Preservation

ADSNY was created at a time when New York City's Art Deco architecture was under threat of demolition. Our founding mission was to protect and celebrate these treasures so that they could be appreciated for generations to come. Though our mission has expanded over the years, preservation is still at the heart of ADSNY's mission. We are always ready to advocate for Deco in danger. If you know of an Art Deco building that needs our help, please email Info@ArtDeco.org to alert us! Please scroll down to see some of our most recent preservation campaigns.

30 Rockefeller Center

On September 14, 2021, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing at which representatives from the ownership of the world-famous Art Deco building, 30 Rock, proposed alterations to the building's landmarked façade, lobby, mezzanine, and observation deck to accommodate changes to how visitors experience and move through the building to reach the Top of the Rock observation deck. 

ADSNY, along with the Historic District Council, the Victorian Society, New York Landmarks Conservancy, and interested community members, presented testimony voicing concerns about how the proposed alterations would damage the original materials that are meant to be protected by its current interior landmark designation and would distort the overall spatial organization of the lobby, in particular its symmetrical arrangement. In addition, ADSNY questioned the proposed new viewing platform that would rise well above the current roofline and would be quite visible from the public way. This proposed "hat on a hat" would significantly alter the design of 30 Rock that is an important part of New York's storied skyline. 

After considering the testimony, the LPC agreed to take no action at that hearing. The LPC asked the applicant to:

  • Gather more information on the vintage of the mezzanine light fixtures and present more information on how their proposal relates to the removal of those fixtures

  • Evaluate and present more information on the impact of their proposal on the original materials in the interior spaces

  • Re-study the proposed additional observation deck in terms of its design and visibility to insure that it better relates to the original design building and the language of the building

Once the applicant addresses these areas they will return to present their proposal at a future hearing. 

 

To learn more about this building and to watch Meghan Weatherby, ADSNY's Executive Director, present testimony on behalf of ADSNY, which begins at minute 53:17, you can watch the public hearing below: 

Application for Modifications:

Testimony presented on behalf of ADSNY:

I’m Meghan Weatherby, the Executive Director of the Art Deco Society of New York, and we are grateful for the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed alterations to 30 Rockefeller Plaza––the centerpiece of New York's greatest single Art Deco complex––or, in the opening words of the Landmark's Commission's own designation report, "one of the most important architectural projects ever undertaken in America."

The proposed alterations are complex and affect three very different parts of the building.

The window-to-storefront proposal is a simple one. We are happy to support the proposed alterations as they appear sensitive to the existing design, and in keeping with other storefronts on the building.

The proposed lobby and mezzanine alterations, on the other hand, are problematic, and in our opinion should not be approved. This is an important space in an important building. The Commission has designated just 110 interiors Landmarks, of which five are in Rockefeller Center, and two of those in this building––the Rainbow Room and the lobby––not surprising, as 30 Rock is the complex's central building. The lobby of 30 Rock functions effectively as the lobby of Rockefeller Center, and its designation is meant to protect it as the grand ceremonial space that it is. 

The materials of the walls and floors, and murals on the walls and ceiling, reflect that grandeur––and so does the overall spatial organization, in particular its symmetrical arrangement––including the two corridors that connect the grand entrance with the elevators and staircases to the west. The proposed alterations give up even more of that symmetry. It also removes original materials in the floor and walls. The designation report specifically calls those out: "rich, elegant materials, such as veined marbles and bronze . . . characteristic of the quality displayed throughout . . . Rockefeller Center." Those materials are meant to be protected by the designation, and they should be.

Another problematic proposal in the interior is the replacement of the mezzanine light fixtures. The current fixtures, with ribbed edges, fit the geometric nature of the original Art Deco design; the proposed replacements do away with them.

As to the Top of the Rock: Whether or not the proposed ride is a good idea, it does not seem to have significant impact on the building's original details. But the proposed viewing platform that would rise well above the current roofline is quite visible from the public way, and effectively changes the design of 30 Rock as a part of New York's storied skyline. We strongly urge the Commission not to approve it. If Rockefeller Center is indeed "one of the most important architectural projects ever undertaken in America," then its preservation––in all its details––must be equally important.

