ARCHITECTURAL TILES, GLASS AND ORNAMENTATION IN NEW YORK

A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Landmarks hearing was held on July 19, 2016

by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) to determine if the Empire State Dairy complex (5 buildings at 2840-48 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn) and its two Arts and Crafts tile murals would be landmarked or thrown open to development. The LPC and the current administration has acted in pro-development ways in the past, and the East New York section of Brooklyn, where the Empire State Dairy buildings reside, had just been rezoned to make it easier to "develop" the area.

The first speaker was the attorney for the owners of the building. I was told that she was also once an LPC commissioner. The attorney asked that one building, built in 1907, be removed from landmark consideration because it was architecturally unworthy.


The building that the owners' attorney wants to remove from landmark consideration.  This picture post card shows the southwest corner of Atlantic and Schenck Avenues, with Schenck on the right hand side of this view. The postcard was used as part of “The East New York Project” (http://www.tapeshare.com) started by Riccardo Gomes. (Courtesy of the Brian Merlis archives, http://www.brooklynpix.com)



She then asked that the hearing be continued to September so that an environmental report could be completed on the need to clean up a leaking, underground 5000 gallon oil tank on the property. After taking testimony from everyone, a continuance to September 13 was granted.


The two American Encaustic Tiling Company murals separated by three window bays on the Atlantic Avenue side of the building. In about 1924 the Borden Dairy Company bought the building and changed the name above the murals. (Color photos courtesy of Michael Padwee unless otherwise noted)



Community members and preservationists were also allowed to give testimony for the record. Zulmilena Then, the founder of "Preserve East New York", spoke on behalf of the needs of the East New York Community and against the loss of East New York's architectural history. She and Susan Tunick, the founder of "Friends of Terra Cotta" (FOTC), were dressed in costumes they used for a pop-up postcard signing a few weeks before at an Historic Districts Council meeting. 


Zulmilena Then with her cardboard mural sign-board and Susan Tunick with her cow mask at the pop-up postcard signing.

Susan Tunick and FOTC organized a postcard campaign in favor of landmarking the complex and sent hundreds of postcards to the Commission over the past few months. In fact, there is still time to send a postcard or letter to:

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, New York 10007 
U.S.A.



Obverse and Reverse of Empire State Dairy postcard campaign. Some FOTC postcards are still available. If your organization can use 10 or more, please contact me through the comments section below. (Courtesy of FOTC)

Susan Tunick spoke in favor of landmarking and read a statement from Andrew Dolkart, Professor of Historic Preservation, Columbia University School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, who asked that the LPC not forget that the buildings, in and of themselves, were historically worthy for landmark designation. The buildings were architecturally representative of the type of manufacturing taking place in the area a century ago. They should be protected, restored and reused and remain as part of the East New York community.

In an email, Professor Dolkart said he wanted to emphasize the importance of the buildings in his testimony. The buildings need to be saved because they are our architectural history along with the murals that are New York's irreplaceable art history. They are integral parts of each other and should be kept together.

I spoke and two representatives from the "Historic Districts Council", Kelly Carroll and Barbara Zay, also gave their support.


The original 1913 architechtural drawings of the Empire State Dairy buildings. The 1907 building (top, right) is the building the owners wish to separate from the landmark designation. The top (Atlantic Avenue elevation) drawing shows the two murals, two "capped towers" above the murals, and a clock tower, now missing. Also the three doors/loading bays under the windows have been cemented over. The bottom drawing is the Barbey Street elevation. (Permission to publish the drawings given by Donald Marchese, owner of the Royal Plastic Company)


The two tile murals on the blog masthead are site-specific to the building, and are illustrated on the 1913 architectural drawings. These were made under the direction of Leon Solon, the Art Director of the American Encaustic Tiling Company. The murals are probably the largest made by this company that are still existing since the entire tiled facade of the AET building/showrooms at 16 East 41st Street, Manhattan was stripped of Leon Solon's art tiles in 2014.


16 East 41st Street in 2014 after its renovation. The art tiles were stripped off and trashed so that the building wouldn't be designated a landmark. (Courtesy of Google Maps)


This was only a portion of the 1922 tiled facade. In 1993 it had been partially stripped of its first floor tiling to make room for the windowed storefront of a pizzeria. At that time the LPC declined to designate the building a landmark.

A full news report about this hearing and testimony can be accessed at http://newyorkyimby.com/2016/07/landmarks-holds-hearings-on-designation-of-midtown-east-buildings-empire-state-dairy.html.

Many people from across the country, as well as from other countries deserve to be thanked for sending letters of support and postcards to the LPC. Some of those were members of the Tile Heritage Foundation, which has become a major voice in the preservation of existing installations of rare and unusual ceramic surfaces, the American Art Pottery Association, the Mosaic Artists of Michigan,  and Hans van Lemmen, President, Penny Beckett, Chairperson, Lesley Durbin, Conservation Advisor, and other members of the British Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society.



LINKS TO MY PAST BLOG ARTICLES

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Egyptian, Moorish and Middle Eastern Ornamentation Used In Art Deco Terra Cotta in New York City, and Empire State Dairy Update
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Inside Prospect Park: The park's Rustic, Classical and other Internal Architecture
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A Book Review and New Discoveries and Updates-II: Jean Nisan, Ceramic Tile Artist
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Polychrome Terra Cotta Buildings in Newark, New Jersey
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New Discoveries-I: The Tiled House of Jere T. Smith
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Introducing the Stained and Dalle de Verre Glass Art of Robert Pinart
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Bits and Pieces: Polychrome Terra Cotta- and Tile-Clad Buildings
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Socialist and Labor Architecture and Iconography in New York City
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Bits and Pieces: Two Mosaics--Hamden, CT and Manchester, NH
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The Renaissance Casino and Ballroom Complex in Harlem: Another Tunisian Tile Installation Headed for Demolition
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Clement J. Barnhorn and the Rookwood Pottery
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The Mosaic Art of Hildreth Meière
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Lost Tile Installations: The Tunisian Tiles of the Chemla Family
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The Experimental Lustre Tiles of Rafael Guastavino, Jr.
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The Ceramic Tiles and Murals of Jean Nison
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An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part I
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Leon Victor Solon: Color, Ceramics and Architecture
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Kansas City Architecture - I
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American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part II, Artists' Tiles
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American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part I, Tile Showrooms
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