Gramercy, Manhattan, fresh York City, fresh York, United States
The Consolidated Edison Building, constructed in stages between 1910 and 1929 for the Consolidated Gas Company, predecessor to Consolidated Edison, and designed by the leading architectural firms of Henry Hardenbergh and Warren & Wetmore, is a monumental presence in the Union Square neighborhood and has one of the great towers that define the Manhattan skyline. The earliest sections of the building, on East 15th Street and the northern end of the block front on Irving Place, built in two phases between 1910 and 1914, were among the last major works of the eminent architect Henry Hardenbergh. Hardenbergh’s eighteen-story, classically-inspired facades feature giant segmental arches and double-story porticos at the base and rusticated limestone piers balanced by strong horizontal moldings at the upper stories and are enlivened by a rich blend of Classical Revival and Renaissance motifs.
Hardenbergh also incorporated an early and historically-significant program of nighttime illumination in his design, which is reflected in the presence of light sockets on the spandrel panels, soffits, upper-story window embrasures, and crowning cornice of the 1910s wing. Between 1926 and 1929, Warren & Wetmore working in association with the engineering firm of Thomas E. Murray built two more additions on Irving Place and East Fourteenth Street, wrapping eighteen-story office wings, which matched the Hardenberghdesigned portions of the building, around a signature twenty-six-story corner tower. This monumental limestone-clad tower has a three-story colonnaded base and a setback tower featuring illuminated clocks, a bell chamber treated as colonnaded temple modeled on the Hellenistic Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, a bell-capped roof framed by corner obelisks, and a gigantic bronze-and-glass lantern. Characterized by the fresh Yorker as “a sturdy shaft, classic in detail and vigorous in silhouette,” the Consolidated Edison tower won critical praise and was among the finest of Warren & Wetmore’s late works. Dubbed the “Tower of Light” in corporate literature, the tower was intended to be both a symbol of one of the nation’s leading producers of power and light and a memorial to the company’s employees who had died in World War I and incorporates numerous devices in its decorative program such as torches and burning urns appropriate for a building associated with lighting and with funereal monuments. These dual purposes were also served by an elaborate program of nighttime illumination, inaugurated in July 1929. Although the lighting has been updated to reflect modern technology, the tower continues to be illuminated at night and remains in the words of the fresh York Times one of the “crowns of light [that] grace the skyline” and a symbol of Consolidated Edison, Inc. Consolidated Edison Inc. is the successor to a long line of power and light companies, beginning with fresh York Gas Light Company, founded 1823, which have played an integral role in the development of fresh York City. The Consolidated Edison and its predecessors, the Consolidated Gas Company of fresh York and fresh York Edison, have continuously been headquartered here since the building’s construction.
The Consolidated Gas Company Building, 1910-14
By 1910, the Consolidated Gas Company had outgrown its old office building. The company had converted the former Lotos Club Building at 2 Irving Place and a former residence on East 15th Street for use as offices and was housing a number of its departments in nearby buildings. During this period many of the older buildings in the neighborhood were being replaced by fresh office buildings, including the Everett Building (1908, Starrett & Van Vleck) and the Germania Life Insurance Company Building (1910-11, D’Oench & Yost) on the north side of East 17th Street at Park Avenue South. (Both are designated fresh York City Landmarks.) Consolidated Gas elected to replace its building with a fresh twelve-story office building designed by one the country’s leading architects, Henry Hardenbergh, who, a year earlier, had renovated a five-story building at 29 East 21st Street as showrooms for the company. To minimize the disruption to its business, the company opted to build the fresh building in two stages leaving its original headquarters building and the Lotos Club Building on Irving Place standing while it erected the first section of its fresh building on a sixty- two-foot-wide lot at 124-128 East 15th Street. Work began on the first section in January 1911 and was completed by late September 1911. By the time the first section was completed and the old offices were demolished, the company had decided to relocate the offices of its affiliates and subsidiary companies, notably the fast growing fresh York Edison Company, to its fresh building. Recognizing that a larger building would be needed, additional plots were acquired to the east on Fifteenth Street to extend the building for 300 feet along Fifteenth Street and plans were drawn to raise the building to eighteen stories with a nineteenth story penthouse to house the company cafeteria and executive dining rooms. Because the original twelve story section at the center of the building had not been framed to carry the weight of seven additional stories, a complicated system of trusses was designed to off-load the weight of the upper floors above the old wing onto the newer portions for the building. The complex engineering for this project was handled by the company’s engineering department, under the supervision of W. Cullen Morris. The builder was the George A. Fuller Company, one of the foremost construction firms of the period, which had also been responsible for such major Hardenbergh buildings as the Whitehall Building (1902-04, 17 Battery Place, a designated fresh York City Landmark), Plaza Hotel (1905-07, 2 Central Park South, a designated fresh York City Landmark), and Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston (1912)
