This is the twenty-third in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Standing on the highest natural point in all of the Bronx, Bronx Community College boasts the building known as architect Stanford White’s shining achievement—the Gould Memorial Library. Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia Library, the library forms the centerpiece of White’s late-19th-century master plan for the campus, originally the “country” campus of New York University. Preservation architect Lisa Easton, who has worked with Stanford White buildings since 2004, explained that around the turn of the 20th century a campus master plan manifested the vision of higher education’s purpose in a “grand manner.” Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Easton pointed out that the interior of the building is landmarked as well. Tiffany Studios created the library interior. “It’s a jewel in there,” Easton said. In the library’s grand central rotunda, which formed the reading room of the non-circulating library, Connemara marble pillars support the domed roof. The library fell into disuse in 1969 when anti-Vietnam War demonstrators set a fire in the building. Today the stacks surrounding the rotunda are empty of books. In the right light, a look upward just above the glass-floored ambulatory that encircles the rotunda can reveal the Tiffany windows that masked the stacks from view. More than a just a library, the building also houses a downstairs auditorium that can hold upwards of 700 people. Outside and around the back of the building, overlooking the Harlem River, a colonnaded Hall of Fame, the first such built in the United States, contains busts of notable statesmen, scientists, authors, inventors, and other men and women deemed people of “great citizenry.” Today the Gould Memorial Library is a gem of a building without a use. Built with only one means of ingress and egress, current laws limit occupancy of the building to 74 people at one time. “But it’s restorable,” Easton noted, “and that’s important in an age when it’s easier to build something new rather than restore.” She added that grants have been secured from the Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Grants program to fund repairs to the building and bring it up to current code so that new uses can be discovered for this Stanford White masterpiece. About the author: Carol Bartold received the MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and a BA with Honors in Music from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. An accountant by trade, she is the bookkeeper at AIANY|Center for Architecture. As Senior Reporter for MyHometownBronxville.com, a local news website, she covers municipal government, education, business, and land use. She has sung professionally at Sarah Lawrence College with the Women’s Vocal Ensemble and Chamber Choir, and with the Concordia College Camerata. Her essay “At Full Thrust” was published by Prairie Schooner blog.
Posts tagged with "Stanford White":
This weekend, 256 public and privately-owned sites across New York City will open their doors to thousands of architecture and history nerds for the 13th annual Open House New York (OHNY) Weekend. All sites are free to visit, though some require registration in advance. Gregory Wessner, executive director of OHNY, said the event is an "opportunity to get an audience to look at the city through different disciplinary lenses." This year, 1,200 volunteers will staff 256 sites. Wessner explained the selection criteria: sites are evaluated for their architectural, cultural, and historical significance; location; proximity to public transportation; period, style, and typology. Last year, OHNY Weekend attracted approximately 75,000 visitors over two days. 80 percent of those visitors were New Yorkers. Given the depth and breadth of the offerings, it's impossible to privilege one site over another, though Wessner said he's particularly excited about City Hall. City Hall, he believes, "represents what's great about OHNY. It represents the seat of government, which most of us don't get to go into, and welcomes the public to go in and look around." New York's Beyer Blinder Belle renovated the palatial 1812 structure this year. A little-known architectural mecca is Bronx Community College. From 1959–1970, New York University (then owner of the campus) commissioned Marcel Breuer to design four buildings. DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State will lead tours of Breuer's buildings on Saturday and Sunday. Also on campus: the Beaux-Arts Gould Memorial Library and Hall of Fame (Stanford White, 1900) and North Hall and Library (Robert A.M. Stern, 2012). Though the weekend is the group's biggest event, OHNY operates throughout the year, organizing tours and talks to encourage dialogue around major issues affecting the city's built environment. The Final Mile is a yearlong exploration of the "challenges and choices for an equitable and resilient food system" in New York. Food manufacturing, Wessner stated, is the fastest growing manufacturing sector in the city, and drives real estate development (think Smorgasburg and Chelsea Market). Tomorrow, Friday, OHNY is leading tours of food manufacturing facilities as a lead-up to the weekend. Visitors should check the OHNY Weekend for updates ahead of their trip. See the gallery below for more images of featured sites.
