HELP SAVE US!
In July the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a hearing on whether or not to give landmark staus and protection to the Empire State Dairy building, 2840-44 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. The City recently voted to re-zone the East New York section of Brooklyn so that the area can be more easily developed, and the East New York community would like to save some of its historic architecture from being demolished by the realty interests. Besides being an historic dairy building (1913), the Empire State Dairy has the two tile murals on the blog masthead as part of its facade. These were made specifically for this building under the direction of Leon Solon, the Art Director of the American Encaustic Tiling Company. The murals are probably the largest murals by this company that are still existing, and they an example the U.S. Arts and Crafts movement.
This could be our fate!
|(Click here to see video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx28g0aqfIk)|
While there is still time, please join the members of "Preserve East New York", "Friends of Terra Cotta", the "Tile Heritage Foundation", the "American Art Pottery Association", the "Handmade Tile Association", the "Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society" (UK), and other community residents and preservation groups, who are sending postcards and letters to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking that this building be landmarked and the tile murals protected and preserved for posterity. Postcards and letters should be sent to:
Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, New York 10007
"WALL WORTHY"--A Juried Exhibit of Mixed Media Artwork
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton, NJ 08690
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton, NJ 08690
June 26, 2016 through September 15, 2016
Gallery hours: seven days a week, from 8 AM to 8 PM
Opening reception: July 7, 2016, 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Two of my photos have been chosen for this juried mixed media exhibit. I invite anyone who is in the area on July 7 to come to the opening reception and say "hello." The exhibit should be spectacular!
|PPG Place--Refections II|
|Abandoned Concourse, World Trade Center Construction Site, 1974|
TWO RESTORATIONS: THE CITY HALL SUBWAY STATION AND THE TWEED COURTHOUSE
In recent years in New York City there have been studies made in order to complete historical restorations. Two of these were for the City Hall Subway Station stained glass in 1996-98 (station built in 1904; deactivated, 1945) and the Tweed Courthouse dome and skylights in 2001. The conservation and restoration of the subway station and courthouse glass entailed removal of the glass, cleaning, replacing, and replicating types of glass and stained glass patterns, re-caming and resetting the glass in place. [The following terms are used throughout this article--”laylight” and “skylight”, and here is a simple comparison: a laylight is not necessarily open to the outdoors, and is always installed flush to the ceiling, whereas a skylight always allows in natural light, and may be raised above the roof line. (https://itsgermane.johnjermain.org/tag/skylight/)]
The City Hall Subway Station
In 1904 the New York City rapid transit system began to operate. The first underground subway stations were on the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) line.
“At 2:35 on the afternoon of October 27, 1904, New York
City Mayor George McClellan takes the controls on the
inaugural run of the city’s innovative new rapid transit
system: the subway.
"While London boasts the world’s oldest underground train
network (opened in 1863) and Boston built the first subway
in the United States in 1897, the New York City subway
soon became the largest American system. The first line,
operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT),
traveled 9.1 miles through 28 stations. Running from City
Hall in lower Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal in
midtown, and then heading west along 42nd Street to Times
Square, the line finished by zipping north, all the way to
145th Street and Broadway in Harlem. On opening day,
Mayor McClellan so enjoyed his stint as engineer that he
stayed at the controls all the way from City Hall to 103rd
|Construction of the City Hall Subway Station (1902). (Photo from the collection of the Municipal Archives of the City of New York)|
In his report for the National Parks Service Historic American Engineering Record (H.A.E.R.), David J. Framberger describes the City Hall Station as
“...the southern terminus of the Contract One railroad,
[...which] was treated in an elaborate manner to serve as the
showplace of the system. The City Hall station and the main
powerhouse[--a Stanford White building between 58th and
59th Streets and 11th and 12th Avenues in Manhattan]...
exemplified the important role of architectural designs in the
|City Hall Station in 1904 showing the main skylight within the timbrel Guastavino vaulting. (Photo from the collection of the Municipal Archives of the City of New York)|
“The original plan for the southern end of the Contract One
subway arranged the four tracks on a loop below City Hall
Park; and extending beneath the United States Post Office
that was then situated on the southern tip of the park. With
the anticipation of the Brooklyn Extension (Contract Two),
the plan was changed in 1898 to a smaller single track loop
for local trains only, with the express tracks built overhead to
avoid a grade crossing. Because the loop was single track
and curved, the station designed for it was unique from all
the others. City Hall station, as designed by Heins and
LaFarge, featured two short stairways leading from the street
to a vaulted control room. A wide stairway then descended to
the platform. The floors and wainscot were finished similar to
the other underground stations, but the curve of the platform
was accentuated by a series of timbrel vaults supplied by the
R. Guastavino Company, New York. Guastavino vaults
were constructed of thin terra-cotta tiles bonded with a string
mortar and added in successive layers to form a thin
structural vault of great strength. Heins and LaFarge were
experienced with the principles of Guastavino vaults, for they
had utilized them for the main crossing of the cathedral of St.
