of around-the-clock work, followed by the building of a new wall.

    After each workday, Mr. Lynch and the contractors hired by Mr. Providence held their breath, to see whether their engineering theories held the buildings up. Because of the danger of a secondary collapse, “It was one of the most complicated engineering plans I’ve worked on,” Mr. Lynch said. In the end, the work took 42 days.

    Meanwhile, the pressures on Mr. Providence were mounting. The six people who lived next door — including Ms. Prince — were forced to move in with family or friends. And the costs of the rescue were rising, forcing him to spend his retirement savings.

    Seeking assistance in financing the project, he met with a local conservancy group and approached politicians. “No one has the money to help,” he said.

    Mr. Providence said that he knew the work would be expensive and that the burden would fall on him.

    “I tried to do things the right way,” he said.

    For his part, Mr. Lynch said his role as a city engineer still involved preservation, albeit of a different type. “The preservation of the buildings is not as important as the preservation of workers, or of the neighbors,” he said. Saving the brownstones, he said, was a bonus.

    Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

  8. #383


    Roth is a real dick.

    Vornado's Roth, in optimistic mood, urges Park Avenue in Midtown be "upzoned"

    April 02, 2010 By Carter B. Horsley

    Steve Roth, the chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, said in a letter to shareholders released yesterday that "the eye of the storm has clearly passed, recovery is now almost certain, it's just a question of how strong and how long."

    "There is a lot to learn from the last cycle," he said: "It lasted 18 years from peak to peak, 1988 - 2006. In 1991, the door to the capital markets creaked open and Kimco went public, followed by a flood of real estate IPOs which continued for the next decade. The parallel to the current cycle is almost exact - in 2009 and 2010, a scant two years after the bust, REITS were re-equitized by the capital markets. Using the past cycle as a guide, I believe we have a few years of fragile recovery and then many years of sustained growth ahead of us."

    Mr. Roth said he believed that "the previous peak in commercial real estate values will be exceeded," and he suggested that New York City "upzone Park Avenue as an economic incentive to tear down old buildings and replace them with new-builds which may be, say, half again the size." "Park Avenue, the major corporate corridor of New York, comprises about 40 million square feet from Grand Central to 59th Street and buildings there are on average about 45 years old (which is about the average age of the entire New York office stock)." He said his suggestion was intended "to keep regenerating New York." "They do this in London, quite successfully." He added.

    Mr. Roth remarked that "Analyst Michael Billerman recently noted that the anticipated avalanche of 'distressed sellers' has yet to materialize, thereby creating a class of "distressed buyers.'"

    "Today, lenders are not selling at panic distressed prices. This is very different than the 1990s - who can forget the RTC, etc. Sellers, and sellers who were lenders (and not natural holders) will flood to market as prices rise. Assets will soon trade a plenty (just look at the volumes flooding into special servicing) but in controlled processes at clearing, but not distressed prices," according to Mr. Roth.

    "The Great Recession and the debacle in residential real estate notwithstanding," he continued, "commercial real estate is nowhere near as distressed today as in the 1990s. Then, commercial real estate from coast-to-coast was grossly over built; year after year see-through office buildings stayed see-through. That is not the case today - over leveraged yes, over built no."

    To support some of his optimism, Mr. Roth said observed that "Experts had predicted that more than 350,000 jobs would be lost in New York in this cycle."

    "In fact," he said, "actual job loss was 186,000 versus 341,000 in the early 2000s recession and 443,000 in the early 1990s recession. Further, and I believe a precursor to an aggressive real estate recovery in New York, the financial services industry is enjoying record activity and profits and is now adding jobs."

    Mr. Roth also gave a "thumbs up" to "green" buildings:

    "Years ago when the first green shoots of sustainability started to sprout (pardon the pun), I was skeptical. To say the first wave of solar panels, etc., were uneconomic would be an understatement. Time marched on, and the green movement progressed. Our Company's thinking also progressed. It became clear to us that the societal good was enormous and, as if that weren't enough, I came to believe that in the not too distant future our customers, the largest tenants in the nation, would favor green buildings. The economics are now obvious, especially for long-term owners like us, that sustainable practices save money for us and for our tenants. The real estate industry quickly adopted standards for new green, ground-up development. Today, virtually all new major construction is built to LEED gold or platinum standards.... Today, our office buildings consume 35% less energy than the national average." ALSO IN CARTER'S VIEW •Third-floor apartment at Plaza reported sold for $28 million - April 2, 2010
    •First Quarter apartment market reports show increase in number of sales - April 2, 2010
    •Mount Sinai indicates it will not take over St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village - April 2, 2010
    •General Growth making progress on its reorganization - April 1, 2010
    •Enlargement of building at 148 East 19th Street will have fire escapes - April 1, 2010
    •Vacation home sales rose 7.9 percent last year - April 1, 2010

  9. #384


    Besides about 8 buildings, most of which are already protected, there's not much on Park Ave worth saving.

    I still don't agree with upzoning the avenue though. Why not develop somewhere that actually needs the development. This is more about greed than revitalizing anything.

    Then again, that's always been the case with development in this city.

  10. #385


    I think he, hopefully, is referring to knocking down post war 'old' and not pre war old. Otherwise I have no idea why he is referring to London.

  11. #386


    He's talking about the post-war "45 year-old" buildings from GC to 59th. He mentions London because London has often torn down and replaced early post-war office buildings.

    This hasn't really happened in New York since most post-war buildings are built to the maximum size allowed by zoning, which is why he wants an upzone.
    This is why so many pre-war buildings in Midtown and Downtown are demo'd, because the ugly post-war buildings hold no development potential.

  12. #387
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    There's more to that. Most post-war buildings are more friendly to modern business then pre-war are. Post-war generally come with higher ceilings, larger floor plates and more column free space.

  13. #388


    This is bullsh.t.
    Why didn't the phony a_holes who came out in droves to oppose Torre Verre fight this?

    The demolition of the (relatively) tiny townhouse at 949 Park Avenue happened without any fanfare. But now there's something going up on the site (which was snapped up by a developer for $6 million in 2007), so it's time to get curious. Blog Upper East Sigh uncovered the above rendering from the modernist folks at C3D Architecture. What's happening in this picture? A 16-story, 12-unit building, 13 floors of which appear to have gone up already. Upper East Sigh advises the developer to leave the black construction cloth on for better results. A frightening sliver of a building it may be, but don't judge a building by its facade. Judge by its Park Avenue address instead.

  14. #389
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Commenters at Curbed raise some zoning questions about this one (the lot is 80' x 20' = 1600 sf, but 1700 sf minimum is required for multi-family structure).

    Seems that anti-sliver regulations would apply as well (pertaining to lots of 25' in width or less).

    A search of both City Planning and BSA shows no documents / results relating to any sort of variance granted on this project.

    DOB shows a list of Required Items, but actual filings aren't accessible online.

  15. #390


    Quote Originally Posted by londonlawyer View Post
    This is bullsh.t.
    Why didn't the phony a_holes who came out in droves to oppose Torre Verre fight this?
    Because what you say is true: they don't really care about preservation of the city's history and architecture, or creating an overall better environment, so much as they care about their views. When somebody threatens their view, they cloak themselves in altruistic language about the "good of the city"; when nobody is blocking their view, they don't care if it's a Gene Kaufman cross-bred with the nastiest one-story bodega. It's all about the view out their window.

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