Landmarks Project

From its inception, our association has been dedicated to obtaining landmark designation from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for historically and architecturally important buildings in our neighborhood. We created a database* of the buildings on West 56th, West 55th and West 54th Streets. This database includes a photographic record and documentation of the architectural history of every building in this original area. Research continues today.

We submitted testimony and documentation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for evaluation of over 20 buildings, after first receiving Resolutions of support from Community Board Five (CB5). We have plans to submit more in the future. We will also re-submit, with new research, applications for some buildings that were not selected during the first round.

In 2006, we organized a neighborhood campaign to prevent the demolition of four townhouses (Nos. 31, 33, 35 and 37) on West 56 Street to make way for a condominium with a 76-car parking garage. The campaign was unsuccessful, but our experience provided valuable lessons which we used for subsequent efforts and campaigns.

* Copies of the photo CD are available for a $50 tax-deductible donation. The database was produced with the help of Professor Andrew Dolkart, Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture. Photo CD produced by RitaSue Siegel and Craig Dumas.

10 West 56th Street

The lot at 10 West 56th Street was purchased in 1899 by a prominent financier, Frederick C. Edey, for his wife Birdsall O. Edey. Mrs. Edey was a distinguished New York citizen in her own right; a leader in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the National President of Girl Scouts of America from 1930 to 1935. In 1901, Frederick Edey hired the architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore to design 10 West 56th Street, one of several townhouses known as “Bankers’ Row”. The elegant neo-French Renaissance Revival Style building at 10 West 56th Street is one of the few surviving townhouses designed by Warren & Wetmore. The first floor retains its rusticated piers at either side, which serve as a base for this slender building’s supporting two giant half columns. A modillioned cornice frames a grand sculptural Palladian window; with an elegant cartouche and keystone at the centerpiece of the design at the second level. A smaller tripartite window at the third level is succeeded by an attic with a balustraded parapet, and a dormered copper mansard roof. Warren & Wetmore was a nationally significant architectural firm and this is a significant and early example of its more restrained use of the neo-French Renaissance Revival style that appears in later works, such as Steinway Hall (1924-25), and the Aeolian Building (1925-27) both designated New York City Landmarks. Many of the firm’s other New York City buildings are also individual landmarks, including; Grand Central Station (1903-13), and the New York Yacht Club (1899-1900). Most of the residences along West 56th Street have been demolished or severely altered; making the Edey residence a rare survivor of Midtown Manhattan’s residential past.

17 West 56th Street

The Edith Andrews Logan residence was originally designed and constructed in 1870 by the prolific architect-builder John G. Prague as part of a row of four story-and-basement, single-family brownstone row houses. Towards the end of the 19th century, the area around Fifth Avenue below Central Park developed as Manhattan’s most prestigious residential enclave, due in no small part to the Vanderbilt family’s growing presence on the avenue. In 1903, the row house at 17 West 56th Street was purchased by Edith Andrews Logan, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and the wealthy widow of horse breeder and military commander John Alexander Logan, Jr. Mrs. Logan commissioned architect Augustus N. Allen to transform her row house into an elegant neo-Federal style town house. In renovating 17 West 56th Street, Allen moved the entrance to the center of the ground story and converted the full fourth story into a half-story peaked roof with dormers. The updated façade—and the resulting changes to the interior layout—represented the new “American Basement” type of row house design that was becoming popular among New York City’s architects in the 1890s and early 1900s. The symmetrical composition of the town house at 17 West 56th Street is enlivened by the use of Flemish bond brickwork and a variety of classically inspired motifs, including fluted columns at the ground story; iron balconnettes; incised limestone lintel courses; splayed keystone lintels; and a denticulated cornice beneath a row of pedimented dormers. The first two stories of the building were converted to commercial use in the 1930s, first housing the fashionable “Royal Box” restaurant and later an exclusive beauty salon.