Henry J. Hardenbergh (1847-1918)
Born in fresh Brunswick, fresh Jersey of Dutch lineage, Henry Janeway Hardenbergh attended the Hasbrouck Institute in Jersey City and received architectural training in the office of Beaux-Arts- trained Detlef Lienau in 1865-70. Hardenbergh, who began his own architectural practice in fresh York in 1870, became one of the city’s most distinguished architects. Recognized for their picturesque compositions and practical planning, his buildings often took their design inspiration from the French, Dutch, Italian, and German Renaissance styles. Hardenbergh was a prolific architect and designed many types of buildings, including numerous country homes and city rowhouses, such as the picturesque rows on West 73rd Street (Nos. 15A-19, and Nos. 41-65 West 73rd Street, in the Upper West Side/ Central Park West Historic District) built in 1882 for Edward S. Clark. Some of Hardenbergh’s best known designs are for luxury hotel and apartment houses, including the German Renaissance style Dakota Apartments (1880-84, 1 West 72nd Street, a designated fresh York City Landmark and located within the Upper West Side/ Central Park West Historic District), the Waldorf (1893-95, Fifth Avenue and West 33rd Street) and its addition, the Astoria (1895-97, Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, both demolished), and the Plaza Hotel. His French-influenced American Fine Arts Society Building at 215 West 57th Street (1891-92, a designated fresh York City Landmark) and the seven Northern Renaissance style buildings in the Hardenbergh/ Rhinelander Historic District attest to the variety of his work.
Hardenbergh designed several important early office buildings in Manhattan, including the Western Union Telegraph Company Building at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street (1884, located within the Ladies Mile Historic District), the Astor Building on Wall Street (1885, demolished), and an early 12-story, steel-framed skyscraper, the Dutch Renaissance style John Wolfe Building at Maiden Lane and William Street (1895, demolished). As technology changed to allow taller buildings, Hardenbergh was able to adapt his designs to true skyscrapers. In both the Whitehall Building and this building, Hardenbergh created balanced and pleasing large-scale compositions while retaining the enriching details that continue to make his buildings so satisfying to observers.
The Consolidated Gas Company Building Design, 1910-14
Hardenbergh’s initial twelve-story design for the Consolidated Edison Building employed rusticated limestone facades and a tripartite composition incorporating double-story segmental arches and cast iron storefronts at the base, a seven-story mid section with three window-wide bays set off by curved reveals and spandrel panels enriched with geometric designs, and a two-story crown with recessed windows set off by slender giant Ionic colonettes and spandrel panels embellished with cartouches. In adapting this design for a larger building, Hardenbergh moved the main entrance from Fifteenth Street to Irving Place. He had originally planned to articulate the Irving Place façade into four bays using the same design he had employed on Fifteenth Street. Instead he framed the facades with slightly projected corner pavilions and arranged the windows in a 3-1-3-1-3 pattern. A recessed portico with giant Ionic columns set in antis focused attention on the entrance at the center of the facade. At the center of the Fifteenth Street façade, he created a second portico articulated by giant Tuscan pilasters and a simple entablature. For the upper story addition, he eliminated the consoles from the original crowning cornice matching the remaining simple course with a cornice above the thirteenth story so that the floor became a transitional element in his design. It is likely that he also set this story apart to express its separate function, as it contained an auditorium used for company and public functions. The fresh upper stories were given a rich decorative treatment with giant stylized Ionic pilasters extending on the piers from the fourteenth to seventeenth story. Here the windows are framed by a decorative armature of cast iron mullions and spandrel panels and volutes and the window reveals and soffits are lined with decorative cast iron panels embellished with strapwork motifs. The eighteenth story features paired console brackets at the piers. These support the projecting console cornice, which was originally capped by a copper cresting of oversized acroteria.
