Thursday, August 26, 2010

Facades to Pedestals

In the middle of midtown shopping and tourist chaos, at 34th Street, where Broadway and 6th Avenue meet, is a small park maintained by one of my employers, the 34th Street Partnership, called Herald Square. This small triangle of land was named after the New York Herald, a daily newspaper established in 1835 by James Gordon Bennett, Sr. (1795-1872). Known primarily for its sensationalistic coverage of crime and scandal, as well as a massive national circulation, the Herald set up its headquarters at the north end of this small green space in 1894, in a two story arcaded building designed by architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White.

postcard from around 1898 showing the Herald building, as well as the Dodge monument

The ornate building featured several bronze owls mounted along the façade as well as statues of Minerva and two bell-ringing blacksmiths, nicknamed “Stuff and Guff” or “Gog and Magog.”

At this time, the James Earle Dodge monument, now in Bryant Park, occupied a stately position in front of the Herald building. More on him later . . .

Minerva on top of the Herald, and later, as part of the James Gordon Bennett monument

In 1918, the Herald moved its offices to 42nd street, and three years later, the statues were removed from the building’s façade. They went into the possession of William Dewart, then proprietor of the New York Sun. Years later, in 1940, when Herald Square underwent a massive renovation, the statues were given to the city on permanent loan and placed in a Milford granite pedestal in Herald Square Park. The pedestal, designed by architect Aymar Emburry II, along with the statues from the Herald building make up a monument to James Gordon Bennett. The dedication ceremony was held on November 19, 1940.

Before and After contrast

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Library Under the Lawn

This post also appears on the Bryant Park blog. All photos, Bryant Park Corporation. 

In 1983 the Bryant Park Corporation retained landscape architecture firm Hanna / Olin Ltd., now The Olin Studio, for the re-design of Bryant Park. Over the next several years, plans were drafted and the park began its transition into a beautiful, well used public space.

Concurrent with Bryant Park’s facelift, the New York Public Library embarked on a large construction project of its own: the addition of 120,000 square feet of library stacks beneath the surface of the Bryant Park lawn.

The excavation for the two story stacks began in July 1988, with Tishman Realty & Construction Co., Ltd. managing construction.

Requiring a 30 foot excavation in the center of the park, the finished stacks accommodate up to 3.2 million books and 500,000 reels of microfilm, doubling the library’s storage capacity.  The stacks are connected to the main library by a 62 foot long tunnel. Additionally, there is a fire escape on the west side of the Bryant Park lawn, disguised by a dedication plaque.

The stacks took less than a year to complete, and the lawn was seeded, and in place by September 15, 1989. The park partially reopened to the public in spring of 1990.