Friday, August 31, 2012

An Unexpected Find On West 70th Street

A guest post by IHDF Intern Jonathan Ortiz

Last week, I went out looking at buildings, searching for something that caught my eye. As I was walking, I decided to give myself a challenge: try to find a unique row house

I walked past so many of them but I was having trouble finding something that really stood out. Right when I was about to start looking for another kind of building, I noticed something on a row house bay window -- a very elaborate ornament. It was a very impressive piece of work, with an elegant flower design surrounding a crest right in the middle

Amazed by my find, I looked at the building next to it and, sure enough, it was the same type of ornament, but with a slightly different design. This went on for about six more buildings, all with elaborate designs. 

The ones that I favor are 27, 31, 33, 37, and 41 on West 70th Street. They were designed by architect Gilbert A. Schellenger and built in 1892. If you are ever taking a stroll on this street or just have some free time, I strongly suggest you go pay these buildings a visit.

Search more buildings by architect Gilbert A. Schellenger in the LW! Online Buildings Database

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's "Lunch Time" at the New York Public Library

The student becomes the teacher!  Recently, LW! graduate intern Kate Gilmore took two of our summer high school interns on a trip to the New York Public Library, to share with them one of the places in New York City that, as a historic preservation student, Kate knows all too well!  But rather than burying their heads in historical prospectuses or style guides, the intern team took in the NYPL's current exhibition "Lunch Hour NYC".  Here's Kate's report ...

Via Perfectly Produce
The New York Public Library's current exhibit, "Lunch Hour NYC," is a great look back into the history of how Americans eat. While today there seems to be a plethora of lunch options, from food trucks to a "power lunch", a midday meal has not always been part of Americans' routines. To find out more, I ventured down to the NYPL with fellow interns Jonathan Ortiz and Jahmauny Monds.

"Lunch Hour NYC" examines the history of lunch as we know it today and how it has evolved over the past century. One of the highlights of the exhibit was the old images and equipment from a Horn & Hardart automat. The hands-on exhibit allowed us to operate the automat machine to retrieve popular recipes. Once ubiquitous, automats were a quick, efficient lunch option for busy office workers. Here on the Upper West Side, 170-172 West 72nd Street, was once home to a Horn & Hardart automat designed by architects F. P. Platt & Brother in 1931.  Another West Side automat is already an Individual Landmark (more here!).

On the left, the former Horn & Hardart Automat on West 72nd Street (now a Citibank). 
On the right, the Automat as pictured in 1942.
The exhibit chronicles the invention of cafeteria-style restaurants, the rise and fall of the automat, soda parlor slang and the invention of the hot dog--to name just a few of the highlights. Who knew that lunch had such a rich and interesting history!

LW! summer high school interns Jonathan Ortiz and Jahmauny Monds learn more
about how an automat functioned at the NYPL "Lunch Hour" exhibit.

In addition to the amazing exhibit, the NYPL has an amazing Menu Collection that is available online. The robust collection features menus from popular eateries all over the city, totaling 45,000. It can be an invaluable resource when documenting the location of popular restaurant chains, since the menus usually featured lists of available locations. They are also highly enjoyable to get a sense of the popular foods of the period.

So the next time you head out to your favorite lunch spot or pull out your packed lunch to heat in the microwave, just remember this American routine has not always been. It continues to evolve with the food truck craze that has changed the eating habits of city dwellers yet again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

VANDALIZED: News from Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Day to day, LANDMARK WEST!'s focus is on the Upper West Side, preserving the soaring apartments and brownstone-lined midblocks from West 59th to West 110th Street, as well as the stunning Scenic Landmarks--Riverside Park and Central Park--bookending the neighborhood on either side (and let's not forget the West Side's third Scenic Landmark, Verdi Square).  With 2,700+ landmark-protected sites included in that ensemble, LW! staff keeps busy!  From engaging with architects and property owners in design review, to advocating for expansion of the UWS landmark family, stewardship of our city's historic resources is a tireless and ongoing responsibility.

But sometimes, emergent issues concerning landmark sites outside our West Side boundaries call our attention.  Such is the case with the ongoing issue of 27 East 4th Street, a site of new construction that puts at risk the historic Merchant's House Museum, a landmark of value not only to its neighborhood but to all of New York City.  And less than a week ago, LW! was appalled to learn about serious vandalism occurring at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  

A shattered brownstone headstone in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
When it comes to landmarking in New York City's five boroughs, there's strength in numbers!  What's good for one neighborhood (engaged community stewardship, strong and thoughtful landmarks regulations, etc.) is good for all!  In that same vein, when landmarks are threatened, the preservation community must do what it can to support one another!  It's our duty, then, to share this news about this eggregious vandalism at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Tuesday morning started out like any other summer day at Green-Wood. About 90 men and women who work on the cemetery grounds reported for work and headed out to mow the lawns, trim the grass, and weed the gardens. But, something was not right, as Ken Nielsen, acting foreman of the south zone, discovered. And worker after worker soon learned the sad truth: a very sick individual, or individuals, had vandalized 43 memorials and monuments of the dead ...