Erected at a transitional moment in the evolution of American architecture, the Hardenbergh sections of the Consolidated Edison Building reflect aspects of the Beaux Arts, Neo-Renaissance, and Classical Revival styles. The influence of Beaux Arts style is most evident in the treatment of the handsomely detailed base with its giant segmental arch arcades and richly molded escutcheons that were originally designed to support iron torches with globe lights. The treatment of the intermediate stories (floors 4-7, the mid-section in his original tripartite design) is notable for employment of curving reveals, a feature derived from Baroque architecture that Hardenbergh had previously used in a more limited fashion at the Whitehall Building and here employed in a much freer non-historical manner to create an unusually modernistic, streamlined effect. The mixing of naturalistic rosettes and geometric patterns on the spandrel panels in also an unusually ahistorical feature for the period. The articulation of the upper stories is characterized by the richness of the Classical Revival and Renaissance decorations, which were executed on a large scale to be easily visible from a distance. In writing about another Hardenbergh building, the Plaza Hotel, Robert A.
M. Stern also noted Hardenbergh’s practice of using a restrained articulation for lower stories and “filigree” at the skyline describing it as a “masterful combination of gemuetlichkeit and Classical rigor.”
According to the Record and Guide, another “important special feature” of Hardenbergh’s design was its incorporation of “as interesting an example of decorative exterior lighting as has ever been attempted in fresh York City.” Nocturnal architectural illumination, in its infancy during this period, was primarily known to fresh Yorkers through the nighttime lighting at the Coney Island amusement parks, Luna Park (1903) and Dream Land (1904) (both demolished), and through the weeklong Hudson Fulton Celebration of 1909, when all of the East River bridges were illuminated with temporary outline lighting and major buildings such as the Singer Building and Plaza Hotel were floodlit. The mansard roof of the Singer Tower (1905-08, Ernest Flagg, demolished) was regularly illuminated as was the tower of the Woolworth Building (1910-13, Cass Gilbert, a designated fresh York City Landmark). Power companies were at the forefront in adopting nighttime electrical illumination since their buildings provided a powerful demonstration of “how architectural illumination could be applied successfully in the urban context.” Here, Hardenbergh employed an elaborate scheme in which the outer edges of the window bays and spandrel panels were illuminated. Lamps were suspended from the modillions beneath the cornice and set into the copper acroteria that originally crowned the roof and two rooftop torches highlighted the roofline. In addition all of the ground story windows (many of which served as show windows for the gas company’s ground floor salesrooms) were illuminated. Although the company eliminated this lighting program in the 1920s, probably to avoid competition with the nighttime illumination of their newly constructed tower, reminders of this early and historically significant original lighting scheme are seen in mountings for lights that remain on the spandrel panels, soffits, decorative cast-iron frames lining the window embrasures and beneath the modillions of the rooftop cornice. In addition, certain features of Hardenbergh’s design may have been adopted to enhance the lighting program. These include the choice of material – a light colored limestone to reflect and diffuse light rather than the light-absorbing brick Hardenbergh had first envisioned for the project ? and the curved window reveals, which also acted as light reflectors at night. One change Hardenbergh made, the elimination of all of the street level torcheres except for the lights flanking the principal entrances, probably was intended to focus attention on the shop windows.
