Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lower Manhattan Walking Tour

One of the benefits of my job is that it's located in lower Manhattan, full of architectural gems and pockets of green space. Right around the corner from my office is . . .

The Woolworth Building: Designed by Cass Gilbert (the architect of the New York County Lawyers' Association building that I work in) in the neo-Gothic style, the Woolworth Building was dubbed the Cathedral of Commerce. It was the tallest builidng in the world from the year it was finished, 1913, until 1930, and at 792 feet it is still one of the 20 tallest buildings in New York City and one of the 50 tallest in the world. The tower is flush with the front of the building rather than stepped back, and its vertical piers continue without interrupting hoizontal decoration, all of which emphasizes the building's verticality. Hall: Right across from the Woolworth is City Hall Park, which surrounds, you guessed it, City Hall. The building houses the chambers of the New York City Council and the office of the mayor, which makes it the oldest city hall in the US that still houses its original goverment functions. This building is New York's third city hall, completed in 1812, and epitomizes American Federal architecture. It exhibits influences from both French neo-classicism, with its rounded archways and flat roofs, and the English Georgian style, with its elaborate interor moldings. The brownstone at the back of the building was famously left bare, not faced in the white marble used on the front and sides. This cost-cutting strategy relflected the idea that the City of New York would never expand north of the City Hall Building (current day Chambers Street). Unfortunately, this historic brownstone facade was replaced in the repairs of 1954-56 with the limestone we see today. I still find it hard to believe that so recently there were such different views of historic restoration. Building: The Manhattan Municipal Building was designed by the firm of McKim Mead & White (who are also responsible for the campus of Columbia University, the old Penn Station, and many other important New York City landmarks) and built from 1909 to 1915. It houses various city agencies, and was designed to accomodate the increased government space needed after the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898. It is still one of the largest goverment buildings in the world. The building's tower represents the five boroughs with its five cupolas, and with the statue of civic fame at it's zenith, which wears a crown with five points. In this photo you can see how well the towers of the Municipal Building and the Woolworth Building go together.

1 comment:

AK said...

I never noticed how nice the Woolworth Building is -- and I'm even taking a class there. Lovely.