Salvation Army Headquarters Designated an Individual Landmark

120 West 14th Street, Manhattan. Image credit: LPC

Prominent Art Deco headquarters of international Christian charity organization features designated after opposition retracted by Salvation Army leadership. On October 17, 2017, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Salvation Army National and Territorial Headquarters, located at 120 West 14th Street, as an individual City landmark. The complex was completed in 1930 after the organization outgrew its original New York City location. The complex was designed by Ralph Walker of the firm Voorhees, Gmelin and Walker—the architect behind several of the City’s significant Art Deco buildings. Other individual landmarks designed by Walker include the Western Union Building, 1 Wall Street, and the Barclay-Vesey Building, all renowned for their Art Deco design.

The landmark is composed of two buildings: an auditorium and an office building, both clad in brick and cast stone. A third structure, a concomitantly developed women’s dormitory, is protected as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District and is not included in the individual landmark designation.  The asymmetric complex’s three-story arched entryway features prominently on the streetwall of 14th Street. Landmarks added the item to its calendar in 1980, and held hearings in 1982, 1990, and 2014.

The 1930 opening coincided with the Salvation Army’s Golden Jubilee National Congress, celebrating 50 years of work within the United States for the British-based organization.

Landmarks identified the buildings as worthy of individual landmark designation not just for their architectural quality, but also for the role the Salvation Army and its headquarters played in New York City history. During the Great Depression, the Salvation Army provided food and shelter for thousands, and established free employment bureaus with the Public Works Administration.

At the most recent hearing, representatives of the Salvation Army, which still owns and occupies the property, reiterated their opposition to designation. The representatives expressed concern that designation would distract from their mission, and divert funds from their charitable and evangelical activities. Representatives of preservationist organizations the Historic Districts Council and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation spoke in support of designation.

At the October 2017 meeting, Landmarks Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that the Salvation Army had notified the Commission that they no longer opposed designation. She said the “architecture embodies the institution,” possessing “simplicity, elegance and austerity.” She urged Commissioners to consider the Salvation Army’s “ongoing mission” in making determinations on any applications that should come before Landmarks in the future.

Srinivasan thanked the Research Department staff for their outreach work and convincing the owners to cooperate with Landmarks to protect and celebrate the buildings, in a designation that had “eluded the Commission for several decades.” Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that, along with the women’s dormitory, which he termed the “third leg of the stool,” the buildings created an “interesting ensemble.” Commissioner Kim Vauss said the complex is one of Ralph Walker’s “jewels.” Commissioner Fred Bland said the complex’s designation-worthy quality was obvious, and commended Commission staff for convince the owners that “it’s not so terrible to be a landmark.”

The Commission voted unanimously to designate.

Elected officials Deborah Glick and Corey Johnson announced their support in a press release following the vote.

LPC: The Salvation Army National and Territorial Headquarters, 120-130 West 14th Street, Manhattan (LP-2565) (Oct. 17, 2017).

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

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.