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Vocapedia > Arts > Architecture, Towns, Cities > Landmarks




19 June 2004

















landmark        UK











landmark        USA












Landmarks Preservation Commission        USA






win landmark protection        USA






 animated time lapse

development of New York City’s skyline,

from the 1500s to today (2015)        USA






landmarks / historic sights        UK









USA > landmarks > New York City law        USA







 USA > iconic landmarks        UK






USA > landmarks > New York's twin towers        USA






USA > historic conservation group > Landmarks Illinois        USA






USA > Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary - in pictures        UK        25 May 2012


As San Francisco

gears up

for a weekend of celebrations

to mark the 75th anniversary

of the Golden Gate Bridge on 27 May 2012

we take a look at the iconic landmark

through the decades






heritage        UK






UK > Battersea power station, London        UK













preservation        USA







preservationist            USA






demolition        USA






brutalist landmark        UK






low-rise building        USA






round-arched windows        USA






serpentine ornamentation        USA






preservationists        USA






an 1894 Romanesque Revival building        USA






The Glenwood Power Station in Yonkers, N.Y.        USA







the Statue of Liberty        USA





historic landmark        USA






London landmark > Battersea power station






gothic > George Gilbert Scott's landmark hotel

above St Pancras station, London: a gothic masterpiece        UK






New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission        USA






The online presentation of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive

features photographs of landmark buildings

and architectural renovation projects

in Washington, D.C., and throughout the United States.


The first 23 groups of photographs

contain more than 2,500 images and date from 1980 to 2005,

with many views in color as well as black-and-white.


Extensive coverage

of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building

was added in 2007.


The archive is expected to grow

to more than 100,000 photographs

covering all of the United States.



a distinguished and richly published

American photographer,

has donated her work

to the Library of Congress since 1992.


Starting in 2002,

Highsmith provided scans with new donations

to allow rapid online access throughout the world.











Preserving the City

Preservationists See Bulldozers

Charging Through a Loophole


November 29, 2008
The New York Times


Hours before the sun came up on a cool October morning in 2006, people living near the Dakota Stables on the Upper West Side were suddenly awakened by the sound of a jackhammer.

Soon word spread that a demolition crew was hacking away at the brick cornices of the stables, an 1894 Romanesque Revival building, on Amsterdam Avenue at 77th Street, that once housed horses and carriages but had long served as a parking garage.

In just four days the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was to hold a public hearing on pleas dating back 20 years to designate the low-rise building, with its round-arched windows and serpentine ornamentation, as a historic landmark.

But once the building’s distinctive features had been erased, the battle was lost. The commission went ahead with its hearing, but ultimately decided not to designate the structure because it had been irreparably changed. Today a 16-story luxury condominium designed by Robert A. M. Stern is rising on the site: the Related Companies is asking from $765,000 for a studio to $7 million or more for a five-bedroom unit in the building.

The strategy has become wearyingly familiar to preservationists. A property owner — in this case Sylgar Properties, which was under contract to sell the site to Related — is notified by the landmarks commission that its building or the neighborhood is being considered for landmark status. The owner then rushes to obtain a demolition or stripping permit from the city’s Department of Buildings so that notable qualities can be removed, rendering the structure unworthy of protection.

“In the middle of the night I’m out there at 2 in the morning, and they’re taking the cornices off,” said Gale Brewer, a city councilwoman who represents that part of the Upper West Side. “We’re calling the Buildings Department, we’re calling Landmarks. You get so beaten down by all of this. The developers know they can get away with that.”

The number of pre-emptive demolitions across the city may be relatively small, but preservationists say the phenomenon is only one sign of problems with the city’s mechanism for protecting historic buildings.

“This administration is so excited about the new that it overlooks its obligation to protect the old,” said Anthony C. Wood, author of “Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks.”

In an interview Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, called end-run alterations and demolitions “a terrible situation and a complete misuse of the process.”

He added that the commission was trying to address the issue. Before putting a property on the calendar for landmark consideration, for example, Mr. Tierney or the commission’s staff members meet with owners to explain the potential benefits of landmark designation —a federal tax credit for repairs or improvements, for example — in the hope of enlisting cooperation or even support.

“Owner consent is not required, but I strongly try to obtain it whenever possible,” Mr. Tierney said. “It helps the process going forward. It’s not a continually contentious relationship.”

But some owners pay little heed. In one of the most memorable cases, a wrecking ball destroyed a corner tower of the former Paterson Silks store near Union Square on March 8, 2005. The double-height glass tower was the signature feature of the building, designed by the architect Morris Lapidus, known for his flamboyant Miami Beach hotels.

A few hours later the commission, seemingly oblivious, agreed to schedule a hearing on the building’s future.

Preservationists were outraged, particularly because they had been trying to bring the building to the commission’s attention for at least three years. Yet the owner, Donald J. Olenick, vice president of BLDG Management, then a co-owner of the building, said he did not understand the objections. “This is certainly not the Plaza Hotel,” he said the day the tower toppled. “I’m a little surprised anyone was concerned about it.”