The Additions of 1926-28 and 1928-29
When the Consolidated Gas Building was completed in 1914 it provided more space than was actually required for the company’s needs so that portions of several floors were leased to tenants for offices and showrooms. In 1915 a two-story addition was constructed at 144 East 15th Street to the designs of the company’s engineering department for one of the company’s affiliates. (The addition is not included in this designation.) In the 1910s and 1920s Consolidated Gas continued to acquire gas and electric companies extending its territory in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The demand for electricity grew exponentially as it became the predominant source of power for lighting, industrial tools, and household gadgets. Improved technologies made gas desirable for heating and cooking and the boom in loft and office building created a demand for steam power, consequently all sectors of the business expanded rapidly. This created a need for additional office and showroom space in the company’s headquarters. In August 1925 Consolidated Gas acquired the Academy of Music Building at the southeast corner of Irving Place and East 14th Street with the intention of demolishing the historic opera house, which was then being used as a movie theater, and erecting a major addition to its headquarters. The commission for the fresh addition was given to the architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore, which had already designed several branch offices for Consolidated Gas, and the engineering firm of T.E. Murray, Inc., specialists in the design and construction of generating stations and boiler plants. T.E. Murray, Inc. was given charge of letting the contracts and supervising construction of the building under the general direction of W. Cullen Morris, Chief of Engineering for the Consolidated Gas Company. Preliminary designs for the fresh building were ready by April 1926 and the former Academy of Music was demolished by August. Plans were filed with the Department of Buildings in October 1926; construction was completed by November 1928. In December 1927, the Tammany Democratic Club, which had long been thinking of moving to newer more commodious quarters, sold its building to Consolidated Gas. In September 1928, plans were filed for an addition on the former Tammany site to be carried out by the same design and construction team. The work was completed by November 1929. When completed the building contained “approximately one million square feet of floor space” and was “occupied by about seven thousand employees.”
Warren & Wetmore
Whitney Warren (1864-1943), born in fresh York City, studied architectural drawing privately, attended Columbia College for a time, and continued his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1885 to 1894. Upon his return to fresh York, he worked in the office of McKim, Mead & White. One of Warren’s country house clients was Charles Delavan Wetmore. Born in Elmira, fresh York, Wetmore (1866-1941) was a graduate of Harvard University (1889) and Harvard Law School (1892), who had also studied architecture and had designed three dormitory buildings (c.1890) before joining a law firm. Impressed by his client’s architectural ability, Warren persuaded Wetmore to leave law and to establish Warren & Wetmore in 1898. While Warren was the principal designer of the firm and used his social connections to provide it with clients, Wetmore became the legal and financial specialist.
Warren & Wetmore became a highly successful and prolific architectural firm, best known for its designs for hotels and buildings commissioned by railroad companies. The firm’s work was concentrated in fresh York during the first three decades of the twentieth century, but it also executed projects across the United States and overseas. The designs were mainly variations of the neo-Classical idiom, including essays in the Beaux-Arts and neo-Renaissance styles. Warren & Wetmore’s first major commission, the result of a competition, was the flamboyant fresh York Yacht Club (1899-1900, a designated fresh York City Landmark), at 37 West 44th Street. The firm was responsible for the design of the Chelsea Piers (1902-10, demolished), along the Hudson River between Little West 12th Street and West 23rd Streets); the Vanderbilt Hotel (1910-13), 4 Park Avenue; and a number of luxury apartment houses, such as 903 Park Avenue (1912). Its cavernous Della Robbia Grill and Bar in the former Vanderbilt Hotel, featuring Guastavino vaulting and colorful Rookwood tiles, is an outstanding example of a ceramic interior and is a designated fresh York City Interior Landmark.
Warren & Wetmore is most notably associated with the design of Grand Central Terminal (1903-13 with Reed & Stem and William J. Wilgus, engineer, a designated exterior and interior fresh York City Landmark), East 42nd Street and Park Avenue, as well as a number of other projects in its vicinity. Whitney Warren was the cousin of William K. Vanderbilt, chairman of the board of the fresh York Central Railroad, who was responsible for the firm’s selection as chief designers. Nearby development by the firm over the span of two decades included: Hotel Belmont (1905-06, demolished); Biltmore Hotel (1912-14, significantly altered), Vanderbilt Avenue and East 43rd Street; Commodore Hotel (1916-19, significantly altered), 125 East 42nd Street; Hotel Ambassador (1921, demolished); and fresh York Central Building (1927-29, a designated fresh York City Landmark), 230 Park Avenue. The firm’s later work displayed an increased interest in the “composition of architectural mass.” Prominent later commissions included the Heckscher Building (1920-21), 730 Fifth Avenue; the Plaza Hotel addition (1921); 2 Central Park South; Steinway Hall (1924-25, a designated fresh York City Landmark), 109-113 West 57th Street; the Aeolian Building (1925-27, a designated fresh York City Landmark), 689-691 Fifth Avenue; the Consolidated Edison Building additions (1926-29), 4 Irving Place; the Erlanger Stewart & Co. Building (1929, demolished), 721-25 Fifth Avenue. The Heckscher, Steinway, Aeolian, and Consolidated Edison Buildings show the firm’s success in its use of setbacks and picturesque towers.