John the Divine. The Guastavino vaults in City Hall station
were of white mat finish tiles, emphasized near the edges
with green and brown glazed tiles. Three of the vaults had
leaded glass skylights which opened upwards to vault lights
in City Hall Park, as did the central skylight in the control
room. Additional lighting was supplied by twelve chandeliers
hung from the center of the vaults, plus incandescent bulbs
around the platform entrance and in the control room. Three
glazed terra-cotta name plates were located along the
platform walls. [emphasis added]
"City Hall station, with its elegant use of vaulting and leaded
glass, reflected the fact that Heins and LaFarge were
masterful church designers. It was also the only subway
station in which decorative design was related to structural
form. Whereas the other stations and structures relied on
applied historicizing decoration, the beauty of City Hall
station was the result of structural elements directly tied to its
peculiar plan.” (David J. Framberger, “Historic American Engineering
Record · Survey Number HAER NY-122”, Historic American Engineering
Record, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, pp.
As ridership grew on the New York City subway system, larger subway cars were designed, and subway stations had to be lengthened to accommodate them. “[The] IRT underwent an extensive program of station lengthening in the 1940s and early 1950s. City Hall, due to its architecture and its being situated on a tight curve, was deemed impractical for lengthening. The new longer trains had center doors on each car, and at City Hall's tight curve, it was dangerous to open them. It was decided to abandon the station in favor of the nearby Brooklyn Bridge station, and so City Hall was closed to passenger service on December 31, 1945. The street entrances were sealed and the skylights covered over.” (“Station: City Hall (IRT East Side Line)”; http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Station:_City_Hall_(IRT_East_Side_Line)
In 1998 Julie Sloan, who is presently an independent consultant for stained glass preservation and conservation, prepared a report about the condition of the stained glass skylights and laylight in the City Hall Station for the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Ms. Sloan described the area of concern as “three arched, leaded-glass skylights over the platform and tracks; and one circular leaded-glass laylight in the station lobby, which no longer exists. The skylights, which each contain three individual lights, are made of clear, textured glass assembled in zinc came with steel framework. They were originally lit by daylight from light wells in the street above. Only one of the skylights, at the southern end of the station, is still open to daylight; the other two and the laylight have been closed over. The skylights and laylight were designed by the architectural firm of Heins & La Farge and installed prior to the station’s opening in 1904. They were manufactured by the American Luxfer Prism Company, according to Metropolitan Transit Authority documents.” (Julie L. Sloan, “City Hall Loop IRT Station, IRT Subway, New York, NY”, “Executive Summary: Skylights and Laylight”, Executive Summary-1, undated 1998 draft from Box #378, “NYC City Hall Subway Station” folder in the Cummings Stained Glass Studios Archives, Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York)
As part of her investigation into the preservation and conservation of the City Hall Station’s architectural glass, Ms. Sloan took a number of photos of the glass in 1996 showing its condition at that time.
|￼The damaged skylights and surrounding Guastavino tiling. (Photos courtesy of Julie L. Sloan and the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority)|
|The opening where the circular laylight (bottom photo) once was situated over the ticket area. (Photos courtesy of Julie L. Sloan and the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority)|
Although Ms. Sloan researched her report for the Metropolitan Transit Authority at the request of the Cummings Stained Glass Studios of North Adams, Massachusetts, Rohlf’s Stained and Leaded Glass Studio of Mt. Vernon, New York obtained the commission to conserve and restore the City Hall Station glass. Peter Hans Rohlf, the President of Rohlf’s Studio, shared photos and a brief explanation of the restoration process.
“The circle laylight was completely fabricated new with a
new steel frame as well. The leaded glass in the skylight over
the tracks was completely removed, crated and taken out on a
flat bed train. Crates were picked up in a subway yard in
Queens and transferred to our Studio in Mount Vernon.