The McGraw-Hill Building Lobby

On February 9, 2021, at a public hearing of the the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), ADSNY raised significant concern about leaked renovation plans showing the demolition of the McGraw-Hill building's important Art Deco lobby. 

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With the looming threat of demolition, ADSNY moved quickly to foster support from fellow preservationists and the public in requesting the LPC to grant landmark status to this historic lobby, which featured an unmistakable resemblance to the building’s iconic, and landmarked, façade.  

 

ADSNY immediately created a web-based petition urging the LPC to protect this irreplaceable period interior, which gathered 4,000+ signatures and 1,000+ comments from signees. In addition, ADSNY collected 40+ letters of support that each called for preserving this world-famous interwar gem. Many of these letters were from noted authors and experts, in addition to our fellow Art Deco Societies from around the world. ADSNY also collected letters from Deco enthusiasts in New Yorkers and abroad, and generated great support from the public, elected officials, fellow preservation organizations, and the media. 

Working with fellow preservationists, ADSNY helped form the Alliance to Save the McGraw-Hill Lobby, which included 40+ top preservation advocacy organizations and noted architecture experts. Click here to see the Alliance's letter to the LPC, which was submitted to Chair of the LPC, Sarah Carroll, on Monday, March 1.

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ADSNY was joined in our efforts by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and the local Community Board who urged the LPC to recognize the McGraw-Hill Lobby for its historical merit and calendar a much-deserved landmarks hearing for this significant interior. 

 

Despite ADSNY’s best efforts and the efforts of so many others, the LPC rejected the impressive Request for Evaluation, and on March 11, the PR firm representing the building's owner released a statement announcing that the famed lobby was demolished under the cover of darkness. 

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Lobby-ists

Preservationists launch effort to protect a cherished Raymond Hood lobby in Manhattan’s McGraw Hill building

Published February 12, 2021 by The Architect's Newspaper, Written by Edward Gunts

Will New York lose another architecturally significant building interior because it isn’t protected by landmark designation? That’s the fear of local preservationists who have launched an effort to protect the art moderne lobby of the former McGraw Hill building, a 1931 Raymond Hood-designed office tower at 330 West 42nd Street that is currently empty and awaiting renovation.

Still smarting from the demolition of the lobby in Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s 1984 Sony Corporation building, now 550 Madison Avenue, advocates of New York’s architectural heritage voiced their concerns about the McGraw Hill lobby during this week’s meeting of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) where panel members were reviewing plans for the building’s exterior renovation in preparation for new tenants. Continue Reading...
 

Change Is Coming to the McGraw-Hill Building’s Art Deco Lobby. Or Is It?

Preservationists sound alarm; architects say they’re not trashing a treasure.

Published February 12, 2021 by Curbed, Written by Christopher Bonanos

 

When you read about the swingy 1930s architecture of New York, you learn about a few innovative, beautiful skyscrapers: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the American Radiator Building, the Daily News Building with its Daily Planet globe in the lobby. And then historians get to Raymond Hood’s McGraw-Hill Building, at 330 West 42nd Street, and they do not just describe it—they exult in it. The building is slightly less famous than those others (probably because it’s west of Eighth Avenue, next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and thus a little bit out of glossy midtown’s view), but it’s even more exuberant. Its palette goes beyond the gray, beige, and silver at the more decorous end of the Art Deco spectrum into an extravagant deep-sea green. The façade is covered in terra-cotta panels that are figured and sculpted, and the bands around the base are black, turquoise, golden bronze, and stainless steel. At sidewalk level, all that detailing comes roaring around the building like the 20th Century Limited... Continue Reading...

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Hell's Kitchen Building's Art Deco Lobby At Risk, Advocates Fear

Preservationists are pushing the city to block a renovation at the McGraw-Hill Building that they fear would destroy its historic lobby.

Published February 19, 2021 by Patch, Written by Nick Garber

 

Advocates are pushing the city to preserve the Art Deco-style lobby of a Hell's Kitchen building that they fear could be gutted during an upcoming renovation.