Little was constructed by the firm after 1930. Whitney Warren retired from Warren & Wetmore in 1931, but remained a consulting architect. Charles Wetmore was the firm’s senior partner until the end of his life.
By 1932 the Consolidated Gas Company was “the largest company in the world providing electrical service.” In1936, in recognition of the predominant role electricity played in its business and in anticipation of changes to its corporate structure, Consolidated Gas became the Consolidated Edison Company of fresh York. Thereafter, this building became known as the Consolidated Edison Building.
After World War II, Consolidated Edison continued to acquire fresh affiliates and power plants and by the 1960s, “it provided electricity to all of fresh York City, except the Rockaways; gas to Manhattan, the Bronx and part of Queens; and steam to part of Manhattan.” It also provided service to most of Westchester County. In 1955, it was among the first companies to take advantage of the fresh technology of atomic power, beginning operation of its Indian Point plant in 1962. It experienced a crisis in 1973-74 during the OPEC oil embargo. The sale of two generating plants to fresh York State helped restore the company’s finances and by the late 1970s it was one of the most efficient and profitable utilities in the country. In 1997 the company began a five-year process of deregulation. As part of the process, it reorganized in 1998, under a fresh holding company, Consolidated Edison, Inc. In 1999, it once again expanded its territory with the acquisition of Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc., which operated in southeastern fresh York and adjacent sections of fresh Jersey and Pennsylvania. It remains “one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the United States with approximately $13 billion in annual revenues and $30 billion is assets.” Today this building still remains the headquarters of Consolidated Edison, Inc. Over the years the company has rented portions of its ground floor commercial space to tenants, among them the National City Bank Deposit Company, later First National City Bank, which had a branch at 135 West 14th Street, prior to moving to Con Edison’s original showrooms at 10 Irving Place in 1936. The bank branch was bombed in November 1975, perhaps by the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorique?a (FALN), shattering glass in the front door and windows on the first and second floors, but causing no injuries. Presently, the fresh York Sports Club, Apple Bank, and Raymour & Flanigan furniture occupy the ground story commercial space.
Since the Warren & Wetmore additions during the 1920s, there have been some alterations but overall the facades remain unusually intact retaining almost all of the original storefronts and entrance surrounds, historic windows, decorative metalwork, and sculpture. Changes have included coating the masonry portions of the building with an acrylic emulsion in 1965-66; removal of the original central marquee and construction of stainless steel-and-glass infill and entrances in the center and tenth bay (reading east to west) on the Fifteenth Street façade in 1954, removal of some original street level lighting fixtures, installation of some non-historic signage and awnings, the addition of mechanical equipment above the third story tower setback, installation of cooling towers and antennas on the roof, and the replacement of some windows with non-historic lights and louvers, especially on the east wall facing Third Avenue. Between 1997 and 2001 the façade and especially the tower underwent a number of restorative repairs. During the 1990s and again in 2008 the exterior lighting scheme was updated with more energy-efficient fiber optic cable replacing light bulbs. Today, in the words of the fresh York Times, the Consolidated Edison Building remains one of the “crowns of light” [that] grace the skyline.”