|Detail of one skylight, before restoration. (Courtesy of Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio)|
“At the Studio, the sections had rubbings made. All sections
were cleaned and broken pieces replaced with new prism
glass. Each section was re-leaded with new restoration grade
lead cames, joints soldered and panels puttied. Steel
reinforcing bars were attached to the back of each section for
|The circular laylight area being opened to the light and being prepared for the installation of the replicated stained glass. (Courtesy of Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio)|
“The leaded glass was re-crated and brought back to the
subway station in the same manner that it was taken out. The
steel frame skylight was cleaned on site and the leaded glass
re-set into the skylight. The two side leaded glass skylights
were crated and turned over to the MTA.” (Email from Peter Hans Rohlf to
Michael Padwee dated March 29, 2016)
|(Courtesy of Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio)|
|Packing a piece of leaded glass from the skylight over the tracks during the removal.|
|The restored skylight section. (Photos courtesy of Rohlf’s Stained and Leaded Glass Studio, 783 S. Third Avenue, Mount Vernon, New York)|
For those interested in “anything subway”, Dave Pirmann has the most extensive website about the New York City Subway System. This includes photos of the system’s “ghost” or abandoned stations such as the City Hall Station. (This station is accessible to members of the New York Transit Museum through guided tours.) In August 2013 Dave went on a tour of the City Hall Station. Although the glass had been restored a number of years before this tour, you can see the results of only a few years’ lack of care. Below are some of Dave’s photos:
|Some of the glass has yet to be restored. (Photos courtesy of Dave Pirmann and www.nycsubway.org)|
The Tweed Courthouse Laylight Replication, 51 Chambers Street, New York, NY
|The Tweed Courthouse and its dome. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
“[The] Tweed Courthouse is among the most architecturally significant public buildings constructed in the [United States] during the third-quarter of the 19th century. Its immense cast iron elements, both decorative and sculptural, are unparalleled in any American public building. The 177, 500 square feet of interior space has retained its original spacial arrangement, encompassing 30 monumental courtrooms and a five-story central rotunda.” (“New York Courthouse restoration draws high praise”, Stone World, Vol. 23, Number 2, February 2006, p. 102)
Although both the exterior and the interior of the Tweed Courthouse were given New York City landmark status in 1984, both the interior and exterior had badly deteriorated over the past 100+ years. In 1989 John G. Waite Associates, an architectural firm from Albany, New York, was hired to prepare a feasibility study for the preservation and reuse of the building. “The architects began the comprehensive restoration in 1999 developing a phased program that involved more than 100 separate contracts and hundreds of workers.” (Ibid., p. 104)
|The Tweed Courthouse octagonal dome.|
In 1999, as part of this comprehensive plan, Cummings Stained Glass Studios of North Adams, Massachusetts was engaged to examine the Tweed Courthouse rotunda dome skylight to determine if it was more feasible to conserve and restore the stained glass and laylight or replicate them. The rotunda dome was octagonal in shape and 50’ across from one side to the other. The stained glass layer was placed on top of a clear glass laylight layer. “The original diffuser, or laylight, consisted of 1/2” thick translucent glass panels with sand-blasted patterns resting in the iron frame, surmounted with bands of camed stained glass panels.” (Page 2 of a draft proposal from Cummings Studios to John G. Waite (the architect) dated March 6, 2000; Cummings Studios Archives, Box #66, “NY Tweed Correspondence”, folder #1; Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York)
Cummings proposed to replicate the dome glass as most of the original glass had been removed by World War II and was either missing or broken. Also, safety standards for laylight glass over a public area had changed and were stricter than they had been in the past.
|The glass being replaced in the dome. (Cummings Stained Glass Studios Archive, Box #66, “NY Tweed Correspondence”, folder #1; Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York)|
New translucent safety glass panels would be set in the original metal framework. “The stained glass will be produced by an affiliate of S.A. Bendheim Co. in Germany, using the [mouth-blown] cylinder glass process to match the originals. About half of the original stained glass panels were hand painted with various profiles, including three different leaf patterns, squirrel, bird, frog, fish, floral, and three different border fillet designs. ...The duplication of the original patterns on the laminated glass will be achieved by covering the clear glass with a thick resist, stencil the art work onto the resist, cut out areas to be sandblasted, and then blast to a uniform look. Remove remaining resist and clean glass.” (Pages 2 and 3 of a draft proposal from Cummings Studios to John G. Waite (the architect) dated March 6, 2000; Cummings Studios Archives, Box #66, “NY Tweed Correspondence”, folder #1; Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York)
Stained glass artist Robert Pinart was asked to make sketches of the stained glass elements for the replication. These would then be transferred to the glass itself and fired in a kiln. Two of those sketches are below.
|A selection of photos of the skylight and laylight installation. (Cummings Stained Glass Studios Archive, Box #66, “NY Tweed Correspondence”, folder #1; Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York)|
The Tweed Courthouse laylight design and replication won a New York City Design Commission award in 2001 at the Nineteenth Annual Awards for Excellence in Design. (http://www1.nyc.gov/site/designcommission/awards/past-awards/design-awards-19.page)
These two public spaces are landmarked and, presumably protected. This doesn’t mean, however, that they, or any landmarked building or space will remain protected forever. The article below, reprinted in its entirety, illustrates how the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission tried to un-landmark a property without going through the proper procedures to do so, in order to allow a developer to make a profit.
