The Landmarks of New York

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

There are so many buildings, bridges, and places to love in this city. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel discusses the definitive resource on the architectural history of New York City, The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated Record of the City's Historic Buildings, Fifth Edition, which documents and illustrates the 1,276 individual landmarks and 102 historic districts that have been given landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission—from colonial farmhouses to Gilded Age mansions to schools and libraries to the city’s soaring skyscrapers.

Tell us what your favorite New York landmark is and why! Leave a comment below.


Max Becher and Andrea Robbins
8 Thomas Street, 1875–76. Manhattan

Architect: Jarvis Morgan Slade. Designated: November 14, 1978

Andrew Bordwin
IRT Subway System Stations, 1901–08. Manhattan

Architects: Heins & La Farge. Interiors designated: October 23, 1979

Laura Napier
Green-Wood Cemetery Gates, including attached Comfort Station and Office, 1861–65; 1996. Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, Brooklyn

Architect: Richard Upjohn & Son. Designated: April 19, 1966

Carin Drechsler-Marx
Al Hirschfeld Theater, formerly Martin Beck Theater, 1923–24. 302–314 West 45th Street, Manhattan

Architect: C. Albert Lansburgh. Designated (exterior and interior): November 4, 1987

Carin Drechsler-Marx
Al Hirschfeld Theater, formerly Martin Beck Theater, 1923–24. 302–314 West 45th Street, Manhattan

Architect: C. Albert Lansburgh. Designated (exterior and interior): November 4, 1987

Andrew Garn
McGovern-Weir Greenhouse, formerly Weir Greenhouse, 1895. Southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, Brooklyn

Architect: G. Curtis Gillespie. Designated: April 13, 1982

Max Becher and Andrea Robbins
New York City Parking Violations Bureau, formerly the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank Building, 1909–12. 51 Chambers Street, Manhattan

Architect: Raymond F. Almirall. Designated (exterior and interior): July 9, 1985

Stephen Fischer
Watchtower, 1855. Marcus Garvey Park, opposite East 122nd Street, Manhattan

Architect: Attributed to Julius Kroehl. Designated: July 12, 1967

Richard Cappelluti
The Wonder Wheel, 1918–20. 3059 West 12th Street, Brooklyn

Inventor: Charles Herman; manufactured and built by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Amusement Company. Designated: May 23, 1989


Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel

Comments [24]

stanley turkel from new york city

My new book, "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York" has just been published. It received a favorable review by Sam Roberts in the New York Times on Dec. 4, 2011. The thirty-two featured hotels have defied the passage of time for a variety of reasons, many explicable (18 are landmarked by the NYC LPC), and some beyond explanation, all miraculous. My research into these hotels turned up fascinating stories, great architects, entrepreneurial developers, unpredictable guests, movie stars, writers, politicians, and even the story of an all-women's hotel built in 1903.

Mr. Lopate: if you want a review copy, please contact me at Best regards, Stan Turkel

Dec. 26 2011 03:30 PM
Elizabeth Berilla from Stephen B. Luce Library, Fort Schuyler - Bronx

The Stephen B. Luce Library at Fort Schuyler is not only recognized as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world (2009), but is also endowed with the most complete collection of resources on maritime transportation and industry available to researchers and students of SUNY Maritime College. Nestled snuggly below the Throggs Neck Bridge in the Bronx, granite archways two stories high buttress the interior while walls six feet thick protect our tomes. Within these hallowed walls along the northern arm of the Fort are held 80,000 print volumes which are visited by 600 users daily. Our “battlement”-style windows, which provide sunlight from the outside world, likewise reflect the gleaming waters of the Throggs Neck Sound. As our Fort protects our collections and welcomes visitors to see our gothic beauty on the inside, the world of ocean-bound commerce chugs along the peninsula where we were founded on the exterior.

Dec. 21 2011 09:36 AM
Ron from Manhattan

I called the show to discuss the landmarking of a gas station as part of the SoHo Cast Iron District. Barbaralee's answer, to which I was unable to respond (through no fault of the moderator), to the effect that future development of the gas station might be a detriment to the historic area, is an example of landmarking abuse. It is not a valid exercise of the landmarking power to impose a whole set of rules and regulations on a modern day gas station that does not possess any landmark qualities. Barbaralee justified employing landmarking as a tool for zoning, and that is not its purpose.

Dec. 20 2011 07:51 PM
Steven Romalewski from New York City

Great interview. I wanted to make sure WNYC and its listeners knew about my “Landmarks: New York” mobile app, which is the only mobile app focused on the New York’s locally designated landmarks on a citywide basis. It’s a great complement to the book discussed on your show.

