Birth of a Landmark
From the Brooklyn Rail – a very neat article about both this interesting building and how it (and by extrapolation other buildings) got designated.
Birth of the Concrete Jungle
by Laura K. Raskin
To love New York City is to fall for concrete and steel. Maybe it’s the iconic Brooklyn Bridge that raises the hair on your arms, or it’s an anonymous apartment building on East 10th Street. Buildings and structures become talismans here—reminders of constancy and comfort, landmarks not just of the city’s history, but also of our own timelines and stories, or the stories we wish were ours.
One of those buildings is 360 Third Avenue in Gowanus. It is crumbling and elegant, with steps that widen outward like open arms. An industrial wasteland of nothing surrounds it, as if it has been repeatedly left behind like a lost child in an empty parking lot. And there’s a slightly magical appeal to a building that sits on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street.
The number of times the two-story, Italianate-style structure has been mentioned in blogs by questioning residents or passers-by is a testament to its ability to captivate, as is the fact that two curious Park Slope dwellers and New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission employees took it up as their personal rescue mission. They uncovered its buried and misunderstood past, and it was designated a landmark in June 2006.
The building is now rightfully back on the map as the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building. The Preservation Commission calls it a “pioneering example of concrete construction in the United States” and as such it makes a profound statement about the Industrial Revolution’s arrival in this country—after which architecture was never the same. Although it cannot be torn down or significantly altered per Commission rules, its otherwise unknown fate prolongs the mystery.
For Kate Daly, a preservationist and chief of staff of the Commission, and Matthew Postal, an architectural historian and researcher there, the building was one they passed for years on their bikes and always wondered about. The windows are boarded up and trash takes refuge against the foundation.