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Thread: Historical 800-foot building halted during construction

  1. #1

    Default Historical 800-foot building halted during construction

    According to a project called the Church Missionary Building started construction in 1926, planned as the world's tallest building, construction was halted when an accident during excavation killed five workers.

    Today The Jewish Theological Seminary stands on this site. The site is at Broadway at West 122nd Street in Morningside Heights.

    Does anyone know anything else about this project, I find the situation to be very interesting.

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran
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    Nov 2002
    New York City


    There was an article about it a month or two ago in the Metro Section or Real Estate.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Chicago, Illinois


    A Once-Grand Hotel Gets a Socially Conscious Icon

    By CHRISTOPHER GRAY August 31, 2003
    The New York Times

    Byron/Museum of the City of New York, above; Don Hogan Charles/T
    Built as the Broadway View Hotel, the Regent building is now a transitional shelter for 140 families.
    The once-grand apartment building at 104th Street and Broadway that houses the Regent Family Residence for the Homeless looks a bit down at the heels now, but its history involves some renowned cultural icons — Carrère & Hastings, who designed major Beaux-Arts buildings like the New York Public Library, and Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the architects of the Empire State Building. Now the Regent building is to house a contemporary and socially conscious cultural icon, complete with ampersand — Ben & Jerry's.

    The Regent was built as the Broadway View Hotel by Oscar Konkle, a real estate entrepreneur active in Brooklyn house construction. Konkle was a devout Christian who had worked for the evangelist Billy Sunday, and in 1913, relieved that his 6-year-old son, Howard, had recovered from lockjaw, he pledged to devote his life to missionary work.

    By 1921, that pledge was somewhat modified, and he persuaded his church, the Baptist-based Metropolitan Tabernacle of New York City, to give up its building at 104th and Broadway so he could build a new church and hotel on the site.

    An account in The New York Times in March 1922 presented Konkle's ambitious program: a 17-story hotel with a church on the first three floors and 286 rooms for missionaries and church members of any denomination "who desire a quieter and more solemn tone than the average New York hotel."

    Card playing and dancing were to be prohibited, and guest lists for entertainments in the banquet hall "will be subject to strict censorship," the article said

    Konkle proposed that a huge illuminated advertising sign be placed atop the hotel; it would be visible from far away because of the bend in Broadway at that point. He also planned no stores for the ground floor, except for a special bank on the corner for missionaries.

    The article said that the building would be designed by Richmond H. Shreve, although the building application was recorded as Carrère & Hastings and Shreve, Lamb & Blake. Shreve, along with William F. Lamb and Theodore E. Blake, had taken over the Carrère & Hastings practice; within a few years Shreve & Lamb were joined by Arthur H. Harmon to design the Empire State Building.

    In April 1922, only a month after the Times article, The Real Estate Record & Guide gave a revised account of the project. It would be a 307-room hotel, with no church and five ground-floor stores. The Guide made no mention of any religious connection. (The Metropolitan Tabernacle church later occupied a series of existing church buildings at various sites.)

    The new Broadway View Hotel was a cut above the typical plain vanilla apartment construction in the neighborhood. Its lower corners were marked out in caramel-colored terra cotta quoins — chunky, heavily modeled blocks set off from the surrounding rich dark brick — and it had a series of three-story-high pilasters at the upper floor, surrounding a high copper mansard roof. The building is still one of upper Broadway's most architecturally significant works.

    Things apparently went well with the Broadway View — it is not clear whether Konkle devoted income from the hotel to religious activities — and in 1925 he proposed a more ambitious development, a 65-story, 4,500-room hotel, the Christian Missionary Building, at 122nd and Broadway.

    Again working with Shreve & Lamb, Konkle planned the tallest building in the world, 800 feet high, eight feet taller than the Woolworth Building, then the world's highest. In addition to a ban on tobacco and alcohol, the new hotel was to exclude Sunday newspapers.

    Konkle actually broke ground in 1926, but during excavation a huge slab of rock fell and killed five workers, and the resulting litigation derailed the project. The Jewish Theological Seminary was later built on the site.

    Konkle lost the Broadway View in 1933 in foreclosure, and it was soon renamed the Regent. According to research by Michael Gotkin, a preservation activist, Riker's restaurant took over the corner store in 1947 and hired the ceramicist Max Spivak to design a series of swirling abstract murals. The magazine Architectural Record criticized what it called the decade's "orgy of abortive misuse of glass mosaic" but praised the Riker's work "in spinach green, carrot red and butter yellow," even saying that Spivak had "an imagination like Miro and a sense of color precision like Stuart Davis."

    "One customer marveled at the fact that the shapes took on new character each time she came in to eat," the article reported.