Here are some links with background:
- App features:
- Reviews:
- NY Times article:
- iTunes link:


Dec. 20 2011 04:26 PM
George Showman from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

As an architect, I see the Historic Districts as a real problem for the city's continuous development. I believe many architects would agree. Through Landmarks, entire neighborhoods are being 'pickled', as it were, suppressing new architectural ideas in order to preserve homes and streetscapes that remind us of a supposedly happier time, when labor was cheap, masons were skilled, and rich merchants built themselves beautiful brownstones. While certain buildings deserve protection (and the book covers many of them), to Landmark entire districts is rash, as it discourages any mixing of the new with the old, architecturally.

The Landmarks regulations also focus too much on the appearance of the facade, rather than the internal integrity of the architecture. To receive a "certificate of no effect" from Landmarks, which is essential in order to make alterations to a building in a Landmarked District, is for an architect both a relief (as the process can be lengthy), and a somewhat pathetic moment, for he or she has spent much study and effort into making sure that nobody outside the building (i.e. New Yorkers at large) sees anything new or different.

Historic preservation should focus on preserving particularly remarkable buildings, and on preserving examples of important historical types. It should not lock down the architectural possibilities for streetscapes in broad swaths of the city, nor should it reinforce under the dangerous (but nearly ubiquitous) assumption that contemporary architecture cannot mix with our great old brownstones and other buildings.

Dec. 20 2011 01:04 PM

I personally find some of the old schools like Jamaica HS, Monroe HS, the old Stuyvesant, Washington Irving and other schools are some of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

Are they represented in the book?


Dec. 20 2011 12:35 PM
Hank from Gowanus Brooklyn

Near the Gowanus Canal is the first all concrete building in the US - the Litchfield office building. Within a stone's throw is the original baseball field of Brooklyn - an exterior wall still stands and is used by Con Ed. Nearby are enormous factory buildings and a historically (1699) reconstructed Dutch farm house that figured in the Battle of Brooklyn - Revolutionary War

Dec. 20 2011 12:34 PM
Annah from Bedford Hills, NY

Interesting tidbit about the Flatiron Building:

It was designed by Architect Daniel Burnham. Mr. Burnham was of the successful Burnham family who were based in Brooklyn Heights, NY. Lois Burnham Wilson was Daniels niece. She married a man named Bill Wilson, who became the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Lois co-founded the Al-Anon Family Groups in 1951.

By way of a full round about, in the 1960's the Flatiron Building became the headquarters of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it was based there for many years.

Dec. 20 2011 12:34 PM
Lee Gelber from Astoria

The Flatiron Building was never, ever the tallest building in New York. The Park Row Building, 15 Park Row is 4 years older (1899) than the former Fuller Building (1903) and 30 feet taller! The Park Row Building still stands - J&R has a major storefront and offices at that location.
Re Lincoln Center - the collaboration between Gordon Bunshaft and Eero Saarinen on the Vivian Beaumont and the Performing Arts Library is wonderful

Dec. 20 2011 12:33 PM
Michael McLeod from Clinton Hill

I find that the historic designation process in NYC is quite arbitrary, a bit elitist, and likely politically motivated, in many case. I live in the Clinton Hill Historic District. Yet, large swats of Clinton Hill remain without landmark protection, even though the architecture in these areas are as stunning and unquestionably worthy of preservation as that in the district. Over time time a clear distinction can be found between the landmarked area and that not under preservation, because of the unregulated changes(often disastrous) owners and developers have made to many historic properties.

Dec. 20 2011 12:30 PM
Len Maniace from Jackson Heights

So many good and thrilling examples cited above, but my current favorite probably is the Jackson Heights Historic District, where I live. Notable for its architecture and place in development planning, the JH landmark district is a source of pride for this ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood. And now we are excited by prospects of its expansion.

Dec. 20 2011 12:27 PM
lori from nyc

What about the fact that most of the landmarked neighborhoods can only be inhabited by the very wealthy? I ask as a fan of the landmark commission - I still miss the Helen Hayes theater that was demolished in the 70's.

Dec. 20 2011 12:24 PM
Eve Sicular from East Village | NYC

Why is there not even a commemorative plaque on 555 Hudson where Jane Jacobs lived and wrote?

Dec. 20 2011 12:18 PM

I refer to the current Penn Station as PAIN Station for obvious reasons of the original

Dec. 20 2011 12:18 PM
anne in hell's kitchen from manhattan

My favorite:

The auditorium at the High School for Graphic Communications, 49th Street between 9th and 10th Aves, built in late 1950s.

NY Times described it as a "romantic undulating auditorium of cool gray brick shaped like a guitar."

It's facade is a multicolored mosaic abstract mural by Hans Hofmann.

Dec. 20 2011 12:13 PM
Rosemary from Brooklyn

The Subway System.This City is what it is only because of the Subway. It drove development, commerce, culture, the whole enchilada. It winds through neighborhoods rich and poor, low rise and high rise, Manhattan an "Outer" boroughs. It was completed in roughly 18 years, (not counting the later 1930's lines) Today, we as a society cannot do ANYTHING approaching it. It is a fantastic feat of engineering design and foresight.