Built in stages between 1910 and 1929, to the designs of Henry Hardenbergh and Warren & Wetmore, the classically-inspired Consolidated Edison Building is located on Tax Map Block 870, Lot 24, in part, consisting of the land on which the described building is situated, excluding the 1915 addition at 142 East 15th Street and the parking lot to the east. The building has frontages of about 207 feet on Irving Place, 320 feet on East 14th Street, and approximately 197 feet on East 15th Street. It is eighteen stories tall, with a setback nineteenth-story penthouse extending over most of the building, smaller penthouses rising to twenty, twenty-one stories, and twenty-two stories and a square tower rising to 513 feet at the northeast corner at Irving Place and East 14th Street. The three major facades and tower are clad in limestone, which has been painted. The brick eastern elevation, facing the parking lot and Third Avenue, has been painted and is patched in places with stucco. The penthouses are faced with stucco on the street fronts and have designed facades. The penthouses on the older northern wing of the building have molded copper cornices. Except for the tower, the designed facades are articulated into 3-7-2-1-4-1 story groupings, defined by projecting cornices and in some cases by continuous pilasters. The bay articulation varies on each façade, with the windows grouped into single and triple bays. The tower has a three-story colonnaded base, sets back to a twenty-one-story mid-section, and is crowned by a campanile, comprised of a podium with clock faces, columned bell chamber, bell-shaped roof, and bronze-and-glass lantern. The building retains most of its original storefront infill including cast-iron grilles, window sills, slender metal mullions and transom bars, decorative cast-iron spandrel panels, copper-clad wood window surrounds, historic bronze-and-glass doors, and the original metal canopy decorated with torches, lamps, and urns at the tower entrance on Irving Place. There are two non-historic steel-and-glass entries dating from the mid-1950s on East 15th Street and three non-historic anodized-aluminum-and-glass entrances on East 14th Street. Non-historic awnings have been installed above the storefronts along the Irving Place, East 14th Street, and the western end of the East 15th Street facades. The upper stories of the 15th Street façade and the north side of the Irving Place façade, constructed 1910-14, retain their original copper-clad wood frames and one-over-one copper-clad wood-sash windows. The upper stories on Irving Place and East 14th Street of the 1920s addition retain their original oneover-one copper windows. The north side of the eastern elevation, dating from 1912-14, retains most but not all of its historic three-over-three copper-covered wood sash windows, which have been painted. The angled and northern sections of the east wall, dating from 1928-29, still have many of its historic three-over-three copper windows, which are painted. Setback penthouses extend along all three of the designed facades and are highly visible from Third Avenue. Balustraded parapets at the edge of the roofline on the designed facades partially screen the penthouses from view. Non-historic mechanical equipment has been installed on the setback at the base of the tower and several non-historic cooling towers and other non-historic structures have been constructed on the roof. The tower retains its iconic form and continues to be illuminated; however, modern fiber optic cables have replaced the original lighting.
The Irving Place façade encompasses the 115-feet-wide frontage of the eighteen-story main block and the 92-feet-wide frontage of the twenty-six-story tower.
Main block: The facade is arranged into seven alternating wide (triple-window-wide) and narrow (single-window-wide) bays. Although this facade has a unified design, the five northern bays are part of the original Hardenbergh 1910-14 building while the southern two bays are part of the Warren & Wetmore 1926-29 addition. This is reflected in the off-center placement of the entrance portico and the projection of the first and fifth bays, which read as framing pavilions in the original Hardenbergh design.
Base: Above a granite water table, the three-story base is clad in smooth-faced chamfered rusticated limestone blocks. The first and second stories are articulated with giant segmental arches containing metal-and-glass storefronts in bays 1, 5, and 7 (reading north to south). Beaux Arts style stone escutcheons ornament the wide piers between the arches. A recessed entrance portico with giant Doric pilasters, giant Ionic columns set in antis, and an Ionic entablature spans bays 2-4. Narrower, bay 6 is a single double-height square-headed opening with a cast-iron spandrel separating the first and second story windows. At the third story, the trabeated window openings are arranged in a 2-1-3-1-2-1-2 pattern with wide piers decorated with square panels defining the bays. The storefronts at the first story have metal bulkheads that incorporate decorative grilles and are enriched with dentils and bosses. The historic show windows are divided by slender metal mullions into wide center lights and narrower sidelights with similarly arranged multi-light transoms above. The metal spandrel panels between the first and second story windows are enriched with tablets and garlands. The historic second story windows also have a tripartite arrangement and retain their original transoms but are framed by heavier metal mullions and transom bars. The third story windows retain their original copper-covered one-over-one sashes.