The McGraw-Hill Building, an iconic blue-green tower on West 42nd Street, has long been a treasured spot for architecture lovers. Its lobby is one reason why: the glossy space is clad in colorful strips of steel separated by gold tubes. Completed by the architect Raymond Hood in the 1930s, it is considered a shining example of Streamline Moderne design.

Now, though, the building's owner has enlisted an architectural firm to renovate the building's facade and storefronts, and an early rendering has fueled fears that the lobby's distinctive elements would be wiped out. Continue Reading...

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Landmarking Fight for McGraw-Hill Building’s Art Deco Lobby

Published February 16, 2021 by 42ndSt.nyc, Written by Phil O'Brian

 

Preservationists and locals are fighting to save the lobby of the landmarked Art Deco Tower at 330 W42nd Street, also known as the McGraw-Hill Building. Although the building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the lobby is not part of that designation.

 

Ayn Rand described it as “the most beautiful building in New York City.” It’s called the Art Deco Tower – but this landmark has also been labeled the “Green Kremlin” and an “ugly green elephant.”

The 35-story building at 330 W42nd Street was completed in 1932, the same year as the Empire State Building, for publishing giant McGraw-Hill.

The building was the creation of architectural “bad boy” Raymond Hood, who rose to fame after winning a competition to create the Chicago Tribune Tower. Continue Reading...

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Preservationists fight to save the impressively-intact Art Deco lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building

Published February 24, 2021 by 6sqft, Written by Devin Gannon

 

An effort to preserve one of New York City’s best examples of Art Deco design is underway. The owner of the McGraw-Hill Building at 330 West 42nd Street has tapped MdeAS Architects to redesign and modernize the structure’s exterior, including new doors and signage. But after renderings from the architects surfaced on Twitter this month that showed what looked to be the 1931 lobby of the Hell’s Kitchen building devoid of its iconic alternation blue-green steel bands and other signature elements designed by Raymond Hood, preservationists and architectural groups sprung into action.

 

MdeAS Architects and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners presented the designs for the project during a February 9 Landmarks Preservation Commission virtual hearing. The proposal reviewed during the public hearing addressed plans to restore the office building’s exterior, but did not include detail any changes for the lobby... Continue Reading...

The McGraw-Hill Building Façade

Preservationists have been closely monitoring the conversion of New York's famed McGraw-Hill Building since it was announced in 2018 that the building's upper floors would become luxury rentals. 

On February 9, 2021 the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing where representatives of the conversion team presented their application for modifications (see below) to the building's Landmarked exterior. 

ADSNY, along with the Victorian Society, the Historic District Council and interested community members, presented testimony in favor of the thoughtful façade modifications which included historically sympathetic signage on the building's 42nd Street side as well as considerate storefronts and a modest tenant entrance on the building's 41st Street façade.

To learn more about this application for modifications and to watch Meghan Weatherby, ADSNY's Executive Director, present testimony on behalf of ADSNY, which begins at minute 26:44, you can watch the public hearing below: 

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Application for Façade Modifications:

Testimony presented on behalf of ADSNY:

I am Meghan Weatherby, the Executive Director of the Art Deco Society of New York. ADSNY considers the McGraw-Hill Building to be a major monument of early Modernism. In the words of its designation report, the building's design “was the product of the gradual shift in architectural taste from the machine-age abstract decorativeness of the Moderne, or Art Deco style, to the corporate-age utility of the International Style, and of the constantly innovative and growing architectural genius of Raymond Hood.” 

 

We commend the applicants for their proposed modifications to the building’s façade, which show great respect to the architect’s original intent. In particular, ADSNY is pleased that the owner clearly worked to create new signage for the 42nd Street façade that uses the distinctive typographic style, dimensions, and color of the original Art Deco signage over the main entrance.  