Posted by LE
-LANDMARK HISTORY HAPPENED TODAY-
In a world where developers run our city in a kind of tragic oligarchy, it is nice to be reminded that justice against the developers can sometimes still prevail. Here is the happy story.
You may remember last year the case of the great landmarked building at 346 Broadway. It has – among other glories – a wonderful Clocktower Suite with a huge mechanical clock, one that is similar in character to that of Big Ben in London. The suite and the clock were specifically designated as interior landmarks. The suite had customarily been open to the public since at least 1918. It was open for tours, scenic viewing of Lower Manhattan from the outdoor veranda, and for public events. It had also housed a public art gallery, art studios, and an “alternative” arts-oriented radio station. The City even appointed an official (unpaid) Clock Master to care for immense clock mechanism. Then, in an eyebrow-raising sale, the City sold the building to a developer, the Peebles Corporation. And then came the coup de grace. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, in a hotly contested public hearing – gave the developer a “certificate of appropriateness” to renovate the suite and to electrify the ancient mechanical clock mechanism – all in preparation for converting the suite to a private condo to profit Peebles. The public would no longer be allowed access.
Many were outraged – for several reasons. There was the sneaky way of privatizing the public part of a landmark. There was the getting around the official de-ascension procedure to remove a building’s landmark status. And last, there was the callous treatment of the rare and immense clock. Therefore, a group of us agreed to become plaintiffs in a lawsuit. The attorney was the brilliant Michael Hiller. Our group of plaintiffs was the Tribeca Trust, Save America’s Clocks (board and president), the Historic Districts Council, the city’s clock master Marvin Schneider and assistant clock master, Forest Markowitz, Alana Heiss, and Chris DeSantis, author of an authoritative book on mechanical clocks.
We sued the developer, Peebles, Beyer Blinder Bell Architects, and the City of New York, specifically the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Our court date was a few months back.
Today, March 31st, Judge Lynn Kotler finally issued her opinion. The result: the LPC decision to issue a certificate of appropriateness is overturned and declared to be “irrational, arbitrary, or capricious.” The judge wrote that the decision was irrational because the LPC is supposed to protect, enhance, and perpetuate landmarks, and that the permit would “render the Clocktower Suite ineligible to be designated an interior landmark once the work [of dismantlement] is completed.” Basically, the LPC was doing the opposite of what it was supposed to be doing. The C. of A. is annulled. Done!
There were also errors of law when the LPC gave Peebles the go-ahead to electrify the clock. The LPC had claimed that it was within its discretionary power to do so, but the court said instead that such a decision was to be based on interpretation of the actual statutes, a power that is “an issue of law for the courts.”
Here is the best quote from the ruling:
“Even though the Landmarks Law does not expressly require that public access to an interior landmark be maintained, absent an express limitation to that extent, the general provisions of the Landmarks Law vest the Commission with the power to regulate an interior landmark. That power must include the ability to direct an Owner to maintain public access, since public access is a specific characteristic of an interior landmark.” (Ruling, page 12)
Having witnessed the presentation of arguments in court myself, I gotta say, Michael Hiller was a class act. He was deeply prepared for every counter-argument, extremely precise, logical, and thoughtful, while the attorneys for the City and developer were, in my opinion, none of those things in front of the Judge.
It is a clear victory and an important one for landmarks law.
Nonetheless, problems remain at 346 Broadway unrelated to this lawsuit. The first is that the developer obtained permission from an overly supine LPC to put an entire glass spaceship “penthouse floor” on top of the building, adding considerably to the developer’s profits at the expense of the integrity of the landmark. The glass spaceship will be visible from all around. How that decision is not also considered “irrational, arbitrary, and capricious,” I will never know. But we did not sue over that part of the problem, darn it.
The second problem is that of improper dealing by the City. The CIO of Peebles is Tawan Davis. He used to work for the New York City Economic Development Corporation during the actual sale. (conflict of interest, anyone?) When a former top executive at Peebles (Daniel Newhouse) filed a suit last year against the developer over a profit sharing issue, it came out as incidental information the claim that Davis, while working for the City, gave Peebles insider information on other bids for 346 Broadway. How our Attorney General or at City Comptroller Scott Stringer is not all over that one, I don’t know either.