    By the 1980's, alterations for later stores had almost obliterated the Spivak mural, and the Regent was operating as a welfare hotel. Now owned by the city, it is run by the Volunteers of America as a transitional family shelter for 140 families, each of which has its own apartment.

    Common Ground Community, a nonprofit housing and community development organization, has the master lease for most of the Broadway retail space, and it is almost finished with a dual renovation that includes a Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop at the corner, and a Hot & Crusty cafe.

    The group has an ongoing relationship with Ben & Jerry's, whose PartnerShop Program waives franchise fees for store operations with social goals. Common Ground has the franchise for the Ben & Jerry's store, and the new ice cream shop will be staffed by residents of the building. The residents will also staff the Hot & Crusty store, which is leasing the space from Common Ground.

    Stephen Miotto, a mosaicist in Carmel, N.Y., restored parts of the Spivak work — a large corner column, its rich colored surfaces extending both inside and outside the show window.

    On Sept.17, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the Ben and Jerry of Ben & Jerry, are to be at the corner to open the new store — with free ice cream. The design for the Ben & Jerry's, by Elizabeth Newman, is hardly historic, and includes purple, light yellow and dark red, as well as crimped zinc. "We decided to say it's not 1922, it's not 1948, it's 2001," she said of her design, created two years ago.

    The once-glorious facade of the Broadway View has traveled a rocky road. It is stained and dark, blighted by its blocky, fudge-colored modern windows. The original 1924 lobby has been gutted and replaced by a tepid contemporary version, and the grand stone entryway has been painted over — with several shades of paint.

    But on Broadway, the procession of storefronts forms a pleasing palimpsest of the building's procession through time: the modern Ben & Jerry's, with its giant fragment of the 1947 mural; the new Hot & Crusty next door, with more traditional roll-out awnings and original Renaissance-style ironwork painted and repaired; and the northernmost store, Juanito's Barber Shop, a holdover from another era on upper Broadway, with naive, brightly colored plastic signs plastered over the rusty 1924 iron cresting.

    Together they seem emblematic of the typical New York subway passengers who pass by several feet below: side-by-side strangers riding the same train, who got on at different stops and are headed for different destinations.

    Built as the Broadway View Hotel, the Regent building is now a transitional shelter for 140 families

  4. #4


    Theoretically is it still possible to build there, to the original design?
    That area could use an 800 foot building, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances.

  5. #5


    Are there any height restrictions in the Morningside Heights (the neighbourhood in which the site of the building is located)?

  6. #6


    any pics??

  7. #7


    There may be more info in this book:

    Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, by John Tauranac
    He documents in fascinating detail the many aborted plans for great skyscrapers that preceded the Empire State Building, in his opinion, the greatest. Among them were a plan of William Fox of Fox Theaters for a 52-story tower at 47th Street and Broadway that would have a theater larger than the 6,200-seat Roxy, a 1,050-ft. high tower planned by Abraham E. Lefcourt for the northeast corner of Broadway and 49th Street, the Larkin Tower, a 110-story building for 42nd Street west of Eighth Avenue, a 150-story structure contemplated by Charles F. Noyes for a site bounded by Broadway and Church, Worth and Duane Streets, a 725-ft. high Broadway Temple in Washington Heights, and a 65-story Christian-Missionary Building between 122nd and 123rd Streets.


    Time Magazine
    Monday, Feb. 01, 1926


    Once again New York counts on a new "world's tallest building," this time the Christian-Missionary Building, on Broadway between 122nd and 123rd St. Contracts for its foundation excavations were let last week. It will spire upward for 800 ft—"8 ft. more than the Woolworth Building"; will contain on the ground floor an undenominational church and a dining room seating 2,000, above 4,500 hotel rooms which will rent for not more than $21 weekly, and on its top (65th) story a hospital. Within it drinking and smoking, and possibly Sunday journals, will be forbidden. Ten percent of its earnings will go to support a medical mission at Lake Victoria Nyanza, in Africa. The builder is a realtor named Oscar E. Konkle. The site is close to those of the Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, International House and the site of the proposed Park Avenue Baptist Church.


    Penthouse hospital! Talk about mixed use.
    Last edited by Jasonik; January 31st, 2008 at 11:49 AM.

  8. #8


    800 feet? 65 floors? 4500 hotel rooms? A structure of that size you would have built in Las Vegas or maybe Macau.

  9. #9


    That would have been an absolutely huge project! In addition to the height, had it actually been built at 4500 rooms, I think it would have held the title of largest hotel in the US (world?) up until 5-10 years ago when they started adding towers to places like the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and the Luxor in Las Vegas.

  10. #10


    1926! Can you imagine how hugely different that area would be had they built it? Who knows, maybe we'd have another long skyline there right now.

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