There is a non-historic light fixture extending at an angle from the northwest corner of the building at the second story. Non-historic awnings with the logo of the fresh York Sports Club have been installed above the first story show windows in bays 1 and 5. The north pier of bay 1 has a non-historic metal sign reading “Consolidated Edison Company of fresh York.”
Both of the pilasters framing the portico have non-historic metal signs for the NYSC and retain historic mountings for no longer extant light fixtures. Within the recessed entrance porch, which provides access to the gym, the columns are echoed by giant Doric pilasters on the entry wall. The remainder of the wall is an intricately detailed bronze-and-glass screen with bronze-and-glass side doors ornamented with polished strips and disks. The paired anodized aluminum-and-glass center doors and the metal armature, which is affixed to the stone pilasters and supports a non-historic metal oval sign for NYSC, are non-historic. The stone side walls are coffered and have been painted. The coffered ceiling is original and retains its original mounts for hanging lights, although the current globe lights are non-historic. The polished marble and unpolished granite paving is also original. Two non-historic floodlights rest on the top ledge of the portico. A metal flagpole, in place since the 1930s, also rests on the ledge above the portico and is supported by wires anchored to the piers framing the center third-story window bay.
The articulation of bay 5 is identical to that of bay 1 except that it contains a historic bronze night deposit safe in the lower part of the south sidelight bay. The side transom windows retain their original multipane windows. The center transom window has non-historic replacement lights. A non-historic sign regarding a sidewalk standpipe has been attached to the base of the north pier in this bay.
Both bay 6 and bay 7 in the 1920s Warren & Wetmore addition are very similar in design to the older sections of the façade. Here, however, the stone escutcheons ornamenting the piers are simplified and the metal grilles beneath the first story windows were designed with fire hose mounts.
Narrow bay 6 retains its original single pane windows topped by transoms. A non-historic metal sign regarding the standpipe has been attached to the base of the south face of the north pier.
At bay 7, the center transom window has been replaced with non-historic infill. There is a non-historic metal sign regarding the standpipe near the base of the south face of the north pier. A non-historic Consolidated Edison Company sign is affixed to the pier between bays 7 and 8.
Above the entablature that crowns the third story is a seven-story section with limestone cladding laid in rusticated bands. The three-window-wide bays are set off by curved reveals. The recessed stone spandrel panels beneath the windows are ornamented with geometric designs and rosettes. In the northern 1910s [Hardenbergh] bays, the center rosettes in the wide bays retain their historic sockets for the building’s original exterior lighting scheme. Above the cornice that caps the seven-story section, is a two-story grouping with recessed windows set off by slender giant Ionic colonettes and spandrel panels embellished with cartouches. The coffers above the twelfth story windows in the 1910 bays contain recesses for lights that are remnants of the original lighting scheme. At the thirteenth story the wide piers are embellished with square panels outlined by garlands and enriched by central rosettes. The deeply recessed windows are separated by stone mullions and the coffering above the windows contains mounts for lights in the 1910s bays. The thirteenth story is crowned by a simple cornice. The fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth stories are grouped together with giant stylized pilasters decorating the piers. Here the recessed windows are framed by a decorative armature of cast-ron mullions and spandrel panels and volutes. In the 1910s bays the window reveals and soffits are lined with decorative cast-iron panels embellished with strapwork motifs. Both the reveals and soffits incorporate mountings for lights into their designs. The eighteenth story features paired console brackets at the piers. These support the projecting console cornice, which incorporates mountings for lights. Originally the cornice was capped by a copper cresting of oversized acroteria. In the 1920s Warren & Wetmore replaced the acroteria with balustraded parapets. All of the windows on the upper stories appear to retain their original copper-clad calamine one-over-one sash. Although the exterior lights that were originally incorporated into this design have not been used since the 1920s, the mountings are a significant reminder of an early use of nighttime illumination as an element of design.
