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Archive for the ‘Lower Manhattan’ Category

Cities Service Building
Click on the above photo to see my full album.

My favorite of the city’s Art Deco skyscrapers, this soaring Pine Street tower was built as the headquarters of the Cities Service Company, predecessor of Citgo. The Cities Service logo — a pyramid within a cloverleaf, usually black or green in trade dress — can be found pervasively worked into the concrete and metal exterior details, and the interior details, as well. Designed by architects at Clinton & Russell and Holton & George, the 952-foot tower opened in 1932.

Last year, I posted a batch of pictures that I had taken of the exterior details at ground level; and of the tower within the skyline of Wall Street. It is a striking tower, sleek and tapered at the top. But given the dense cluster of tall buildings that now characterize the neighborhood, it is a challenge to find a clear shot of more than its very top. Fortunately, an outside detail (above) provides a scale model of the complete tower in clean, white concrete — like the building itself.

A residential conversion was recently completed, which includes a beautiful top-to-bottom restoration of the landmark skyscraper. I doubt the building could have looked much sharper in 1932, when it opened amid the Great Depression, having been on the drawing board before the fortunes of Wall Street turned dark. The redeveloper, Rose Associates, has really done an incredible job.

Here, I include a number of new pictures of the grand lobby, the basement, and various stairwells and corridors.

Hope you enjoy. I love this building, and think you will, too.

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September 11th

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Hard to believe that it has been 16 years since that morning. I was in my second year of college at The New School. A few lines from a piece that I wrote shortly afterwards (mostly, just for myself, so that I would later be able to remember exactly what I’d experienced):

I went upstairs to class and took a seat. My advisor, Henry, was already there, getting organized. A minute later the second professor showed up. A small argument ensued between the two.

“Do you know what’s going on out there?” said Stuart.

“Yes, but I think we need to go on with class,” said Henry.

“A lot of people are out there watching…. We may not have everyone.”

“Well, I’m not much for that. We should go on with who we have.”

“Well, it’s pretty hard not to watch … the fucking World Trade Center is on fire. Another plane just crashed into the South Tower.” Everyone in the room was jarred.

“Oh my God. Some kind of … attack?”

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely an attack.”

“Well, what do you think? I mean, it’s important … but I think what we are doing here is important, too.”

“That’s true.”

“I mean poetry isn’t the least important thing.”

“No, definitely not. I guess we should go on.”

“Yes, I think that would be the right thing to do.”

Later, after the class had finally been dismissed:

I turned left and walked on through the grid of streets, up through the warehouses and housing projects beyond Ninth Avenue. I wasn’t sure where I was going; I just gravitated in what seemed to be the right direction. I lived in Brooklyn Heights that semester, but I was walking the opposite way. Getting back to my room would have involved either a long detour through Williamsburg, or a trip straight through the scene. Instead, I thought I might have to walk all the way to my uncle’s apartment on 207th Street — and I didn’t know if anyone would be home, if I did.

I managed to stay cool-headed, but I was really unsure of what I should do. I kept going north and west. Getting out of the heart of the city seemed like the main idea. At some point, it occurred to me that a ferry might be crossing to New Jersey, so I made my way west to the Hudson River. If I went back to the town where I had gone to high school, I would find someone to put me up overnight. It wasn’t far away; just across the river from the city. But it was a different world. By that point, I was sure that I didn’t want to go back to Brooklyn….

There were thousands of people walking up Twelfth Avenue. Most of them had walked all the way up from the site. People were sort of talking to each other briefly and moving on. It was strange. You don’t usually talk to strangers in a moving crowd, but everything was different then. Normal street smarts seemed useless. The ethos of minding your own business and ignoring anything out of the ordinary? I knew that would not work anymore. But how could you replace it with something else?

There was a middle-aged man in a suit who told me he worked at the World Financial Center. His hair and jacket were covered with gray ash. When the first plane smashed into the North Tower, he began to leave, but his boss said, in all seriousness: “That’s a World Trade Center problem. This is the World Financial Center. Get back to work.” I laughed, and he moved on.

There’s more, but it’s not really in any shape to be posted. Maybe one day I’ll clean it up and share it here as a single piece of writing.

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Woolworth Building
Click on the above photo to see my full album!

My office is just across Park Place from the landmark Woolworth Building. Once the world’s tallest skyscraper, the whimsically Gothic tower still dominates the western edge of New York’s town green. Back in the fall, I took a guided tour of the lobby — which is otherwise off limits — which turned out to be a pretty incredible experience. Here are some pictures.

Would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in the building itself, early skyscrapers, tesellation and mosaics, the transition from classical to modern architecture, or just the history of American business. The colors are incredible. Likewise, the masonry and marble. Photos in my album begin in the main lobby, then move to the back of the main floor, down into the basement (where a lost entrance to the subway can be found, sealed off), and finally up to the balconies, where you can almost touch the tiled ceilings.

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Same corner, today:

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Rainy Day, Hoboken Ferry

Rainy Day at Hoboken Ferry

Click on the photo above to see my full album.

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Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Click on the above photo to see my full album!

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is a truly incredible landmark. Completed in 1922 in the style of a Florentine palazzo, this stone fortress was built to house the most important regional branch of the Fed. Its design served the secondary purpose of communicating the solidity of American banking under the Federal Reserve System. The smooth-faced, rusticated masonry alternates between blocks of gray and tan, conveying something that cannot be moved, while hinting at the silver and gold that still backed up American currency at the time.

Tours of the interior are available, but tickets can be hard to come by. Once there, the Fed requires that you take part in a guided tour, which runs about an hour. Honey and I went one day last summer. Although such tours are not my favorite approach to exploration, I found this one incredibly interesting. The guide provided a short history of the Federal Reserve System; the construction and architecture of the building, itself; and a tour of the active gold vault, deep below Liberty Street. Unfortunately, the Fed has a very strict prohibition on photography within the building (under penalty of camera confiscation).

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Cities Service Building
Click on the above photo to see my full album!

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