New York City is rich in history, and thanks to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, much of that history is still part of the city today. The Commission was created in 1965 through legislation signed by the late Mayor Robert F. Wagner in response to the mounting losses of historically significant buildings in New York City. Now, New York’s architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings are granted landmark status and protected by the Commission once they’re designated. Here are 10 of NYC’s most notable landmarked buildings:
When it was completed in 1913, the Woolworth Building was the tallest skyscraper in the world. It was commissioned by Frank Woolworth as the corporate headquarters for the F. W. Woolworth Company, one of the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store. The building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by the architect Cass Gilbert, who sought to create a “cathedral of commerce” for Woolworth. At the building’s base is a monumental lobby styled after a Romanesque cathedral. The building’s 792-foot steel frame was unprecedented, and required use of the day’s most extensive system of portal arch and wind bracing. The building cost $13M to build 102 years ago, paid in all cash by Frank Woolworth. Today, two combined units on the 29th floor are selling for just under $52M. Visitors can book tours starting at $20.
Empire State Building
350 5th Ave
b/t 5th Ave and Avenue of the Americas
This 102-story skyscraper in Midtown is an American cultural icon as well as a New York City landmark. The Empire State Building was completed in 1931 and designed in the Art Deco style typical of pre-WWII architecture in New York City. It was the tallest building in the world until 1967, and it was the first building to have over 100 stories – both of these achievements prompted the American Society of Civil Engineers to designate the Empire State Building as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The building’s opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space was initially unrented. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the “Empty State Building.” Today, the building houses 1,000 businesses and has its own ZIP code, 10118. Visitors can enjoy a birdseye view of New York from the 86th and 102nd floor observation decks.
Brown Building (formerly the Asch Building)
23-29 Washington Place
b/t Greene Street and Washington Square East
Now a part of the New York University campus, this 10-story loft building was completed in 1901 and named for its owner, Joseph J. Asch. It was renamed the Brown Building in 1929 when real estate speculator and philanthropist Frederick Brown donated the building to NYU. On March 25, 1911, it was the site of one of the worst industrial disasters in American history, when a fire in the Triangle shirtwaist factory on the building’s top three floors resulted in the death of 146 workers. The fire led to the formation of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), which fought for better working conditions for shirtwaist workers. The Triangle shirtwaist factory fire is seen as one of the most important catalysts in the labor rights movement in the United States, and each year the ILGWU (now UNITE) and the New York City Fire Department mark the anniversary of the fire with a memorial ceremony in front of the building.
The Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower
1 Hanson Place
b/t Ashland Place and St. Felix Street
Built in 1927-1929 as the new headquarters for the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, 1 Hanson Place was once the tallest building in the borough at 37 stories and 512 feet tall. The building features a gilded copper dome and a marble banking hall on the ground floor with 63-foot vaulted ceilings, 40-foot windows, and elaborate mosaics. It is among the tallest four-sided clock towers in the world, and the clock faces, 17 feet in diameter, were the world’s largest when they were installed. The building has since been surpassed in height by the Brooklyner, and now houses over 200 high-end residences. The commercial space is now occupied by Noyack Medical Partners since its purchase in 2008, and the clock tower is home to an event space called Skylight One Hanson.
175 5th Ave
Designed by the Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, known for his skyscrapers, this steel-framed terra-cotta and stone-clad skyscraper was an attempt by developers to create a new business center north of Wall Street. The building’s triangular plan was a clever response to the awkward site produced by the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Originally named the Fuller Building, but was later renamed for its distinctive shape. The neighborhood around it is called the Flatiron District after this signature building, which mainly houses publishing businesses in addition to a few shops on the ground floor.
405 Lexington Ave
at 43rd Street
This Art-Deco style skyscraper, built in 1928-30, was the tallest building in the world for 11 months. Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler corporation bought the project when it was still in construction and had architect William Van Alen add decorative features inspired by Chrysler’s automobile designs including metal hubcaps, gargoyles in the form of radiator caps, car fenders and hood ornaments. The 185-foot spire at the top of the building was added to beat out competitors who were trying to build the world’s tallest building. The spire was delivered in secret to the site and erected in a mere 90 minutes. However, the Empire State Building surpassed the Chrysler Building in height only 11 months later. The Cloud Club, a private dining club, was once housed inside the 66th-68th floors. The 71st floor was home to a visitor center which offered outstanding skyline views, as well as a display with Chrysler’s first tool kit. Today, visitors can see the building from the outside, as well as visit the lobby to examine the Art deco details and beautiful ceiling mural by Edward Trumbull.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Ave
b/t 88th and 89th Streets
Upper East Side
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this cylindrical building houses a collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art. Built between 1956 and 1959, the Guggenheim launched a new trend in museum architecture, where the building is a central part of the museum-going experience. Some worried that the unique ramp gallery, extending up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral, would overpower the art within the museum, but instead it creates an uninterrupted experience for museum goers. Admission to the museum is $16, except for Saturday evenings, when visitors can pay what they wish.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn Borough Hall was originally built as Brooklyn’s City Hall in 1846-51, and contained the offices of the Mayor and the City Council a courtroom, and a jail. It served as the Brooklyn City Hall for nearly fifty years, before the consolidation with New York City in 1898, when it became the Brooklyn Borough Hall. The structure was built in the Greek Revival style and constructed of Tuckahoe marble. The monumental staircase serves as a backdrop for press conferences and film shoots, and the former courtroom is used as a set on shows like Law & Order. The cast-iron cupola, designed by Vincent Griffith and Stoughton & Stoughton, is an 1898 replacement for the original, which burned in an 1895 fire that also destroyed part of the interior. The statue of Justice, part of the original plan, was finally installed on top of the cupola in 1988. Today, Brooklyn Borough Hall houses the Brooklyn Borough President and is Brooklyn’s oldest public building.
1047 Amsterdam Ave
b/t 111th & 112th Streets
Designed in 1888 and 1892, the Cathedral has undergone three stylistic changes and the interruption of two World Wars. The Cathedral was constructed in roughly three phases, proceeding from east to west, which accounts for the radical stylistic changes it has undergone. After a large fire on December 18, 2001, it was closed for repairs and reopened in November 2008. Even though the Cathedral is more than 120 years old, it remains unfinished. Despite incomplete construction, it is the largest cathedral in the world, making it a global landmark. References to Saint John the Divine are abundant in the Cathedral, from the seven chapels to the ratios of the structure itself (John is credited as the author of the Book of Revelation, in which the number seven is the most prominent symbol). The Cathedral is an active house of worship and open to visitors daily.
26 Wall St
b/t Broad St & Nassau St
Built in 1700 as New York’s City Hall, 26 Wall Street hosted the Stamp Act Congress, which assembled in October 1765 to protest “taxation without representation.” When the Constitution was ratified in 1788, New York remained the national capital. The First Congress met here and wrote the Bill of Rights, and George Washington was inaugurated here as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789. When the capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790, the building again housed city government until 1812, when Federal Hall was demolished. The current structure on the site was built as a Customs House, opening in 1842. In 1862, Customs moved to 55 Wall Street, and the building became the US Sub-Treasury. Federal Hall is now operated by the National Park Service as a national memorial, commemorating our first President and the beginnings of the United States of America. Admission to Federal Hall is free, and visitors can take guided indoor tours.