Old New York In Postcards #12 – 20 Historic Buildings That Were Demolished

20 Historic, Beautiful New York Buildings That Were Demolished

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building - all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building – all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

New York City real estate developers will always knock down a building if a buck can be made. So it really should come as no surprise that these buildings were demolished because they outlived their usefulness or more often than not, the land they sat upon was deemed more valuable than the building itself.

Nathan Silver’s must-own book, Lost New York (1967) Houghton Mifflin, was the first book to explicitly point out what New York City had lost architecturally over the years. If you have never read it, you should.

For our short postcard essay, there are hundreds of examples we could have chosen from and we picked 20. We omitted places of worship, theatres and restaurants which are the most transitory of buildings.

We’ve covered hotels before, and we could do another story on all the historic hotels that have been torn down, but we’ve included a few in this retrospective.

Rather than comment extensively on the buildings, a brief summary will suffice and the images should convey what we have lost. These postcards have been scanned at 1200 dpi in high resolution, click on any postcard to enlarge.

Singer Building hresSinger Building – 149 Broadway (corner Liberty Street),  A gem by architect Ernest Flagg, built 1908. Once the tallest building in the world. The Singer Building was elegant and sleek. Demolished 1967-68 and replaced by a ugly box of a building built by the Unites States Steel Corporation.

Produce Exchange hresProduce Exchange – 2 Broadway between Beaver and Stone Streets. Architect George B. Post’s splendid work of grace was constructed between 1882-84, and demolished 1957.

Gillender Building 2 hresGillender Building – northwest corner Wall Street and Nassau Street. Architects, Charles I. Berg and Edward H. Clark, built in 1897 at a cost of $500,000. The Gillender Building was the tallest office building in the world for a brief time. The 20-story tower lasted only 13 years. In 1910 it was the first modern fireproof building to be demolished and it was done at breakneck speed, in under 45 days. The Gillender Building was replaced by the Bankers Trust Tower.

St. Paul Building hresSt. Paul Building – 222 Broadway corner Ann Street at end of Park Row. Architect George B. Post, built 1895-1898. Personally one of architect’s George B. Post’s least favorite buildings. Called “ugly” by some contemporary critics, but hundreds of thousands of visitors came to marvel at it. Demolished 1958.

World Building hresNew York World Building (aka Pulitzer Building) (center with gold dome) –  63 Park Row corner Frankfort Street. Another George B. Post architectural masterpiece, built 1890. Demolished in 1955-56 along with 20 other buildings the city purchased in the immediate vicinity to widen the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Tribune Building hresNew York Tribune Building – Park Row corner Nassau and Spruce Street. Architect Richard Morris Hunt, built 1875. Demolished 1966 to expand Pace University’s campus.

Herald Square Herald Building hresNew York Herald Building – Broadway and Sixth Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets. Architect, Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White architects, built 1893. While the area still carries the name Herald Square after the newspaper and its building, the ornate three story Herald Building was demolished in two stages one in 1928, the other in 1940 and replaced by two extremely mundane buildings.

Madison Sqaure Garden hresMadison Square Garden – Madison and Fourth Avenue 26th to 27th Streets McKim, Mead and White, architects, built 1890. When Madison Sqaure Garden was actually located on Madison Square. Demolished 1925. Replaced by the New York Life Insurance Company Building.

Pennsylvania Station hresPennsylvania Station – Entire block Seventh to Eighth Avenues and 31st to 33rd Streets. Architects, McKim, Mead & White, 1901 – 1910. McKim’s masterpiece and the most significant single loss of a public building. Its destruction brought about the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Demolished 1963-65. Replaced by the hideous mouse maze called Penn Station beneath the Penn Plaza office complex and Madison Square Garden.

Waldorf Astoria Hotel hresThe Waldorf-Astoria –  Fifth Avenue 33rd to 34th Streets. Originally two separate hotels The Waldorf built 1893 and The Astoria built 1897 both by architect Henry Hardenbergh. Demolished 1929. One of the modern landmarks of New York City now stands on the old Waldorf-Astoria site, The Empire State Building.

