Exterior and Interior of Colonial Revival Building Added to Commission’s Calendar

215 East 71st Street in Manhattan. Image Credit: LPC.

Headquarters of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York serves as both club house and museum. On December 12, 2017, Landmarks voted to add the Headquarters of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York to its calendar for consideration as both an exterior and interior City landmark.  The Neo-Colonial building, at 215 East 71st Street, was completed in 1930 to designs by architect Richard Henry Dana, Jr.  It serves as a clubhouse and museum for the New York chapter of the Society of Colonial Dames in America.

The Society of Colonial Dames in America was founded in 1891, and is composed of women who can trace their ancestry to a significant figure in the United States’ colonial era. The organization promotes patriotism, the preservation of the country’s Colonial heritage, and education in U.S. history. The Society’s New York Chapter dates to the late 19th century and commissioned the clubhouse to accommodate its growing membership. The New York chapter operates the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx, itself an individual City landmark.

The four-story Colonial Revival building is faced in red Flemish-bond brick, with stone stringcourses, a balustrade, and keystones. Dana based the design largely on the Colonel John McCever House, a 1750 structure that once stood on Wall Street, and was his influenced by his extensive knowledge of English and Dutch colonial architecture.

The interiors to be contemplated for designation include the main foyer, the member’s dressing room, and dining room on the first floor, the monumental staircase and central stair hall, the second floor members’ room and members’ lounge, and the exhibition hall on the third floor. In the interiors, Dana incorporated details from 18th century residences in both the U.S. and England. The interiors display common feature of colonial-rea interior design, such as paneled wainscoting, paneled doors, crown moldings, and multi-light sash windows.  Discrete elements include a black and white marble floor on the first floor, Chinese wallpaper salvaged from a British castle, custom-built cabinetry, a half-turn open staircase inspired by John Hancock’s Boston house, and crystal chandelier in the dining room from Eton College.

Counsel Mark Silberman stated that interiors were eligible for designation because the public was granted access through tours and educational programs, and the spaces were commonly rented out for events.

Commissioner Fred Bland commented that the Commission should look at the designation potential of interiors in more of the City’s private club houses. Commissioners voted unanimously to add the building and the interiors to its calendar to consider for designation.

LPC: National Society of Colonial Dames in New York State Headquarters, Interiors, 215  East 71st Street, Manhattan (LP-2605; LP-2606) (Dec. 12, 2017).

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

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