1909 “Automobile Row” complex considered

1780 Broadway in Midtown, Manhattan. Image: LPC.

Owner of B.F. Goodrich Company buildings argued that only one building deserved designation. On August 11, 2009, Landmarks held a public hearing on the potential designation of the B.F. Goodrich Company buildings as an individual landmark at 1780 Broadway and 225 West 57th Street in Manhattan. Conceived as a single project and built in 1909, the two structures are located on the same tax lot and once shared an automotive freight elevator and steam heating plant. Howard Van Doren Shaw designed the buildings, borrowing elements from the Chicago School and the Vienna Secession movement. The 12-story Broadway building served as headquarters for the B.F. Goodrich tire company, and the eight-story West 57th Street building was built for speculative office space. At the time of the two buildings’ construction, the area was known as “Automobile Row,” and housed the offices and showrooms of several car-related companies.

Kramer Levin attorney Paul Selver spoke on behalf of the buildings’ owner, Extell Development. Selver said that based on the merits of the individual buildings, Extell supported designating the Broadway building but opposed designating the West 57th building. He claimed the buildings were built under different permits, on different tax lots, and that they were not visually connected. Noting that Landmarks did not mention either building in its 1979 survey of the area, Selver also pointed out that Landmarks declined to calendar the buildings for a designation hearing after a 1994 assessment.

Bill Higgins, of Higgins Quasebarth, also represented Extell and provided further details on the buildings and the surrounding area. Higgins noted that all of the “Automobile Row” buildings faced Broadway and described the West 57th Street building as having a more understated architectural treatment than the Broadway building. He said that in comparison to the West 57th Street building, the historical significance and important architectural features resided in the Broadway building. Higgins claimed that it was appropriate for Landmarks to make separate designation decisions on the two buildings.

Speakers supporting designation included New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Andrea Goldwyn, who testified that the buildings represent Shaw’s only work in the City and serve as an important example of the Chicago School. Daniel Scherer, from the Yale School of Architecture, said each building was essential to the other, describing them as a “typological pair.”

Michael Slattery, representing the Real Estate Board of New York, spoke in opposition to designating either building, arguing that they had already been found to lack significance in 1994 and that there was no new compelling reason for reconsideration. A representative of the New York AIA supported Extell’s position, stating that only the Broadway building merited protection and the West 57th building lacked the same “panache.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney closed the hearing, but held the record open for three weeks to accept additional public comments.

LPC: B.F. Goodrich Company Buildings, 1780 Broadway, 225 W. 57th Street, Manhattan (LP-2380) (Aug. 11, 2009).

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