FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
COMMISSION DESIGNATES EIGHT BACKLOG SITES AS OFFICIAL CITY LANDMARKS
Commission Votes on First Group of Backlog Sites, Protected Properties Include Pepsi Cola Sign, Schofield House, St. Michael’s Church, Vanderbilt Mausoleum, and Structures in Greenwood Cemetery
(New York)- The Landmarks Preservation Commission today accomplished the next milestone in its plan to address the backlog of calendared sites by unanimously voting to designate as New York City Landmarks eight of the thirty properties that were prioritized for designation at the Commission’s February 23rd public meeting. The Commission expects to vote on the remaining backlog sites on the calendar prior to the end of 2016.
The Commission granted protection to 65 Schofield Street House in the Bronx; Green-Wood Cemetery (Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance and Chapel) and Van Sicklen House in Brooklyn; 57 Sullivan Street House and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Parish House and Rectory in Manhattan; the Pepsi Cola Sign and the Lydia Ann Bell and J. Williams Ahles House in Queens; and the Vanderbilt Mausoleum in Staten Island. In addition, the Commission designated St Augustine Church, which was also on the backlog, as a part of the Park Slope Historic District Extension II.
“We are very proud to designate these eight exceptional properties today, some of which have gone for decades without a vote,” said Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “Today’s actions show our steadfast commitment to advance the Commission’s plan to address the backlog, and in fact, are a victory for both preservation and good government practices.”
William H. Schofield House is a transitional Italianate style farmhouse that was constructed around 1860 as part of the estate of William Schofield, a member of one of the first families to settle City Island in 1826. The house represents a period of progress on the island when it began to develop from farmland to industries unique to the island such as oyster fishing and ship building, which played an important role during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The house’s most striking feature is the one-story veranda that runs the width of the ground floor main façade and set-back addition. The William H. Schofield House is a significant example of a surviving transitional Italianate farmhouse on City Island and for its association with two of the area’s most prominent families.
“The Schofield House reflects a significant part of the history of City Island, particularly when it was transitioning from a place dedicated to maritime industries to a suburban and residential community,” said Chair Srinivasan.
“The embodiment of the family’s history on the island is significant,” said Commissioner Michael Goldblum. “It’s another brick in the wall of trying to build up cultural landmarks as well as aesthetic ones.”
The Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance (1876-77) and the Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel (1911-13) are significant Green-Wood Cemetery buildings that are excellent examples of Gothic Revival design harmoniously incorporated into a picturesque cemetery landscape.
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn was established in 1838. It was the fourth rural cemetery in the United States, and its landscape design was influenced by the “English Rural” garden movement. Both the Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance with its High Victorian Gothic buildings and the Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel with its late Gothic Revival ornament complement the already landmarked Gothic Revival Green-Wood Cemetery Gate at 5th Avenue and 25th Street.
The Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance (1876-77) designed by Richard Mitchell Upjohn, consists of a Visitors’ Lounge, a Residence, and associated gates. The Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel, designed by the distinguished architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore, is an excellent example of a late-Gothic-inspired building with Beaux-Arts massing. In addition to its pavilion-like presence within the picturesque cemetery, it is also notable for its modern structural use of reinforced concrete and its cluster of towers.
“The buildings we are designating are designed by some of the finest architects in New York City’s history,” said Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “The Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance and the Chapel are the most architecturally significant buildings in Greenwood cemetery. Their designation complements the already landmarked elaborate gates on Fifth Avenue. The designation of these structures, together, represents the cemetery’s unique history, architectural excellence, and its relationship with its charming, picturesque surroundings.”
“It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this cemetery in American history,” said Commissioner Frederick Bland. “It was impractical to landmark the whole site, and what is being landmarked is of great significance. The cemetery and its management have taken preservation very seriously and these buildings have been maintained as if they’re landmarks."
Van Sicklen House is located in Gravesend, Brooklyn and is among the oldest surviving Dutch-American houses in Brooklyn. The house is the only known extant 18th-century house largely of stone construction in the borough. The house is linked to the earliest colonial history of Brooklyn in that it occupies part of the house lot of Lady Deborah Moody, who founded Gravesend in the 1640s. In 1702, farmer and property owner, Ferdinandus Van Sicklen, Jr., acquired this land.