 

As for the modifications to the building's 41st Street side, ADSNY thinks it's commendable that the proposal outlines a modest tenant entrance that does not detract from the building's original design, as some Art Deco conversion projects have done in the recent past. It's also admirable that the proposed storefronts reference the building’s distinctive horizontal band of windows that have the appearance of "ribbon windows," which illustrate McGraw Hill’s stylistic shift to the International Style. 

 

Though the McGraw-Hill lobby is not a designated interior landmark, and though its ceiling has been altered, its walls still bear an unmistakable resemblance to the building’s iconic exterior. The alternating dark blue and green steel bands separated by silver and gold colored metal tubes at the main entrance are carried into the lobby to complement its green enameled steel walls. We  hope the applicants will devote the same level of care in preserving the lobby’s exceptional original detailing, so clearly a continuation of the building’s façade, as it has shown in this proposal for the exterior.

 

Thank you.

Public School 48

In July 2020 ADSNY learned that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) was holding a public hearing to consider the landmark designation of Public School 48 in Jamaica, Queens. This hearing, held over Zoom due to COVID-19, gave LPC the opportunity to recognize the architectural merit of this building, as well as the building's cultural significance to the South Jamaica community since first opening its Art Deco doors.

After considering ADSNY'S testimony and the support from community leaders and organizations, the LPC announced, on September 22, 2020, that the Commission "Designates Public School 48 in South Jamaica, Queens as an Individual Landmark."

 

To learn more about this building and to watch Meghan Weatherby, ADSNY's Executive Director, present testimony on behalf of ADSNY, which begins at minute 15:42, you can watch the public hearing below: 

The official press release from LPC:

Testimony presented on behalf of ADSNY:

I’m Meghan Weatherby, the Executive Director of the Art Deco Society of New York. I want to share ADSNY’s enthusiastic support for designation of Public School 48 in Jamaica Queens as a New York City landmark.

 

P.S. 48 is a striking example of an Art Deco styled New York City public school. In prior decades school design reflected the general taste for revivals of older European styles. By 1928, however––the year that Walter C. Martin became Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education––the modernism we now call Art Deco had arrived in New York, and over the next two decades would change the face of the city, affecting every building type from skyscrapers to bus terminals, to apartment buildings, diners, night clubs, churches, synagogues––you get the point. During his decade of service, Superintendent Martin made use of the traditional revival styles, but he also brought the new modernistic approach to the city's public schools.

 

Martin's first and perhaps best-known school building is the Art Deco-styled Herman Ridder Junior High School in the Bronx, which as you know is a designated landmark. Its new approach to design attracted the notice of the New York Times, which wrote "Modernism in architecture has reached the schools."

 

Though not completed until 1936, P.S. 48 was proposed in 1931, the year of Ridder's completion. A somewhat smaller building––a local elementary school rather than a regional junior high school––P.S. 48 nevertheless shares Ridder's sense of modernistic monumentality––thanks to the wide corner towers on its street front, articulated with overlapping geometric edges. Though only three-stories tall, the building exudes the verticality typical of the period's Art Deco skyscrapers, thanks to recessed windows set between unbroken ground-to-roof piers. And, stylized brick, terra cotta, and stone ornament punctuate this modernistic design.

 

The village of Jamaica developed through the 18th and 19th centuries, but South Jamaica, home to P.S. 48, retained a rural flavor until the turn of the 20th century, becoming fully developed only by the end of World War II. The original P.S. 48 was a one-story wooden schoolhouse of 1886 that served as Jamaica's "colored school." Its far more substantial replacement became a community landmark almost as soon as it was completed, and has served as a visual focus of the neighborhood ever since.

 

The LPC has designated many significant modern buildings. To date, however, Herman Ridder is the only individually-designated Art Deco public school building. With the designation of P.S. 48, that number will effectively double, and the Art Deco Society of New York hopes that number will continue to grow.

The Madison-Belmont Building

In spring 2019 ADSNY presented testimony at the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing when it learned that the Madison-Belmont building and its famed Art Deco ironwork by master craftsman Edgar Brandt, were under threat.

 

Though the building was designated a landmark in 2011, and the metalwork is protected under that status, the owner sought permission from the commission to alter the building’s façade by punching holes in the famed metalwork to add three additional doors.

