Early 20th-Century Residential Hotel Designated

Sixteen-story 1907 hotel building is an early example of architecture incorporating light courts, originally devised to allow light and ventilation into tenements. On October 28, 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate Mill Hotel No. 3, at 485 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, an individual City landmark. The hotel was completed in 1907, to designs by the architecture firm Copeland & Dole, a bicoastal firm with buildings throughout the country. The hotel was the third and largest of a series of residential hotels for single men developed by Darius Ogden Mills.

The neo-Renaissance is comprised of two 16-story towers linked by a central elevator hall, in a light-court arrangement. The light-court typology was created by Ernest Flagg in 1894 as an innovative solution to urban housing, that allowed residents more space, light, ventilation, and protection from fires. The towers each possess a limestone base, and are clad in limestone, brick and terra-cotta. Ornamentation includes molded string courses, cartouches, and a copper cornice. The hotel originally had 1,855 units, allowing it to charge lower prices for larger rooms than other options available to working men. In 1954, new ownership converted the building into offices, with garment-trade showrooms. In the 1980s the lower floors were converted to retail use and a parking garage.

Before commissioners discussed designation, a representative of the owners, 485 Seventh Avenue Associates LLC, spoke to attest to the owner’s support of designation, and the recognition of the building’s significance in history and as architecture. He said the owners intended to return the building to its original use as a hotel, and planned to rework its “highly compromised base” to better harmonize with the original architecture.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan recommended designation, finding the building “fascinating” and “forward-thinking.” Commissioner Fred Bland opined that the building’s cultural history as part of the housing movement was as important as its architecture. Commissioners voted unanimously to designate the building.

LPC: Mills Hotel No. 3, 485 Seventh Ave, Manhattan (LP-2424) (Oct. 28, 2014).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).


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