I have been visiting Green-Wood since 1986, and, while I recall some incidents of vandalism, I cannot remember anything on this scale or close to it ...

Although neither Green-Wood Cemetery nor The Green-Wood Historic Fund have any legal obligation to repair vandalized monuments, we are stepping up here and will be repairing each and every one of them. We also have been contacting the families of those whose graves were desecrated ...

Ken Taylor, Green-Wood’s long-time vice president for operations, estimates that the damage is “well in excess of $100,000.” I already have made a contribution to help pay for these repairs and restorations. If you would like to do so, just click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Savor the Summer with the LW! iPhone App

"This app is your personal tour guide, offering information and insights on West Side buildings and blocks from a uniquely local perspective." -- LW! App Fan
IMAGE: The southern tower of the San Remo Apartments, as seen from Central Park. 145-146 Central Park West, b/w W. 74th & W. 75th Sts. Built: 1929-1930. Architect: Emery Roth

There's less than a week until Labor Day brings Summer 2012 to an unofficial close. Don't let the season end without exploring the rich history of our Upper West Side neighborhood! Let LW's FREE iPhone walking tour app be your handheld guide to all the "Fun Facts" and "Did you know" details you never knew!

It's New and Improved!
LW! has worked out the kinks (you wrote us; we listened!) and relaunched its free Upper West Side walking tour iPhone app.

Designed by local experts for people of all ages and interests, LW's walking tour app is an innovative way to explore the architecture and history of one of New York City's most beloved and vibrant neighborhoods. Meant to appeal to a wide rage of users from residents to visitors to the city, families, and armchair travelers, the free app tour highlights 35 landmark locations including the legendary Dakota Apartments, Beacon Theatre, Ansonia Hotel and Central Park. Each location features intriguing facts and striking photographs that tell the story of the Upper West Side's development since the 19th century.

Preview the LW! app by visiting our blog!
To accompany the relaunched LW! app, we have created a user-friendly blog that highlights the features and tools found within the app, along with prominent sites and architects highlighted along the tour. See something you like and want more? Visit iTunes to download the LW! app and explore the neighborhood! Don't have time to explore the neighborhood on foot? You're in luck! Use the app from the comfort of your home to take a virtual walking tour.
Click here to begin your preview of the FREE LW! walking tour app!

What the App Users Are Saying (more here!):

"This app is a great way to see New York City's Upper West Side. I downloaded it at home, learned about some of the interesting locations and checked out a few stops on the walking tour. It's great for people visiting the city AND for people who have lived there their entire lives."

"Wonderful way to experience NYC architecture!" 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Anchor's Away!

There is perhaps no better place to spend a summer evening in New York City than aboard the John J. Harvey Fireboat, moving through the Hudson River, Wallabout Bay and greater New York Harbor.  Enjoy our Flickr album below, sharing some of our favorite scenes from a nautical evening to remember (Thursday, August 16th)!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

640 West End Avenue: A Neighborhood Favorite!

A guest post by IHDF intern Jonathan Ortiz

My favorite building on the Upper West Side is 640 West End Avenue, at West 91st Street. It is my favorite because it stands out from a mile away. One side of the building is almost completely covered in ivy, which in my opinion gives it a very good, mesmerizing look. I mainly like it because it doesn't follow the standard look of buildings in the area, it has its own identity.

Because this building captured my attention, I did some research. here are some things I found interesting: The building was designed by the architecture firm Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in 1912. It has a three-story rusticated limestone base with the rest of the building being grey brick. The entrance does not have a canopy, but instead two polished granite columns and a broken pediment reveal on the second floor window above the entrance. And here's a fun fact - 640 West End Avenue was used in an episode of Seinfeld as the exterior of Mr. Pitt's apartment building.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

West End Presbyterian: An intricate marvel

A guest blog by WHSAD intern Jahmauny Monds 

When I walked up to the West End Presbyterian Church, it was clear to me that this building is definitely a proud work of art.

It is detailed terrifically and precisely. I took great notice of its bold symmetrical design. I was stunned by the arch engraving. The building is absolutely impressive, with its unique brick patterns (bonds). The dazzling circle window above the arches has details that are simply exceptional. I think the aesthetics on this building are amazing; a fine church indeed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Two Weeks, Important Hearing for West End Avenue Extension

On June 26th, 2012, by unanimous vote of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I has been designated! This was the first step in a multi-agency process to secure the landmark designation that West End Avenue and its row house-lined midblocks have long deserved.

