Considering Which Downtown Buildings Should Be Protected
Jason Friedman, chair of CB1’s Landmarks and Preservation Committee, began the discussion at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Board by saying, “there are several buildings in our Community District that are not individual landmarks,” but perhaps should be.
As one example, he cited the federal office building at 90 Church Street, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986, “but is not an individual landmark and not in a Historic District.”
Completed in 1935 as part of a wave of New Deal construction projects, the building occupies the full block bounded by Vesey, Barclay, and Church Streets, and West Broadway. Best known to Lower Manhattan residents for housing the Church Street Station of the Post Office, 90 Church is also home to a broad range of government offices. The limestone-clad facade blends the architectural styles of Neo-Classicism and Art Deco, reflecting the 1930s push to create monumental works in public architecture. Memorable details include a granite base, decorative stonework eagles perched on the upper floor cornices, and vertical cast aluminum spandrels and stars emblazoned across the facades.
“This is a really good example of a building that the Community Board may want to rally behind, requesting evaluation as a landmark,” Mr. Friedman noted, adding that the structure is “intact throughout the interior, as well as on the outside.”
About Tribeca’s Beaux Arts structure at 285 West Broadway (opened in 1898 as the Rawitzer Building, named for the brothers who developed it after making their first fortune in the wool and rag business), Mr. Friedman said, “there’s no debating the beauty that’s in front of our eyes.”
Elsewhere, he noted, “the Historic Districts in Tribeca contain mostly warehouses and 1850s structures, but on Broadway and Centre Street, there are office buildings worthy of protection. We don’t have a Historic District within CB1 that captures the office building prototype of early skyscrapers.”
Mr. Friedman cited as cases in point 42 Broadway (pictured here; completed in 1905 by Henry Cobb Ives, whose work is familiar to Lower Manhattan residents because he also designed the former Sinclair Oil Building—now Liberty Tower—at 55 Liberty Street) and 1931’s quirky Art Deco spire at 29 Broadway, which boasts a cream-colored facade punctuated by horizontal black bands of stone on alternating floors.
“On lower Broadway, and along offshoots like John and Thames Streets,” he said, “there may be the potential for an entire new Historic District as a corridor of office buildings from the early 20th century. These are all terrific early steel-and-concrete structures in Revival and Art Deco styles.”
At the conclusion of Mr. Friedman’s presentation, CB1 voted to start researching a compendium of Lower Manhattan buildings that may be deserving candidates for landmark protection. The Board’s vice chair Alice Bank, who is an architect, added that, “given what is going on with rezoning of our neighborhoods, what has already happened north of us and will certainly happen here, we want to be conscious of our cultural artifacts.”
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