And the last problem is this: when the city was moving the law courts from 346 Broadway to another location on Hudson Street, Tribeca residents banded together and sued over the transfer of the courts. The city very quickly agreed not to locate the courts on Hudson Street and residents decided to drop the suit. Apparently it was the irregularities over the city’s sale of the building that made the City so willing to accommodate the contentious neighbors. Did the City not want that can of worms opened? Did those irregularities have to do with Tawan Davis? Perhaps we need another suit to find out.
Meanwhile, celebrate, one and all. The public got a rare win this time. And to add icing to the cake, our community board landmarks committee in CB 1 recently admonished Peebles to put back the iron ball on top of the building. Wouldn’t that be nice too?
|346 Broadway, Manhattan|
I would like to thank Julie L. Sloan (Julie L. Sloan LLC, Consultants in Stained Glass), Dave Pirmann (http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Main_Page), Peter Hans Rohlf (http://www.rohlfstudio.com), and the Rakow Research Library of the Corning Museum of Glass (http://www.cmog.org/research/library) for their help with this article.
LINKS TO MY PAST BLOG ARTICLES
Mid-Twentieth Century Synagogues in the United States: the Collaboration of Art and Architecture
Egyptian, Moorish and Middle Eastern Ornamentation Used In Art Deco Terra Cotta in New York City, and Empire State Dairy Update
Inside Prospect Park: The park's Rustic, Classical and other Internal Architecture
Herman Carl Mueller in Titusville and Trenton, New Jersey; A Charles Volkmar Discovery in Clifton, New Jersey
A Book Review and New Discoveries and Updates-II: Jean Nisan, Ceramic Tile Artist
Polychrome Terra Cotta Buildings in Newark, New Jersey
New Discoveries-I: The Tiled House of Jere T. Smith
Introducing the Stained and Dalle de Verre Glass Art of Robert Pinart
Bits and Pieces: Polychrome Terra Cotta- and Tile-Clad Buildings
Socialist and Labor Architecture and Iconography in New York City
Bits and Pieces: Two Mosaics--Hamden, CT and Manchester, NH
The Renaissance Casino and Ballroom Complex in Harlem: Another Tunisian Tile Installation Headed for Demolition
Clement J. Barnhorn and the Rookwood Pottery
The Woolworth Building
The Mosaic Art of Hildreth Meière
Lost Tile Installations: The Tunisian Tiles of the Chemla Family
The Grueby Children's Murals on East 104th Street
The Experimental Lustre Tiles of Rafael Guastavino, Jr.
Bits and Pieces: Two "E"s--Eltinge and Elks; and more about Jean Nison
The Ceramic Tiles and Murals of Jean Nison
Pleasant Days in Short Hills: A Rookwood Wonderland
Architectural Ceramics in the Queen City
Isaac Broome: Innovation and Design in the Tile Industry after the Centennial Exhibition
"Immigration on the Lower East Side": A Public Arts Mural Created by Richard Haas
Movie Palaces-Part 2: The Loews 175th Street Theatre
Béton-Coignet in New York: The New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company
Michelin House, London
Movie Palaces, Part 1: Loew's Valencia Theatre
An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part II
The Tiles of Fonthill Castle
An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part I
Tiled Facades in Madrid
Nineteenth Century Brooklyn Potteries
Ernest Batchelder in Manhattan
Leon Victor Solon: Color, Ceramics and Architecture
Architectural Art Tiles in Reading, Pennsylvania
Charles Lamb and Charles Volkmar
Kansas City Architecture - II
Kansas City Architecture - I
Westchester County--Atwood and Grueby
Modern Houses in New Caanan, Connecticut
PPG Place, Pittsburgh
Aluminum City Terrace, New Kensington, Pennsylvania
Newark's WPA Tile Murals: “Fine Art is an Important Part of Everyday Life”
Public Art Programs in New York City: The CETA Tile Murals at Clark Street
Concrete and Tiles-I: Moyer, Mercer, Murosa
The Café Savarin and the Rookwood Pottery; Chocolate Shoppe Rebounds
Architectural Ceramics of Henry Varnum Poor
Herman Carl Mueller and the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle
Meet Me at the Astor
The Mikvah Under 5 Allen Street; "Historic Hall" Apartments Revisited
Some Moravian Tile Sites in New York
Brooklyn's International Tile Company
Subway Tiles-Part III, the Squire Vickers Era
Subway Tiles-Part II, Heins and LaFarge
Subway Tiles--Part I, Guastavino tiles
Trent in New York-Part III, Historic Hall Apartment House
American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part II, Artists' Tiles
Trent in New York-Part II, a Dey Street Restaurant
American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part I, Tile Showrooms
Trent in New York-Part I, The Bronx Theatre
Fred Dana Marsh's Tiles