The next step is review by the City Planning Commission. The LPC's designation is forwarded to City Planning which will consider, as the LPC website states: "the effects of the designation as it relates to zoning, projected public improvements, and any other city plans for the development or improvement of the area involved. For historic districts, the City Planning Commission must hold a public hearing prior to issuing their report." This public hearing is open to all; please attend and offer a public statement or lend your "silent support" of this important community effort!

       WHAT:  Public hearing of the City Planning Commission to consider
                    the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I
                    (W. 79th - 87th Sts. - click here for the boundary map)

      WHEN:  Wednesday, August 22nd; Time To Be Determined
                    Stay tuned to LW! emails for approximate time as the date approaches;
                    you may also consult the City Planning website, here.

    WHERE:  City Planning Commission; Amanda Burden, Chair
                    22 Reade Street -- Bring photo ID
                    (Click here for directions)

         WHO:  You, your neighbors, all who support neighborhood preservation!
                     Help us spread the word; let us know of others in your building or
                     on your block who are interested in learning more about this ongoing
                     issue. Attending the public meeting is incredibly valuable; if you're
                     unable to attend, please register your support in writing (here's how).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Celebrating "Family Day" at Amsterdam Houses

Guest blog by intern Jason Crowley

For the fifth consecutive year, LANDMARK WEST! joined in the festivities at the Amsterdam Houses' annual Family Day celebration.

Saturday, August 4th, turned out to be another fun-filled day of music, BBQ and nostalgic tales of growing up at Amsterdam Houses.

Each year LW! sets up shop and spend the day sharing photographs of Amsterdam Houses dating back to the late 1940s, when the complex (an LW! "Wish List" site) was being constructed.

Featuring images of Amsterdam Houses' construction, LW's photo board
sparked many-a reminiscence among Family Day attendees

LW's Arlene Simon
Neighbors young and old huddled around our table, looking at our photos (and sharing some of their own!) while regaling us with fond memories of growing up in the community ("I've lived here for 40+ years" is not at all an uncommon thing to hear!).

 At this year's Family Day celebration, LW!'s President and founder, Arlene Simon received recognition, from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), for her years of outreach and leadership in the neighborhood.

One of the greatest experiences about attending Family Day year after year is the opportunity to speak with the residents who make Amsterdam Houses a vibrant and proud community of active and passionate neighbors. 

Intern Jason Crowley shares historic images with a Family Day attendee
LW's Cristiana Pena and Family Day celebrants
It was such a pleasure to meet everyone who stopped by the LW! table on Saturday; we are already looking forward to next year's Family Day! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Love Your Landmark #5 - Riverside Church

Union Theological Seminary & Riverside Church 
122nd Street and Riverside Drive

Friends and staff members from the Historic Districts Council (HDC) stand in the shadows of Union Theological Seminary (foreground) and the steeple of Riverside Church.  This photo was snapped following Professor Andrew S. Dolkart's incredible walking tour of our neighbor to the north, the Upper-Upper West Side neighborhood of Morningside Heights.

Professor Dolkart's Morningside Heights tour was part of the HDC's 2012 Six to Celebrate.

Friday, August 3, 2012

When East Battles West, Who Will Reign Supreme?

Consult your collection of Robert A.M. Stern's New York books,
revisit your notes from Preservation Law 101,
and brace yourself for some fierce competition ...

it's trivia night!!

Young Professionals Trivia Night
Thursday, August 30th, 7PM* to 9PM
Common Ground, 206 Avenue A (b/w East 12th and 13th Streets)
FREE but space is limited; RSVP required!

LANDMARK WEST! and our colleagues from across the park,
the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, will host an
evening to test your knowledge of preservation history and other
esoterica centered on the great metropolis we work tirelessly to
protect: New York City!  Come early* and pick your team members
wisely; serious bragging rights are at stake!

Joining LW! and FRIENDS in our informal "East vs. West" trivia competition will be our friends at the Historic Districts Council
plus members from Preservation Alumni
and Pratt Historic Preservation Alumni.

*Happy Hour runs from 4PM to 8PM! Get to Common Ground early,  
order your drink, and prepare for the trivia to come! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

First Baptist Church: A West Side Romanesque stunner

A guest blog by WHSAD Intern Jahmauny Monds

I went out on a journey to find a landmark on the Upper West Side that sparked my interest. I came upon the First Baptist Church. I was captivated by the architecture of this building. Its central window especially captured my eye. I couldn't get over the complexity of the arches, with Corinthian-like capitals and the geometrical innovation of having both cylindrical and prismatic towers (which surprisingly worked well together). 

I really enjoyed the mathematical aspects of this church. There was a variety of unique circular window designs. This is one of the best examples of Romanesque-style architecture that I've ever seen. In the heart of the Upper West Side, at the corner of West 79th Street and Broadway, this gem is just another one of the neighborhood's simple pleasures.

