a large brick building with many windows

New York’s Tammany Hall, byword for corruption, gets landmark status

By: Scott Henson

Jonathan Allen Reuters reports for Chicago Tribune.


[Credit: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons]

The former home of Tammany Hall, which became a byword for patronage and corruption as the headquarters of New York City’s powerful Democratic political machine, has been declared a historic landmark. A vote to protect the four-story neo-Georgian building in Union Square was held on Tuesday by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The building was completed in 1929, only a couple of years before Tammany began losing its grip on city politics and its power to control elections. It served as the final headquarters of the political machine that dominated 19th-century and early 20th-century New York City politics.

“The architecture is interesting, evocative and referential, but the history of Tammany makes it stand out,” commission chairman Robert Tierney said in a statement. The Tammany Society was founded in the late 1780s as a social club but quickly morphed into a powerful vote-delivering machine. It courted the city’s exploding immigrant populations, particularly those from Ireland, with jobs, hand-outs and legal services that sometimes amounted to bribing the authorities, in exchange for votes for Tammany candidates.

In 1925 Tammany helped elect Mayor Jimmy Walker, a popular figure whose tenure was known for its proliferation of speak-easies, which illegally served alcohol during Prohibition, until the 1929 stock-market crash. Walker was forced to resign in 1932 amid a corruption scandal. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who for decades opposed Tammany as a New York politician and governor, was elected U.S. president the same year and swiftly ended Tammany’s federal patronage. Before the year was out, Fiorello LaGuardia, a non-Tammany candidate, was elected New York City mayor. Tammany Hall never recovered its footing.

The colonnaded building now houses a film school, a theater and shops.


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