The Penthouse: Near the Irving Place façade, the penthouse, which extends over the northern [Hardenbergh] wing, is one-and-one-half-stories high and has a low gabled roof. It is faced with stucco, and originally had square-headed window openings. The southern four window bays retain their original form. The northern half of the façade has been reconfigured with two large openings each containing three windows or doors. Above a simple belt course, the gabled attic portion of façade is articulated with a paneled frieze. A heavy firewall with a high parapet extends along the south face of the penthouse separating the Hardenbergh portion of the main block roof from the Warren & Wetmore addition. Recessed well back behind the Hardenbergh penthouse is the west wall of a one-story penthouse for a corridor linking the penthouse to the base of the tower. Originally the west façade of this low penthouse was articulated with an arched motif but it currently appears to be unarticulated.
South face Main Block: Because of the tower setback above the southern face of the main block is visible above the third story. Here the wall is lit by a pair of windows and the decorative articulation matches the Warren & Wetmore bays on the Irving Place façade of the main block.
The tower’s three-story base has six fluted limestone Doric columns resting on granite plinths and a limestone Doric entablature featuring sculptural panels in place of triglyphs. These are embellished with classical emblems relating to light, power, and commerce. Between the columns is the original bronze-and-glass wall/screen, which is fitted up for storefronts and is richly decorated with raised panels, rosettes, and delicate classical friezes decorated with light-related emblems including suns, lamps, candelabra, lightning rods and torches. The ground floor shop fronts rest on stone slabs and project forward between the columns. They are surmounted by tripartite transoms. The second and third story windows have large central single lights flanked by one-over-one sidelights. At the first and second story the windows are capped by similarly arranged horizontally pivoting transoms, currently painted. In bay 8, the entry retains its original bronze canopy ornamented with torches, lamps, and urns. The three bronze-and-glass doors surmounted by transoms are historic, perhaps original. Non-historic changes to the base include the use of painted advertising on the shop window and transom of bay 9, on the transom of bay 10 and bay 11, and the storefront window of bay 12. A non-historic illuminated sign also rests on the top of the shop window in bay
12. A bronze flagpole, in place since the 1950s, is suspended from brackets above the second story window in bay 8. Because the cornice extends several feet above the roofline forming a parapet, it partially screens from view the non-historic mechanical equipment and metal armature that have been installed on the roof. A non-historic light fixture extends over the cornice parapet at the southeast corner of the base.
The twenty-one story setback midsection of tower is adorned at the corners with rusticated bands terminating at the twenty-fourth story in moldings based on stylized Doric entablatures. On the rusticated corner bays the windows are slightly recessed. In the six center bays the windows are grouped into pairs separated by wide piers. The spandrels and windows are recessed to emphasize the verticality of the tower. All of the windows contain historic one-over-one copper sash. Non-historic metal pipe rails extend in front of the base of the fourth-story windows but they are concealed by the cornice. There do not appear to have been any significant alterations on this portion of the façade except for the limestone having been painted.
Campanile: At the base of the campanile there is a single transitional story with square-headed windows containing one-over-one metal sash. This story serves as the base for podium with beveled corners, which curve around ornamental stone tripods supporting flaming stone urns.
Floodlights are concealed behind the tripods and are used to illuminate the tower at night. Each side of the podium has a clock face measuring 21 feet, 9 inches in diameter. The perimeter of the clocks is bordered by stone egg-and-dart moldings. Large metal Arabic numerals are attached to the stone face of the clock. The minutes are marked by circles and the 5-minute points by rectangles which have bronze frames. At night all the minute markers are lit by lights set behind glass covers. The bronze clock hands are also illuminated. Atop the clock, is the bell chamber recessed behind a colonnade of four giant Ionic columns. The bell chamber wall is pierced by two tiers of windows. These retain their original bronze grilles based on Greek prototypes. Original matching railings extend between the columns since this was also intended to be a viewing platform. The colonnade was originally and on occasion continues to be illuminated at night. The limestone-clad bell-shaped roof above the belfry is set off by stone obelisks resting on pedestals. This roof is capped by a bronze-and-glass lantern, richly embellished with cresting and scrolled brackets. The lantern was originally and often continues to be illuminated at night.
The East 14th Street façade encompasses the 92-feet-wide frontage of the tower and the 228-feet-wide frontage of the eighteen-story main block.
– From the 2009 NYCLPC Landmark Designation Report