26 West 56th Street

Remodeled in 1907-08 by the noted architect Harry Allan Jacobs for investment banker Isaac Seligman and long occupied by banker E. Hayward Ferry and his wife Amelia Parsons Ferry, this highly intact former townhouse is an exceptionally fine example of the restrained Neo-French Classic variant of the Beaux Arts style and forms part of “Bankers’ Row,” a group of five residences built for bankers on West 56th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It was originally constructed in 1871 by the well-known New York architects D. & J. Jardine. Jacobs extended the house at the front and rear and relocated the entrance to the ground story. He created a new limestone façade and copper roof. The building’s rusticated base focuses on a large central entry with an elegantly carved lion’s head and garlands surmounting a pair of original iron-and-glass doors. The windows at the center of the façade retain their historic paired wood casements and transoms and are accented by a stone balcony at the third story. A heavy cornice and balustrade caps the third story. The mansard roofs enhance the French character of the design. Jacobs, who trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, won critical acclaim in the early decades of the twentieth century for his restrained and elegant residences, of which this house is an outstanding example.

E. Hayward Ferry was a prominent businessman, who served as first vice president of Hanover Bank from 1910 to 1929. He and his wife occupied this house from 1908 to 1935.

30 West 56th Street

No. 30 West 56th Street, designed by C.P.H. Gilbert for prominent investment banker Henry Seligman and his wife Adelaide, is a particularly grand and well-preserved example of the fashionable townhouses on the block built for bankers at the turn of the twentieth century when the street became known as “Bankers’ Row.” Constructed between 1899 and 1901, Gilbert employed the restrained neo-French Renaissance style on a limestone façade spanning two lots that gave the townhouse an imposing presence. Above the rusticated ground floor are original second-story wood windows and an intricately carved stone balcony supported by brackets. Adorning the second, third and fourth floors are stone quoins and window surrounds with broken lintels over the central windows on the third and fourth floors. A fourth-story balcony and a large ornate cornice resting on paired consoles further enhance the look of the elegant façade. A mansard roof with elaborate segmental-arched dormers projects over the roof lines of the adjoining buildings.

Seligman was a senior partner in the prestigious investment banking firm of J. & W. Seligman & Company, founded in 1864 by his uncles and his father, Jesse. Henry Seligman was also influential in financing railroad construction in the American West as well as serving as a director for several major industrial and artistic organizations across the United States. He and his wife resided at 30 West 56th Street until their deaths in 1933 and 1934, respectively. 30 West 56th Street was converted into apartments in 1941.

46 West 55th Street

The Joseph B. and Josephine H. Bissell House was originally constructed as one of five Italianate style brownstone row houses designed by architect Thomas Thomas and built in 1869 by owner and builder John W. Stevens. When the Bissell House was initially constructed, many row houses were being built on the side streets in the area below Central Park while larger mansions were being constructed along Fifth Avenue. By the early 20th century, this area was known as Vanderbilt’s Row because of that family’s involvement in maintaining the elite character of the neighborhood. The house was purchased by Josephine H. Bissell in 1903 and she hired prominent architect Edward L. Tilton to alter the house by removing the traditional Italianate style brownstone facade and its high stoop and replacing it with a more fashionable neo-Classical style brick and limestone facade with an American basement plan. The Bissell House facade is a rare example of a private residential commission by Tilton, who is particularly associated with the design of libraries. The facade features a bowed front, red and black brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern and limestone details including two prominent cornices with block modillions and scroll brackets. Mrs. Bissell lived in the house with her husband, Dr. Joseph B. Bissell and sold it shortly after his death. Dr. Bissell was a surgeon who did pioneering research in the treatment of cancer with radium. Several prominent physicians lived in the house in the first half of the 20th century. Gradually the house went from residential to non-residential use and it is currently owned by a clothing manufacturer based in Italy.

31, 33, 35 and 37 West 56th Street, Before and After

In 2006, we organized a neighborhood campaign to prevent the demolition of four townhouses (Nos. 31, 33, 35 and 37) on West 56th Street to make way for a condominium with a 76-car parking garage. The campaign was unsuccessful.