 

Due to ADSNY’s testimony, presented by Executive Director, Meghan Weatherby, and the testimony of like-minded preservation groups, the LPC not only declined the proposal, commissioners went further and questioned whether or alterations like this would ever be allowed to take place. ADSNY’s testimony at the hearing:

Dear Commissioners,

 

As the Executive Director for the Art Deco Society of New York and a historian of interwar design as well as early 20th century cultural, I have a vested interest in the preservation of the Madison-Belmont Building.

 

Though the overall façade of this 1924-25 structure is not as overtly Art Deco as some of New York’s later examples, its design includes important ideas from the developing European Modernism movement. The most visually striking, early modern element of this building is the architectural ornamentation by master Art Deco iron smith Edgar Brandt––which has been cited as one of the first instances of Art Deco architectural design in the United States. Though his work is recognized by Art Deco enthusiasts around the world, there are very few surviving examples of his premier architectural ornament that can be seen by the public today. It can be said, there is simply nothing else like the decorative detailing of the Madison-Belmont Building anywhere in New York and perhaps even in the country.

 

Brandt designed––among many other notable things––the entrance gates to the 1925 Paris Exposition, from which the Art Deco style takes its name. Those are long gone, but Brandt’s work on this building––including one-of-a-kind entrance gates and unusual iron grilles with geometric motifs beneath the large first floor windows––survive as one of the earliest examples of Art Deco architectural design in New York. If new commercial entrances must be introduced to this important façade, that should be done in such a way as to avoid removing the iron panels from the storefronts.

 

The Art Deco Society of New York urges the Landmarks Preservation Commission to treat Edgar Brandt’s ironwork as the unusual treasure that it is and not allow this alteration to take place as currently proposed.

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel

In 2016 ADSNY launched a global campaign to save the interiors of New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel when its new owner, Anbang, threatened to "gut the interiors" of the hotel during its conversion into condos. Enlisting the support of Deco societies around the world and though its mobilization of ADSNY members and joining other New York Preservation organizations, such as the Historic Districts Council, ADSNY mounted a multi-faced campaign to save the lobby, entrances, the Louis Rigal murals, and other great public spaces, such as the Grand Ballroom, from destruction. Happily, after months of vigorous effort, the Waldorf Astoria interiors that were proposed for Landmark designation and were unanimously approved by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In her statement, the chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Meenakshi Srinivasan, said, "The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has some of the most internationally renowned rooms in all of New York City. Today’s action not only protects the rich and beautifully detailed art-deco features of the hotel’s interior public spaces, it also preserves the unique experience of moving through the hotel’s varied interiors, which countless New Yorkers and visitors have enjoyed for more than eight decades." 

Coney Island Pumping Station

ADSNY launched a campaign in 2015 to raise awareness of the cultural importance and stylistic merits of the Coney Island Pumping Station, designed by Irwin Chanin. Although Chanin is best known for his monumental works, including Manhattan’s Century and Majestic apartment houses and the Chanin Building, the Pumping station marked his change in style from Art Deco skyscrapers to low rise functional buildings that offered a creative alternative to the typically classical designs of other municipal buildings. The Pumping Station appreciates the mechanization of the 1930s, reflecting the attitudes of the Machine Age. Deeming this unique building worthy of preservation, ADSNY mobilized its members, Coney Island Community leaders and other preservation organizations to present testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (L.P.C.) 

 

Although the L.P.C. did not landmark the Pumping Station, L.P.C. chairwoman, Meenakshi Srinivasan, noted that they did “receive a lot of support in terms of designating this building […and] that’s the reason why we are not voting on it being taken off the calendar on the basis of merit. Maybe at some point in time it could be restored…” The Commission encouraged the community to find adaptive reuse of the building. As a result of ADSNY’s campaign to successfully engage many segments of the preservation and Coney Island communities, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the city Economic Development Corp. are studying the feasibility of adaptive reuse for the pumping station. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron recognized that “It is a building that’s worthy of designation."