Astor Hotel hresAstor Hotel – 1507 – 1521 Broadway west side between 44th and 45th Streets. Architects Clinton & Russell built the original portion of the hotel in 1904 and completed the second section in 1910. This beautiful landmark hotel was torn down in 1967. A boring boxy skyscraper now occupies the site.

Hotel Savoy hresHotel Savoy – 709 Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. Architect Ralph S. Townsend, built 1891-1892.  Demolished 1925-1926. Replaced by The Savoy Plaza Hotel which was also torn down in 1966.

Hotel Netherland Hotel Savoy together hresHotel Netherland – Fifth Avenue and 59th Street W.H. Hume architect, built 1890-93. Demolished 1926 replaced by the Sherry Netherland Hotel.

Hotel Majestic hresMajestic Hotel – 72nd Street & Central Park West. Architect, Alfred Zucker, built 1894. Demolished 1929. Replaced by the art deco Majestic Apartments.

Clearing House hresThe Clearing House – 77 Cedar Street north side between Broadway and Nassau Street. Architect Robert W. Gibson, built 1894-96. Demolished 1964 for a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill acclaimed nondescript glass office tower 140 Broadway (1968).

John Wanamaker hresJohn Wanamaker’s Department Store – Broadway between 9th and 10th Streets. Architect John Kellum, built 1862. Originally constructed for department store magnate A.T. Stewart, Wanamaker’s expanded to a second annex building in 1905 on Broadway between 8th and 9th Streets connected by a bridge of sighs to the original building which is shown above.

Wanamaker’s closed its doors permanently on December 18, 1954. Wanamaker’s was in the process of being demolished to be replaced by an apartment building, when on July 14, 1956, one of New York City’s most spectacular fires broke out at around 5:45 pm. Fortunately no one was killed but 187 firefighters were hurt, mostly with smoke inhalation, as they fought a blaze for 25 hours which consumed the original building. The Stewart House apartment building which replaced Wanamaker’s, was completed in 1960. The Wanamaker annex still stands.

Hippodrome hresThe Hippodrome – 756 Sixth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets Frederick Thompson and Jay H. Morgan architects, built 1904-05. Demolished 1939.

Claremont Inn hresThe Claremont Inn – Riverside Drive and 124th Street. Originally built as a private residence sometime between 1783 and 1807, architect unknown. Wealthy navigator and owner Michael Hogan named the estate Claremont after his birthplace County Clare, Ireland. Claremont became a popular roadhouse and restaurant which was acquired by the city in 1872. As the New York Times wrote in 1949, “By the simple expedient of “doing nothing” the Board of Estimate has converted historic Claremont Inn from a picturesque addition to the Riverside Park landscape into a ‘not very attractive’ boarded-up structure.” As the building was being demolished in 1951, two separate fires a week apart destroyed it.

Vanderbilt Mansion hresVanderbilt Mansion – 1 West 57th St and 742-748 Fifth Avenue between 57th & 58th Streets. Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion, original portion by architect George B.Post 1883, expanded in 1893 by architect Richard Morris Hunt. The largest private house ever built in New York City. Demolished 1926. Bergdorf Goodman Department Store now occupies the site.

Charles M Schwab residence hresCharles M. Schwab Mansion – Riverside Drive between 73rd and 74th Streets. Architect Maurice Hebert, built 1902-06. Demolished 1948. The apartment building Schwab House occupies the site.

16 thoughts on “Old New York In Postcards #12 – 20 Historic Buildings That Were Demolished

  1. Jack Warshaw

    The world is now coming to understand the future of human civilized life on on the planet depends on stopping global warming. That includes sustainable, durable building materials and methods. Embodied energy in natural materials like stone and wood, buildings that can last and adapt are the future, not the energy hungry, polluting, throwaway buildings of the recent past and present. Cities like Paris, Prague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and others that conserve their heritage demonstrate how to do it. Uncontrolled global corporate greed creates sickness of body, spirit and built environment.