Members of the Van Sicklen family were most likely responsible for constructing the house beginning in the 18th century or earlier, and for expanding it in the mid-18th century. In 1904, the house was acquired by realtor William E. Platt, who made extensive alterations, including the addition of dormer windows. The Platts were responsible for popularizing the longstanding idea that this had been the ancient home of Lady Moody. The house remains on its original site across the street from the designated Gravesend-Van Sicklen Cemetery, and the structure is one of the few remaining buildings that represent the early history of Gravesend, a significant colonial community of New York.
“While it may have been Lady Moody’s house, it’s a wonderful example of the Dutch-American house type found in Brooklyn and Staten Island during the eighteenth century, and has important ties to the community she founded— Gravesend,” said Chair Srinivasan.
Commissioner Michael Devonshire noted, “This building gives us a palimpsest of not only architectural information, but social information of how it changed over time.”
The remarkably intact trio of buildings belonging to St. Michael’s Protestant Episcopal Church is located on the northwest corner of West 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Forming one of the finest ecclesiastical complexes in Manhattan, all three buildings are designed in the Romanesque Revival style with rough-faced limestone blocks laid in a random pattern. The Church was constructed in 1890-91 to the design of architect Robert W. Gibson; the parish house was partially constructed in 1896-97 to the design of architect F. Carles Merry and was completed in 1901 with Robert W. Gibson succeeding Merry as architect after the latter’s death; the rectory was designed by Gibson and constructed in 19-12-13.
St. Michael’s Church was organized in 1807 by several parishioners of Trinity Church to serve wealthy downtown residents who had built summer houses in the Bloomingdale section of Manhattan. By the late 1800s the population of the Upper West Side of Manhattan greatly increased due to transportation improvements and real estate speculation. As a result, St. Michael’s replaced its second, Gothic style wood church with the present and much larger church. The most striking feature of the church is the massing of its various ecclesiastical elements, including the long nave, apsidal chancel, steeply-pitched tiled roof, and most notable, the tall campanile. The parish house is a picturesque, asymmetrically-massed building set back from the lot line behind a garden. The rectory, while more austere than the other two buildings, is similar in style and an integral part of the complex.
“These beautiful buildings create a cohesive and unique complex that makes a striking contribution to the Upper West Side streetscape,” said Chair Srinivasan.
The 57 Sullivan Street House was constructed in 1816-17 as a speculative development property by carter Frederick Youmans. This wood framed rowhouse is a fine example of the Federal style, and its paneled window lintels are thought to be among the earliest surviving examples in Manhattan. The house was originally two stories high, and was raised to three full stories by Thomas Bray, an Irish-immigrant gardener who acquired the house in 1841. It is likely that the building was also subdivided into apartments, which were occupied by members of the Bray family and tenants, primarily tradesmen and craftsmen.
By 1875, the basement had been converted to commercial use and was occupied by the “Knickerbocker,” a bar with an African-American proprietor and a multi-racial clientele. Throughout the 20th century, most of the occupants were Italian-immigrant working-class families. A post-1995 restoration of the house included new entry doors at the basement and first story, new windows, and ironwork. Today, the 57 Sullivan Street House survives as a fine example of the Federal style of architecture and a tangible reminder of the rich multi-cultural heritage of the South Village.
“The house is a tangible reminder of the rich multi-cultural heritage of the South Village, with occupants reflecting the waves of immigrants that, for centuries, shaped New York City’s unique character,” said Chair Srinivasan.
The Pepsi-Cola Sign is one of the most iconic features of the New York City waterfront, and has become an irreplaceable piece of the urban landscape, representing commercial advertising and American industry. The sign was constructed in 1940 and erected on the roof of the Pepsi-Cola bottling facility in Long Island City, and is attributed to the General Outdoor Advertising Company, one of the largest advertising companies of its time. At the time of its construction, the Pepsi-Cola sign was the longest electric sign in New York State. Situated on the edge of the East River, the sign was clearly visible from Manhattan’s East Side and the recently completed FDR.
The sign’s design closely reflects the company’s 1939 trademark logo with red neon tubing incorporated around the edges of the letters. The 50-foot painted Pepsi bottle was probably replaced in the 1970s with an updated bottle featuring the company’s contemporary design, and the sign was restored in 1993, due to the sign’s significant deterioration. In 2001, Pepsi sold their facility to the Queens West Development Corporation, the bottling facility was demolished, and the sign was temporally relocated. Today, the sign stands within feet of its original location inside Gantry Plaza State Park.