Fun Fact: You'll notice that the building was built on a 45-degree axis; its intention was to expand, as much as possible, the church's auditorium space. 


First Baptist Church is a landmark protected!  The church is included in the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I, which was designated a New York City Historic District by unanimous vote of the Landmarks Preservation Commission on June 26, 2012.  Read our email recap here; then, celebrate!

The History of Preserving History: Penn Station rally, 50 years later

Protesters in front of Pennsylvania Station on Aug. 2, 1962.
Photo: Eddie Hausner/The New York Times

The architects Peter Samton and Diana Goldstein can tell you exactly where they were a half century ago, at 5 p.m. on Aug. 2, 1962: out on Seventh Avenue, tilting at windmills.

Pennsylvania Station, the McKim, Mead & White masterpiece, was doomed. They knew it. But they weren’t going to let it go down undefended. With Norval White, Jordan Gruzen, Elliott Willensky and others, they assembled an impromptu resistance brigade known as Agbany, for Action Group for Better Architecture in New York.

On that 86-degree summer evening 50 years ago, commuters were greeted by the sight of more than 100 buttoned-down and white-gloved protesters marching around the colossal colonnade at the station’s entrance.

“Save Penn Station,” their signs said, in nicely formed letters. (Architects. Of course.) “Don’t Sell Our City Short.” “Save Our Heritage.” “Action Not Apathy.”

Philip Johnson was impeccably present, in the company of the peerless Elizabeth Bliss Parkinson, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, who would soon be its president. There was Aline B. Saarinen, the widow of Eero Saarinen, who had been until 1959 an associate art critic at The New York Times. Agbany counted Eleanor Roosevelt, Stewart Alsop, Jane Jacobs and Norman Mailer among its supporters, along with many of the most respected names in architecture and architectural criticism ...

For the full article by David Dunlap, click here.


The firm of McKim, Mead & White is also responsible for another monumental New York edifice: the IRT Powerhouse.  But like Penn Station before, the building's lack of protection as an Individual Landmark means it is constantly at risk of inappropriate modifications and, worse still, demolition.  Learn more at the Save the Powerhouse blog.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

To Nora Ephron, forever a West Sider

Via The New Yorker
"[F]or many of those who did not know Ms. Ephron personally, her zeal for food seemed to generate a bond." So wrote Matt Flegenheimer in his July 1st New York Times column, "Mourning the Wit and the Woman." In that fashion, our own acquaintance with Nora Ephron was epicurean in nature. In September 2011, Nora and her husband, Nick Pileggi, graciously accepted our invitation to serve as co-chairs of our first-ever Landmark Feast event, which celebrated farm-to-table dining and preservation ideals (and, of course, the West Side neighborhood we all love!). For their enthusiastic support, we will be forever grateful.

The West Side setting was another element on which Nora Ephron and LW! connected: our commitment to preserving the neighborhood's architecture and special sense of place is embodied in the one West Side abode that Nora loved so much as to pen a novella in the June 5, 2006, edition of The New Yorker. Entitled "Moving On: A love story", we learn about Nora's introduction to -- and immediate amorous fall for -- the Apthorp Apartments. On the first of this six-page homage, she writes that "I had never planned to live on the Upper West Side, but after a few weeks I couldn't imagine living anywhere else, and I began, in my manner, to make a religion out of my neighborhood." Nora captures the draw that LW! -- and certainly all West Siders -- feel for that intangible sense of place that is squarely at home on the Upper West Side.

And to zoom in on the gloriously decadent Apthorp, specifically? Well, Nora never stood a chance! She continues: "The apartment in the Apthorp seemed like an urban miracle. I'd found a haven. And the architecture of the building added to the illusion ... Every time I walked into the courtyard at the end of the day, I fell in love all over again." Nora Ephron's love of her neighborhood, of her apartment, of its architecture inspired countless fans via her films which used the West Side as their backdrop.

She also inspired the next generation of cultural movers and shakers, it seems, as Lena Dunham writes (in her touching remembrance of Nora from The New Yorker's June 28, 2012 issue) of her mental list when looking for a residence of her own: "I tried to use Nora-esque criteria -- prewar details, an open courtyard, an eccentric building staff, and neighbors who appeared to dabble in the occult, at least enough for a good story". When Ms. Dunham finally signed her name to a Brooklyn apartment, she "told [Nora] it was my Apthorp, whatever that means". 

To a woman who, as Mayor Bloomberg tweeted, "always loved a good New York story" and "could tell them like no one else", we pay tribute. To a woman who adored the Apthorp and its impressionable architecture. To Nora Ephron, forever a West Sider.

Click here to read James Barron's July 10th New York Times piece dedicated to Nora's "exit", her utterly unique, self-planned memorial service.