13 New York City Buildings That Turn 100 in 2013
Hana Albert reports for Curbed New York
Turns out 1913 is the year of New York centennials—at least, architecturally speaking. Blockbuster landmarks Grand Central Terminal and the Woolworth Building have hogged much of the glory thus far, but it’s only March. We’ve rounded up 11 other buildings that are celebrating their 100th birthdays this year, and the motley assortment of century-old structures tells us a little something about the pre-WW1 city of yore. For one, showbiz and Broadway were booming, with four now-landmarked theaters opening their doors in Midtown and one up in Hamilton Heights. Other office buildings, like J.P Morgan’s headquarters at 23 Wall Street, the Times Square Building (longtime erstwhile home of the New York Times), and the World’s Tower Building, sprang up as an era of frenzied skyscraper construction came to a close before the war. Oddballs include that other Grand Army Plaza, at Central Park South and 59th Street, and a residential building in Clinton Hill that boasts beautiful carvings.
1. 23 Wall Street
Located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broad, this classical-looking building with long-gone chandeliered interiors is remembered as the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co. Apparently, it was so inextricably associated with the business giant that it was even known as the “House of Morgan.” A tumultuous and attention-getting history ensued after 1913—home to an infamous 1920 bombing, it appeared in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and now has decidedly less glamorous retail space on the ground floor.
2. The Woolworth Building
The iconic green-topped Woolworth Building opened its doors on April 24, 1913. The green-topped physical manifestation of five-and-dime baron Frank Woolworth’s fortune, it was, for 16 years after its completion, the tallest building the city. There’s an exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum till July to honor its 100th birthday. But one day, you could even live there, since the top floors are being converted into luxury condos that are set to hit the market in 2015.
3. Times Square Building
The Gray Lady called this building home for 90 years before moving to its Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper on Eighth Avenue. Now that those darn journalists are out, it’s home to some offices and a bowling alley.
4. Shubert Theatre
Originally opened 100 years ago by British actor Johnston Forbes-Robertson, the first productions to grace its stage were Shakespearean: “Hamlet,” “The Merchant of Venice,” and “Othello.” During Broadway’s golden age and beyond, stars’ names were constantly lit up on its iconic marquee, from Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Streisand to Rex Harrison and Gene Kelly. Frescoed outside and full of plasterwork and painted panels inside, “Spamalot” and “Memphis” were its recent blockbusters, while “Matilda” is currently playing.
5. Booth Theatre
Another theater built by Lee Shubert, it opened the same year as the Shubert Theater and is located one block away, though its back abuts the Shubert’s and the two structures are meant to be seen as a seamless whole. Though less ornate on the whole, the Booth Theater’s stage has seen the likes of old- and new-world boldface names, like Henry Fonda, Ralph Fiennes, and Vanessa Redgrave.
6. Longacre Theatre
Yet another theatrical venue now overseen by the Shubert Organization, this one was named for Longacre Square, which today is universally known as Times Square. Back in the 1920s, Ethel Barrymore took the stage for three productions; in 2012, it hosted Mike Tyson’s one-man show. What a century.
7. Cort Theatre
“The Cort is the only surviving, still active, legitimate theatre designed by Thomas Lamb. Its classic exterior was inspired by the 18th-century French Petit Trianon at Versailles,” says its official history. Grace Kelly made her Broadway debut here, and the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Al Pacino, John Leguizamo, and others all had starring roles in the Cort’s productions.
8. Charles Scribner’s Sons Building
Originally built to house the Scribner’s Bookstore, this Beaux Arts beauty has a detailed facade that, appropriately, includes four busts of major printers. Designated a landmark in 1982, it is now home to a ground-level Sephora (one of many elegant old New York buildings, in fact, now occupied by a chain store) with offices above.
9. Grand Central Terminal
The station has been planning its 100th birthday party for months now, which includes tons of publicity buzz and a full schedule of concerts, events, and special speeches (official site). There are a ton of little-known facts about this preservationists’ gem, such as an art school once occupied the seventh floor or CBS broadcast the 1960 Olympics from studios in the terminal (they are now tennis courts).
10. The World’s Tower Building
Renovated in 2008, Edward Browning constructed this 25-story tower with the fanciful idea that he could put a runway for airplanes on the roof so he could arrive and depart in style. (It never happened. Remember, this was 1913.) To prospective tenants at the time, high-speed elevators, just like in the Woolworth Building (oooh, competition), were touted.
11. Grand Army Plaza
Not to be confused with Brooklyn’s plaza of the same name, this one is located at the juncture of Central Park South and the former Plaza Hotel, with part north and south of 59th Street. It has a fountain and other decorative elements in the Beaux-Arts style popular at the time and got spiffed up during a $3.7 million renovation in 1990.
12. Hamilton Theatre
There’s been some recent action (a dumpster filled with debris, says our tipster) in front of the Hamilton Theatre, a landmarked building that dates back to 1913. The stage itself has been dark for years (the building’s interior is, accordingly, beautifully decrepit), but since the dollar store on the ground closed its doors, area residents have been buzzing that it’s destined to get turned into a complex of condos while keeping the protected facade and other elements intact.
13. Royal Castle Apartments
This Beaux Arts beauty in Clinton Hill has intricate carvings of stone masons on its facade, which Ephemeral New York says is a constant reminder of the kind of skilled work that goes into constructing a building like this. Brownstoner comments that “the shape of the roofline would be at home in Vienna.” After 100 years, people still live in this 52-unit building at the corner of Gates and Clinton avenues.