Changes to the zoning code, in the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century, have contributed to a reduction in the number of the large, illuminated signs, which once crowned the factories and warehouses of many of Long Island City’s most prominent companies. The Pepsi-Cola sign remains one of the most recognizable features on the New York waterfront.
“During its public hearing there was widespread support for the designation of the Pepsi sign,” said Chair Srinivasan. “Its prominent siting and its frequent appearances in pop culture have made it one of the most endearing and recognizable icons on the Queens waterfront.”
“It’s one of the most notable icons in Queens, and although it enjoys many protections, it is really most appropriate that it also becomes a New York City Landmark,” said Commissioner Diana Chapin. “This will celebrate its presence as an important piece, not only of NYC, but of national, corporate and individual history.”
The John William and Lydia Ann Bell Ahles House was built in 1873 by farmer Robert M. Bell for his daughter Lydia and her husband John William Ahles, a prominent grain merchant and officer of the New York Product Exchange. It remained in their ownership until the 1940s. Built only a few years after railroad service reached Bayside in 1886 and residential subdivisions began to replace farms, the Ahles House is the only remaining example of the many Second Empire buildings erected in Bayside during the 1870s and 1880s.
The house was moved from its original site to its present location in 1924 to allow Christy Street, now 213th Street to be cut through to 41st Avenue. It was then that architect Lewis E. Walsh made modifications to simplify the building’s façade, including the removal of the original wrap-around porches, the replacement of the original clapboards with stucco, and the installation of new paneled doors and multi-pane windows. He also introduced features such as a sleeping porch that were more in keeping with the Arts-and-Crafts-infused Colonial Revival aesthetic of the 1920s.
“The relocation and alterations of the Ahles House are significant in their own right because they reflect the historical context of the transformation of Bayside to a commuter suburb in the early 20th century,” said Chair Srinivasan. “Today this house is thought to be one of the oldest surviving in Bayside.”
The Vanderbilt Mausoleum was built by the country’s wealthiest family of the time and combined the talents of two of America’s greatest designers—Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted. The Vanderbilt Mausoleum sits on the eastern slope of Todt Hill, in the New Dorp section of Staten Island, adjacent to Moravian Cemetery. Rising to a height of 410 feet, Todt Hill is the highest natural point on the Eastern Seaboard between Cape Cod and Florida.
The Mausoleum was planned by William H. Vanderbilt, and it was completed in 1886, following his death, by his son George W. Vanderbilt. William was the son of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Staten Island native who had amassed America’s largest fortune through his steamboat and railroad lines, which played a major role in the development of New York City and State. When he died in 1885, William H. Vanderbilt was the richest person in American history.
An imposing structure of gray Quincy granite, its location within a large family cemetery was especially rare and prestigious at a time when most ultra-wealthy New Yorkers were interred in suburban public cemeteries. Hunt’s design is primarily Romanesque Revival in style, and the mausoleum is one of the few remaining New York City buildings designed by Hunt for the Vanderbilts— one of the most successful architect-patron relationships in American history. The country’s most celebrated landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the mausoleum grounds, although most of the original Olmsted plantings have been lost or replaced.
Interment within the mausoleum was reserved to those with the Vanderbilt name, including sons, their wives, and unmarried daughters. It houses the remains of all four of William and Maria’s sons and three of their wives. The Vanderbilt Mausoleum was constructed by Vanderbilt family members at the height of their wealth, power, and prominence, when they were commissioning some of America’s finest and most enduring works of architecture.
“The Vanderbilt Mausoleum is an extraordinary monument to America’s Gilded Age,” said Chair Srinivasan. “It was built by the country’s wealthiest family of the time, and by two of America’s greatest designers—Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted. The Commission is proud to grant this outstanding structure landmark protection.”
“The impression you get when you walk from the gate, to the path, to the mausoleum is one of a rising imposing structure. It’s a remarkably peaceful place, and a dramatic statement of both 19th century life and 19th century death,” said Commissioner John Gustafsson.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City's architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 34,000 buildings and sites, including 1360 individual landmarks, 117 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, and 139 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. Under the City's landmarks law, considered among the most powerful in the nation, the Commission must be comprised of at least three architects, a historian, a realtor, a planner or landscape architect, as well as a representative of each borough.