Hearings held on Morris Lapidus’ buildings

Summit Hotel and Crawford Clothes Building considered for designation. On March 29, 2005, Landmarks held a joint public hearing on two buildings designed by the modern architect Morris Lapidus: the 1961 sea-foam brick Summit Hotel at Lexington and East 51st Street and the 1948 Crawford Clothes Building, also known as the Paterson Silk building, at West 14th Street and University Place.

brothers Preston Robert and Laurence Tisch, following the success of his modern Florida hotels, designed a dramatic 21-story, S-curved slab facade hotel, clad in turquoise brick and green Italian tile. The S-curve shape, both dramatic and practical, permitted Lapidus to increase the hotel room count to 800 from the 500 projected from a traditional box design. When challenged about the dramatic shape and its bright interior following its opening, Lapidus responded, “Why be exotic in private.” The three-story Crawford Clothes store, one of Lapidus’ earliest distinguished works, was noted for the slanted center glass tower that separated its metal-screen and Roman brick facades.

Landmarks voted on March 8, 2005 to schedule both buildings for public hearing. The morning of the vote, the owners of the Crawford Clothes Building, under a Buildings’ permit granted March 7th, demolished its glass center tower.

At the March 29, 2005 Landmarks hearing, only the owners of the Summit Hotel, a partnership including Oxford Capital and Goldman Sachs, appeared, stating that they had worked with Lapidus’ son to restore the hotel to Lapidus’ original intent. The owners asked Landmarks not to vote on the designation that day in order to allow them to submit further comments.

Supporters of both designations, including DoCoMoMo U.S., a chapter of an international organization formed to preserve Modern Movement architecture, advocated that both structures deserved designation despite the inconsistent alterations and the partial demolition. Several speakers argued that revisions made to the Summit Hotel by its current owners and management, Doubletree, were destroying its integrity. They requested a designation vote that day. Landmarks decided not to vote on the designation and instead held the public hearing open on both buildings; no date is set for a designation vote.

LPC: Summit Hotel, 569 Lexington Ave. (LP-2177) (March 29, 2005) (Michael T. Sillerman, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, for Oxford Capital); LPC: Crawford Clothes Store, 36 East 14th Street (LP-2176) (March 29, 2005) (Irving J. Gotbaum, Friedman and Gotbaum, LLP, for owner).

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