Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Early Architecture of New York City (3)

The Singer Building's forty-one stories with a total height of 612 feet was eclipsed by the Woolworth Building with sixty stories and a total height of 702 feet, the tallest edifice in the world in 1927, for the Eiffel Tower, which rises 1,000 feet, is a structure rather than a building. The architect of the Woolworth Building is Cass Gilbert, one of the founders of the Architectural League of New York, and its president in 1913-14,, and president in 1908-09 of the American Institute of Architects, and a member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters, and its president in 1919. Mr. Gilbert is also responsible for the New York Custom House, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building, Washington, the capitols at Little Rock and St. Paul, the libraries in St. Louis and Detroit, and many other notable structures.

From the first this American school has recognized the value of beauty. The Woolworth tower, that of the American Radiator Company, on Fortieth Street, and of the Metropolitan Building on Madison second Street, are striking examples of the varied possibilities afforded in making the sky scraper a thing of beauty. With the advent of the sky scraper came modifications in the building codes to assure better lighting, and thus the pyramidal effect of the step-backs required after a certain number of stories has been attained, has been forced upon the architects, who gladly availed themselves of a new opportunity for decorative effect such as had not previously been obtained except in the power of the Bankers' Trust Company Building. The newest of the gigantic business buildings in Manhattan Island, and one of the largest of them all was the Graybar Building for which the architects were Sloan & Robertson.

With building permits exceeding a billion dollars yearly, and such masterpieces as Stanford White's Madison Square Garden being torn down for replacement by edifices affording greater financial returns, it is obvious that architects in the metropolis have been reaping a harvest for some years, and that their services will be in no less demand for some years to come. To list all of them and their achievements being out of the question, it will be possible only to name a few of the more notable, not already mentioned, and their works.

Among the pioneers in designing high grade apartment houses, the Navarro Flats and the Spanish Flats being examples, were the firm of Hubert Parsons & Company. Of the many public buildings erected from the designs of Ernest Flagg, St. Luke's Hospital, and the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington are most noteworthy. W. A. Potter is represented by the Union Theological Seminary, the Teachers' College, and many buildings of equal artistry if less importance. John M. Carrere and Thomas Hastings designed the New York Central Public Library, Fifth Avenue, the National Academy of Design, and the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar hotels in St. Augustine, Florida.

The first work on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was done by George L. Heins and C. Grant LaFarge, and their work, begun in 1891, was continued by Mr. LaFarge until the completion of the choir, in 1911, and since then the work has been continued by Cram and Ferguson. Warren and Wetmore, of which Whitney C. Warren is the senior member is responsible not only for the Grand Central Station, but for the Biltmore and Commodore hotels. McKim, Meade & White, of which Stanford White was a member, designed the Pennsylvania Terminal, and in addition to buildings already named, the University Club, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Club, the Yosemite Apartments, the Judson Memorial, and the Washington Arch.; Herts and Tallant specialized in theatres, erecting such well known playhouses as the New Amsterdam, Lyceum, Brooklyn Academy, and others.

Source of Information: The History of New York State; Lewis Historical Publishing company-New York 1927

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