For years, preservationists seeking to save midcentury Modernist architecture in New York have sought landmark status for 711 Third Avenue. That William Lescaze building, near 45th Street, features a wall mosaic in the lobby by the artist Hans Hofmann. Just last month the owner, SL Green Realty, began tearing out the lobby’s distinctive blue mosaic ceiling, as well as the door surrounds by the Abstract Expressionist sculptor José de Rivera. The Hofmann artwork will be preserved; the de Rivera may be relocated within the lobby.

A spokeswoman for the landmarks commission, Elisabeth de Bourbon, said the lobby had been under review as a potential interior landmark. Upon learning of the demolition, she said, the commission entered into “a standstill agreement,” under which the owner was prohibited from altering the Hoffmann mosaic during the reconstruction. A spokesman for the owner said that a formal agreement had not been signed.

As for the rest of the lobby, Ms. de Bourbon said that because of alterations in the 1980s and the current renovation, it was not landmark-worthy.

Under current rules, once a landmark hearing has been scheduled, building owners may not obtain demolition or alteration permits. But if such a permit is secured before a hearing is scheduled, as was the case with Dakota Stables and 711 Third Avenue, the work may proceed without penalty.

Safeguards crumble because the landmarks commission and the buildings department lack an established system of communication, and commissioners often are unaware that permits have been issued. There is also no set procedure by which the buildings department alerts the commission when someone seeks a permit to strip off architectural detail.

Some City Council members are determined to change that. Tony Avella, who represents northeastern Queens, has introduced a bill that would require the buildings department not only to withhold demolition permits but also to suspend existing ones and issue a stop-work order when the commission schedules a hearing to consider landmark status for a structure.

Another bill, proposed by Rosie Mendez, a city councilwoman representing the Lower East Side and the East Village, would require the commission to notify the buildings department as soon as a property comes under consideration, even if a hearing has not been scheduled. The department would then alert the commission if an owner applied for a work permit. Both bills are wending their way through the council.

A school in Ms. Mendez’s East Village neighborhood galvanized her to introduce the bill. In June 2006 the landmarks commission designated former Public School 64, a French Renaissance Revival building on East Ninth Street near Tompkins Square Park, as a landmark over the objections of its owner, Gregg Singer.

After that designation, Mr. Singer used an alteration permit that had been granted in 2003 and stripped the terra-cotta elements and copper cornices from the building’s exterior. This month a State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan upheld the school’s designation as a landmark despite the architectural changes. But the damage remains.

“Because of a loophole, if there is an existing permit you can move forward, irrespective of the designation of the building,” Ms. Mendez said. “It was alarming to me that it was happening.”

Mr. Tierney said he had talked with City Council members about the bills but was also working to address the problem by improving the commission’s database to include information about permits that have been requested or issued.

“We’re not just sitting back waiting for legislation,” he said. “We have ramped up the interaction and communication.”

Under current procedures, when an owner of a building that is under review by the commission applies for a demolition permit, the commission has 40 days to schedule a hearing on the structure.

But “it is difficult to put together a designation in that time frame,” Mr. Tierney said. And when it comes to an entire historic district, he said, the job “is difficult if not impossible.”

At times the commission can move swiftly. When a northern swath of the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn was placed on the calendar in June 2006 for consideration as a historic district, a developer quickly obtained a demolition permit for the George B. and Susan Elkins House, the only known free-standing mid-19th-century wood-frame house remaining in the area.

“We pulled the building out of sequence and did an individual designation in two to three weeks,” Mr. Tierney said.

Sometimes landmark designation is awarded after major alterations. In 2006, for example, the commission reinstated protection for two tan-brick apartment houses on the Upper East Side known as the City and Suburban Homes, even though the owners had reclad them in reddish-pink stucco, drastically changing their appearance.

“It was a Pyrrhic victory,” said Seri Worden, executive director of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. “Now we have a red stucco building, but it’s a landmark.”

In the case of Dakota Stables, some preservationists have accused the landmarks commission of deliberately dragging its heels. “The commission had no intention of designating Dakota Stables,” said Kate Wood, the executive director of Landmark West!, a preservation group. “They waited until it had been torn down. It was clearly too late for them to do anything meaningful.”

“It was all so carefully orchestrated,” she added. “It was politics. It was all just theater.”

But Mr. Tierney said he fought genuinely hard to have the case heard. “It was knock-down, drag-out time trying to do everything we could do to have a fair and open hearing on that building,” he said.

He also said he was “extremely unhappy with how the owners proceeded” on Dakota Stables and on Paterson Silks, yet added, “That’s two out of thousands — not to minimize them.”

Mr. Stern, the architect who designed the Harrison, the luxury condominiums replacing Dakota Stables, said the late-night demolition created “a controversial and awkward moment,” adding, “I don’t like to tear anything down if I don’t have to.”

Some commissioners say the landmarks commission and the buildings department should adopt a more reliable alert system to prevent pre-emptive demolitions. “When a property owner goes to the buildings department for a permit to strip, it should be a red flag,” said Roberta Brandes Gratz, who has served on the landmarks commission since 2002.

Christopher Moore, a commission member, also said the situation demanded redress. “There is a standard of honor I wish the developers would follow,” he said.

“The landmarks commission should have greater authority” over the granting of demolition permits, he added. “All of a sudden, the cornice is gone.”

Preservationists See Bulldozers Charging Through a Loophole,
NYT, 29.11.2008,










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