HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on February 20, 2018

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Designation Testimony

Item 1

LP – 2602


HOTEL SEVILLE, 22 East 29th Street

This building was suggested as a possible landmark in a 2007 survey of the area which HDC produced. That survey had the goal of extending the Madison Square North Historic District, which the LPC has, as yet, declined to designate despite the proposal’s merit and strong public support. We are grateful that the Commission is taking some action in this area, and strongly support this designation.

The former Hotel Seville replaced the former Scottish Rite Hall, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. After 1900, the Madison Square area hotels grew in size to accommodate customers desiring close proximity to Ladies’ Mile and entertainment such as that offered at Madison Square Garden. This elegant Beaux-Arts hotel, whose architect was a prominent proponent of the style in America and who trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was one such large hotel. Originally, it opened with 425 rooms in various appointments. Its red brick and limestone façades are graced with a rusticated base, alternating bandcourses at the second and third stories, decorative cornices, rounded copper bays from the fourth to the tenth stories and a limestone-clad chamfered corner, all mixed with Modern French ornamentation, such as lion head cartouches. An annex between 28th and 29th Streets was added a few years after its construction.

As an interesting link in history, HDC’s own Barbara Zay’s lineage can be traced to the Hotel Seville, where her antecedants called home for most of the early 20th century. Her ancestors, the Eimer family, owned Eimer & Amend, a substantial chemical and drug firm in a (now demolished) building located on 3rd Avenue and 18th Street.

Item 2

LP – 2602


THE EMMET BUILDING, 95 Madison Avenue

Like the Hotel Seville, this is another building which HDC identified as meritorious in our Madison Square North survey, and we are excited to testify today on its designation. We sincerely hope that the LPC can pursue more buildings in this area, which has a veritable stock of ornamented, early 20th century skyscrapers equally deserving of landmark status.

The Emmet Building was constructed for Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, a prominent physician and advocate for Irish independence. An outspoken critic of English occupation of Ireland, he was the grand-nephew of the famous Irish patriot Robert Emmet, who was hanged, drawn and quartered by the English in Dublin in 1803 for inciting an uprising. Dr. Emmet lived in a succession of houses on this site for over 40 years, but commissioned the 15-story office building due to observed changes in the neighborhood, especially the construction of the Metropolitan Life Tower in 1909. This striking French Renaissance Revival style building is clad in terra-cotta and features elaborate Gothic Revival ornament. Early designs of the building included the Emmet family crest, which features three bulls’ heads. In its final design iteration, the crests were removed but bulls’ heads exist at the building’s termination, a permanent homage to the legacy of the Emmet family.

Upon his death, Dr. Emmet’s will professed that “in justice, England must someday become a province of Ireland…this provision shall be published as my last words to the Irish people, to whose welfare I have devoted the study and work of a lifetime.” Dr. Emmet left his extensive book collection to the American-Irish Historical Society & Notre Dame University and died in his home in 1919, in the top floor of this building.

Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

Item 2

43 Willow Place – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846. Application is to modify the rear façade and roof, construct a rear yard addition, and excavate a portion of the rear yard.

43 Willow Place is a part of Brooklyn’s “Colonnade Row,” a row of four, rare surviving Greek Revival houses built together in 1846. The only thing more remarkable than these buildings’ mere survival is that they exist completely intact. The proposed rear yard extension for no. 43 will be the first major alteration to this row since their construction and should augment the building. While the building next door sensitively and discreetly excavated to daylight their basement floor, this intervention is quite large by comparison. As this is such an important row, HDC would like to see examples in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood where this amount of excavation was appropriate. Further, we would like to understand the rationale for the banal rear façade treatment, particularly the large expanses of glass railings, and hear how it could possibly be appropriate to the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

188 Prospect Park West – Park Slope Extension Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style movie theater designed by Harrison G. Wiseman and Magnuson & Kleinert Associates and built c. 1928. Application is to replace storefront infill, seal a masonry opening, and install signage and poster boxes.

Echoing our testimony about the building next door, HDC lauds this proposal and what it seeks to achieve: preserving this iconic corner of Brooklyn and the entrance to Prospect Park in its built form, without expanding and mutating the architecture. The proposed changes to this building essentially un-do all of the poor alterations from decades past and regularizes the façade. We applaud the retention of the marquis and the signage is absolutely appropriate. We are in awe that this building will once again function as its intended, original use as a theater and we wish Nitehawk all the success in this new location. We thank them for proving that occupying a landmark building does not have to mean the building has to go away or be altered in a terrible way, as previously proposed last year.

LPC determination: Approved

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