Automobile Row Buildings on the Road to Landmarks
August 13th, 2009, 4:03 pm
MAS testified on Tuesday before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of the landmark designation of two buildings in Midtown built in 1909 for the B.F. Goodrich Company. The buildings, both designed by Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, occupy an L-shaped site fronting the east side of Broadway (pictured here) and the north side of 57th St (both pictured after the jump). Unfortunately, the buildings’ owner only supports the designation of the Broadway building and is opposing the designation of the 57th St. structure. MAS joined our colleague NYC preservation groups, as well as several groups based in Shaw’s home state of Illinois, in urging the LPC to designate both buildings. Founded in Akron, Ohio, in the 1870s, B.F. Goodrich rapidly grew in the early 20th c. with the rise of the automobile industry. As a leading automobile tire and rubber manufacturer in the United States at the time, the company wanted a New York presence for its new corporate headquarters. The company selected an L-shaped location on Broadway and 57th Street, at the heart of what was then considered “automobile row.” Running along Broadway and its side streets, from north of Times Square to north of Columbus Circle, automobile row held a concentration of showrooms, repair shops, offices, and other uses all associated with automobile companies like B.F. Goodrich, General Motors, Ford, and Fisk Tires.Although built under two different new building permits, the Broadway and 57th Street buildings were clearly designed to be visually one L-shaped structure. Physically, they shared a basement and mechanical systems and were connected in the rear through an automotive elevator. B.F. Goodrich used the twelve-story Broadway building as its headquarters, and leased the eight-story 57th Street building to other automobile-related companies like Stoddard Dayton. Despite their different heights and their separation by a large corner-building, the two B.F. Goodman buildings make use of identical materials and are both designed in a style that can be best described as the Chicago-style influence on Viennese Secessionism (both early forms of Modernism), a combination not seen anywhere else in New York City. Architect Shaw’s interpretation and adaptation of these blended architectural styles differs slightly on each building, making the pair all the more interesting architecturally. These two buildings are likely the only buildings designed by Shaw, who was best known for his design of country homes, remaining in New York City, adding to their importance. Both buildings are historically and architecturally significant and merit NYC landmark designation.