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10 West 56th Street and 30 West 56th Street, request for designation

In the first half of the 19th century, the area now known as Midtown Manhattan, (represented by Community Board Five) was developed as a middle class residential district. During the building boom that followed the Civil War, four-story brick and brownstone-faced rowhouses went up on the streets of the West 40’s and 50’s. By the turn of the century, the area had become home to many of the city’s most affluent citizens. By the early 20th Century, several townhouses on the block between 5th and 6th Avenue had been built for bankers and became known as “Bankers Row.”

10 West 56th Street

WHEREAS, The lot at 10 West 56th Street was purchased in 1899 by a prominent N.Y. financier, Frederick C. Edey, for his wife Birdsall Otis Edey, a leader in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and later the National President of Girl Scouts of America. The building was to be designed by McKim, Meade & White, but construction was delayed due to a pre-existing covenant prohibiting building out to the lot line; and

WHEREAS, In 1901, the covenant ended and Edey hired the firm of Warren & Wetmore to design 10 West 56th St., one of the few surviving townhouse built by this nationally significant architectural firm (designers of Grand Central Station, N.Y. Yacht Club, and Steinway); and

WHEREAS, This elegant Beaux-Arts style building with its mammoth grand sculptural second-story Palladian window capped by an elegant cartouche and keystone at the centerpiece of the design; and

WHEREAS, A smaller tripartite window at the third level is succeeded by the attic that has a balustraded parapet and a dormered copper mansard roof; and

WHEREAS, The first floor of the townhouse was designed in the modern French mode and retains its rusticated piers at either side which serve as a base for this slender building; and

WHEREAS, Despite alterations in 1940 to the first floor storefront, the upper stories are well preserved reflecting its original Beaux-Arts design; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five recommends that 10 West 56th Street be designated a New York City Landmark.

30 West 56th Street

WHEREAS, 30 West 56th Street was designed and built in 1899-1901 by the noted architect C.P.H. Gilbert for prominent investment banker Henry Seligman and his wide Adelaide and stands today as a particularly grand and well-preserved example of the townhouses that once lined the side streets off Fifth Avenue; and

WHEREAS, At the time, Gilbert also designed Seligman’s summer house in Deal, NJ and received many commissions from New York’s leading families, designed in a variety of architectural styles; and

WHEREAS, For Seligman,(known as the American Rothchild) Gilbert employed the Beaux-Arts style on a limestone façade spanning two lots, giving the townhouse an imposing presence compared to the narrower buildings on the block; and

WHEREAS, Above the rusticated ground floor are original second-story wood windows and an intricately-carved stone balcony supported by brackets, and 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, and a fourth story balcony and large cornice further enhances the look of the elegant Beaux-Arts façade, along with an elaborate mansard roof; and

WHEREAS, Although the ground floor window openings have been altered to provide additional entrances, and the areaway walls have been removed, the façade, according to the Landmarks Commission, remains remarkably intact today; and

WHEREAS, Although the Seligmans continued to live there until their deaths in the 1930’s it remained a single family residence until 1941 when it was converted to apartments, and is now an office building; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five recommends that 30 West 56th Street be designated a New York City landmark because of its extraordinary Beaux-Arts elegance, still very much in tact.

The above resolution passed with a vote of 35 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstention.

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