Tonight and Friday at 7 pm Murder, Love, and Insanity: Stanford White and the Gilded Age will be broadcast live from the top of the old New York Life Building at ArtOnAir.org. The building, also known as the Clock Tower, was designed by White in 1897 and provided plenty of grist for Peter McCabe, the show's producer and writer. McCabe has his own show on the website and began pondering the idea about a year ago. A grant from the Jerome Foundation made the six week project a reality. Directed by Damien Gray in the style of a 1940s radio program, the show plays before a live audience. Tickets are free, but reservations are required as the building also houses courtrooms and various city agencies, security is tight. Still, taking the trip to the top of the tower is worth the extra effort. The semicircle elevator banks and clock tower become de facto props that don't upstage Gian Marco lo Forto's opulence-on-a-budget set design. Having a pair of Tiffany glass windows serve as a backdrop certainly doesn't hurt. McCabe's fascination with White didn't start with his gig at the clock tower. He had a dorm in NYU's Judson Hall (White, 1892) and his great grandfather commissioned White to build Blair Mansion in Maryland. The play takes a Rashomon approach with five episodes telling the story from different vantages, with thematic shifts that range from fetishistic notions of beauty to building Madison Square Garden. The symmetry of the play's structure might remind one of White's own use of symmetry, but McCabe said that a good play like a good building, masks the structure, unless where it doesn't, for effect. But here the playwright was more focused on ornamentation that festoons the structure. "They had a very grand ornate view of things, including their language," said McCabe "It was ostentatious and so were the buildings." The radio format, with its carnivalesque stylings allow McCabe to drop some of the baroque speech, making it easier on the contemporary ear. Some dialog will no doubt sound extremely familiar to architects, regardless of the time period:
At first, the choice of avant-garde architects Herzog & de Meuron to renovate and restore the fabled Park Avenue Armory seems far-fetched. Even at second glance: “I hate preservation,” said Jacques Herzog at a press event to unveil what the firm is doing at the 1880s fortress and popular event space that contains unparalleled gems from the history of American decorative arts, including rooms and furnishings by Stanford White, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Herter Brothers and others. In fact, the Swiss architects are proceeding with punctilious care and attention to detail as they “unlayer” the past and leave traces of what went before without adding much by way of their own interventions to the $200 million makeover to be completed in phases that have been underway since 2007. The Drill Hall, modeled after the great European shed train stations, will end up looking even more so, once some awful stalls have been removed that have for years hidden the full arch of the iron struts and a delicate catwalk mezzanine is put in to accommodate full theatrical performances. (The shelter for homeless women on the fourth floor will remain in operation throughout construction.) Disparaging the kind of preservation that matches swatches and zeroes in on a purely theoretical “original” date, Herzog described their approach as “revealing and accepting what has been and what we want it to be.” Each of the 18 period rooms will be dealt with on their own terms, neither reconstructed nor made contemporary in some jarring way. Two rooms, full-scale demonstrations of intent as it were, have been completed. Company Rooms E and D are so heavily paneled, molded, and wallpapered that one half expects to find Theodore Roosevelt on a stuffed steed in the corner. In one, the architects have stripped the paneling back to its brighter honey colored woodwork, but revealed the bare plaster with only a hint of mural—a face, possibly a tongue sticking out—to remain where there was once some garish gilt molding. In the other room, where a riot of Aesthetic-era wallpapers all jostle even more energetically through copper “overprinting” to reinstate some shine while damaged spots and patches are not hidden. The affect could be called extreme patina. When asked why she chose Herzog & de Meuron who don’t even have a preservationist on staff, Park Avenue Armory president Rebecca Robertson said, “Because I love Stanford White.” She went on to explain that she admired that consummately American architect’s early experiments with materials and saw that same intense curiosity in the work of Herzog & de Meuron. Their intellectual rigor and thorough research also impressed her: “There’s not a mock-up they won’t do; not a detail too small for them to obsess over,” she said, pointing out the silky, linked-bronze chains that shield the rooms from garish daylight. (In a later phase, the architects will be adding an all steel room-sized elevator, the "Megavator," rising through the front hall.) For Herzog, the commission has been a great opportunity to show “we are not just producers of icons.” He even seemed surprised that this quintessential piece of Americana had been trusted to a European, telling the audience of journalists: “Imagine an American being asked to restore a Gothic cathedral in Basel.”
Sure, there are lots of foreclosures sweeping the city, sadly to say, but none is quite like 22 West 24th Street. Beyond the property's current $82,987 in back taxes, an ownership fight between an infirm mother and her mentally challenged son, a 2003 fire and 2007 collapse, the property is also the location of renowned architect Stanford White's dalliances with a married 16-year-old girl over 100 years ago, according to an article in The Real Deal today.
In 1901, White, a famous playboy, began liaisons with actress and model Evelyn Nesbit, who was 16 at the time. White was a partner at the prestigious firm McKim, Meade [sic] and White, where he designed iconic New York City structures such as the Washington Square Arch and the New York Herald Building. White and Nesbit would rendezvous at the four-story building at 22 West 24th Street. They carried on the affair for years, fueling the rage of Nesbit's husband, millionaire Harry Thaw, who fatally shot White during a musical in the architect's own creation, Madison Square Garden, in 1906.And to think all these years we'd assumed he was famous simply for being part of that incomprable Beaux Arts trio. And mustache. Funny how history has a way of coming around, though. We guess some buildings are just cursed. (via Curbed)