Thank You Landmarks Preservation Commission

Ross Sandler

Ross Sandler

Here is a bouquet of flowers for the Landmarks Preservation Commission for preserving the greatest interior spaces in New York City. This thought came to mind when I entered the former Bowery Savings Bank building at 130 Bowery in Manhattan to attend New York Law School’s annual Gala on Monday, February 25, 2013. Guests at the New York Law School Gala entered the Bank through what Landmarks described as a “triumphal arch motif” with an “outer enframement reminiscent of the temple-form, complete with pediment.” (LPC 1966). After walking through a “magnificent recessed barrel vaulted entrance portal,” guests passed into the former waiting room constructed in the form of a soaring basilica with two bays of ionic columns forming a broad nave (LPC 1994) where cocktails were served and the silent auction items displayed.

Bowery Savings Bank was built in 1893-95 on plans of Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White and is now the home of Capitale, a company which operates the space for events. Capitale set up the Gala dinner in the sky-lit, 80-by-80 foot square former banking floor that set the standard for all savings banks: “dignity and fortress-like strength.” (LPC 1994). White followed Roman prototypes comparable “in scale to the grandest buildings of ancient Rome.” The banking floor is based on the Basilica Ulpia (A.D. 98) in Rome, with the columns closely modeled on those of the portico of the Pantheon (A.D. 120-24). A 50-square-foot skylight 60 feet above the banking floor is edged with “richly coffered, barrel-vaulted aisles” similar to those in the Basilica of Constantine (A.D. 312) in Rome. (LPC 1994).

Savers in the old days felt safe in giving their money to the Bowery Savings Bank in exchange for an entry in a pocket-size bank-book. And the bank paid interest – five percent interest!

New York Law School honored four outstanding alumni at the Gala. The food was haute cuisine, the band lively, and the 400 guests happy. Revenue surpassed $1 million, a record success. The silent star of the evening, however, was the absent Stanford White and the trustees of the Bowery Savings Bank to whom McKim, Mead & White submitted its winning design.

Thank you Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmarking interior spaces. As the AIA Guide says, “The interior of the Bowery Savings Bank is one of the great spaces of New York. Go in.”

Ross Sandler

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