Landmarks considers 1911 printing plant

Owners of former engraving plant welcome landmark designation. Landmarks heard testimony on the possible designation of the American Bank Note Company Printing Plant on January 15, 2008. The architects of the plant, Kirby Petit & Green, also designed the American Bank Note Company’s Manhattan offices on Broad Street, which the City designated as a landmark in 1997.

The plant’s design emphasizes security as well as aesthetics, with only one entrance along the over 1,500 feet of street frontage to limit access. A Gothic tower rises above the plant, and large round arch windows provide light to its interior. For over 75 years, the American Bank Note Company produced bank notes, stocks, bonds, and other engraved products, including possibly dollar bills, at the plant.

At the public hearing , the owner of the plant, Charles Bendit of Taconic Investment Partners, testified in support of designation. Bendit stated that his firm intends to convert the plant into office space while respecting its historical past. Bendit also noted that Taconic’s redevelopment of the plant would be in line with the firm’s other landmark buildings, including a former Montgomery Ward warehouse in Chicago, and the former Western Beef building on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

Preservationist groups also testified in favor of designation. The Historic Districts Council’s Ed Kirkland compared the plant to a “great Roman castle” and urged Landmarks to designate it. Benika Morokuma of the Municipal Art Society called the plant “an architecturally and historically significant piece of industrial architecture.” Bronx Community Board 2 representative John Robert, however, testified that Board 2 was not informed of the designation, and asked Landmarks to delay voting on it until Board 2 can meet with Landmarks and Taconic to discuss the matter.

When invited to speak, Commissioner Stephen Byrns, Landmarks’ sole Bronx resident, called the plant “a monumental building in a monumental site” and “a true landmark.” Chair Robert B. Tierney closed the hearing without further comments.

LPC: American Bank Note Company Printing Plant, 1201 Lafayette Ave., Bronx (LP-2298) (Jan. 15, 2008).

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