Dec. 20 2011 10:39 AM
Scott from Upper West Side

The Apthorp Building - whilst the residents there are pretentious Manhattanites - the building is immaculate.

Dec. 20 2011 08:05 AM
fern luskin from Manhattan

The new Lamartine Place Historic District on West 29th Street in Manhattan, between 8th and 9th Avenue, whose historic district marker is about to be unveiled in early January, is a special place not only because of its antebellum architecture and setting, but because of the pivotal events that once took place there. The noted Quaker abolitionists, James Sloan Gibbons, and his wife, Abigail Hopper Gibbons, lived at no. 339, and earlier, at no. 337. No. 339 is one of the few documented Underground Railroad Stations for runaway slaves in Manhattan. This is irrefutably and movingly proven by a letter written by Joseph H. Choate who recounted how: “the house of Mrs. Gibbons was a great resort of abolitionists and extreme antislavery people from all parts of the land, as it was one of the stations of the underground railroad by which fugitive slaves found their way from the South to Canada. I have dined with that family in company with William Lloyd Garrison, and sitting at the table with us was a jet-black negro who was on his way to freedom."

The Gibbons’ home was not only a safe house for runaway slaves, but is a monument to Emancipation Proclamation, because, in retaliation for the family’s celebration of that event, their front yard and door were tarred. Some months later, during the Draft Riots of 1863, a mob specifically targeted the Gibbons’ home for destruction because of their opposition to slavery and their close friendship with Horace Greeley. James Gibbons, his daughters, and Choate escaped the mob only by walking over the roofs of the neighboring houses. They were then saved by Henry Hermann who gave them access to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum (no. 303), saying “"We feel it a privilege to help people who are in so much trouble."

Sadly, the modern, disfiguring scaffolding and illegal addition of a fifth story to this house (which has marred the uniform roof line of these row houses and obscured the Gibbons’ escape route over these roofs during the Draft Riots) is still in place and the owner has not yet been made to tear it down. If not for that grotesque eyesore, this lovely tree-lined avenue, with its brick and brownstone four-story row houses, set back from the street and fronted by gated gardens and adorned with spacious backyards, would seem a throwback to the 1850s. Located opposite what is virtually a park, it is, nevertheless, an oasis within the congested, skyscraper-filled confines of Manhattan.

Dec. 19 2011 05:27 PM
Richardovitch from The Cloisters & The Statue of Liberty

Unfortunately, The Cloisters--way up in Ft Tryon Park--is frequently overlooked by visitors to our city because it is a little out of the way. However, a trip there offers beautiful scenic Hudson views, an opportunity to see truly remarkable art and architecture, and respite from the heat on even the most humid New York City summer day. More than The Cloisters, though, the Statue of Liberty has always held a special place in my heart. It represents everything that America can be for those lucky enough to be born here or come here, willing to work to earn a piece of the American Dream. Anyone fortunate enough to have ever arrived in New York by ship knows how thrilling it is to sail under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and past The Lady of the Harbor.

Dec. 19 2011 04:29 PM
MikeInBrooklyn from Clinton Hill

The Cathedral of St. Barbara on Central Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn takes my breath away every time I am privileged to gaze up it. This cathedral, whose beauty rival any found in Europe, gives testament of the architectual beauty that once existed in Bushwich and has now been hidden or replaced by hideous aluminum/vinyl siding and quick built apartment blocks.

Dec. 19 2011 01:28 PM
Joya Angola Thompson from Newark, NJ

My favorite NYC landmark is NYC itself. There is not one part of this city I love from the dirty parking lots to the pristine stairs of the Metropolitan Museum. I love every part of this friggin city :)

Dec. 16 2011 10:45 PM
Cathy from Brooklyn

Officer's Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We have watched these beautiful 19th century houses deteriorate for decades, through willful neglect and vandalism. They are now scheduled for demolition to create a parking lot for a soon to be built "Stop and Shop". A national treasure will soon be forever lost.

Dec. 16 2011 09:00 PM
Eric Norcross from 34th Street and 5th Avenue

The Empire State Building is one of the most magnificent structures I have ever seen anywhere in the world. It is simple yet elegant and considering its size it's amazing how beautiful it looks at every angle/view. Most tall buildings often look strange when looked at from certain sides. ESB pulls off beauty and elegance regardless of POV. The receding limestone facade and the mooring mast make for perfection and the lighting architecture at night is incendiary.

Dec. 16 2011 06:31 PM
ron from mobile operator

the brooklyn bridge elegant structurally majestically situated and a rare glimpse of mankinds abilty for perfection.

Dec. 15 2011 07:18 PM

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