  2. Randall Brown

    Do you know of a building in NYC in the early 19th century that had a ‘cat’ as a mascot on top of its roof? The cat was rolled up in thread, we understand. Can’t find such a building in the early 1900’s. Thank you!

  3. Clint

    Happiest & Saddest Stories about Architectural Preservation

    In 1944, Hitler ordered his commanding general of Paris to level the city. The general disobeyed, and the result is, Paris stands.

    The opposite of the Paris story happened to Manila in 1945. Manila was a stunning and beautiful city, the “Pearl of the Orient.” The Japanese army ordered all troops to peacefully withdraw, leaving the people and buildings intact — but to blow the bridges. A force of the Japanese navy ignored the orders, and mass murdered the people, as well as leveling the city, making it the worst devastated city in WW II. Utter tragedy.

    1. Stephen W Ferguson

      and to think Gerneral Yamashita was executed partially because of the old city of Manilla’s destruction despite ordering its abandonment

  4. P.VT

    Who else wants to make a time machine to stop all of this demolition from ever happening….

    What really makes me dead inside is when I realize that buildings like this will never get built again, in the span of 100 years our architecture has devolved so far into cancerous modernism and glass box buildings we will never again get to see the construction of marvelous stone masonry buildings ever again, and now that the ones of old times and better days are gone, our cities have lost their beauty forever, unless something or someone makes a drastic change.

    1. B.P. Post author

      Well if you want to believe in conspiracy theories “the communist” agenda is behind ugliness replacing beauty.

      I don’t know about conspiracies. I just know what is ugly (anything advocated by Rem Koolhaas and proponents of brutalism, asymmetric, twisted, contemporary or the glass wall school of architecture) and what is beautiful (anything from the classic or beaux-arts school i.e.George B. Post; James Renwick; Dwight James Baum; Ely Jacques Kahn, Cass Gilbert; Raymond Hood; McKim Mead & White, Henry Haredenbergh; etc.)

      Items 22 & 23 from the 1963 Congressional Report on Communist goals:

      22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”

      23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

      1. Jack Warshaw

        Why would you believe a single Congressional Report from the era of red scare, blacklisting, nuclear arsenal building and intolerance any more than the lies and deceptions of fear mongers and profiteers who led the US into Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and a “permanent war” view of the world? They’ve killed millions, spent trillions and made billions, while Americans at home continue in poverty, ill health, polluted cities, hate crime, racism, mass surveillance and political corruption.

        1. Jugbuster

          Well Jack when you read all the items in that communist-action check sheet it’s surprising just how many have come true since it’s entry into the congressional records. But I’m with you on the idiots that reside there. AND I definitely concur on the rest of your comment on your views about war and profiteers ! ! ! ! The Unseen Hand by Ralph Epperson, Behold A Pale Horse by William Cooper, and War Is A Racket by Gen. Smedley Butler all opened up my eyes to what this reality we live in is REALLY about and how we’ve been snowed from cradle to grave ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Good Luck Brother

  5. Steve Raucher

    I remember the Wannamaker fire. I was 6. I also remember the old Penn Station. It’s destruction was a crime.

  6. Gisele Zeitler

    So good of you to publish these gorgeous buildings. What a travesty! I wasn’t even born or raised in the United States, but I want to cry at the enormous loss — especially Pennsylvania Station. I have that book, as well as “Lost New York,” that you mentioned. Thank you! -G

    1. Josely hsiang

      Just looking at those pictures brings me back so much memories,thank you for posting those pictures something u could never get back

    2. Possibly a reincarnated architect

      This article made me want to cry, not because it was a bad article but because all of these beautiful pieces of art were destroyed only to be replaced by modernist monstrosities. I cannot believe the people of New York City and our nation sat idly by while these magnificent pieces of pure monumental beauty were destroyed. They should’ve built a separate city for all of the modernist and cancerous buildings to inhabit. I cannot express the sorrow I feel for this loss of history.

  7. Pingback: The Top 10 Secrets of NYC’s Herald Square | Untapped Cities

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