LOWER MANHATTAN — A campaign to protect the former Barbizon Hotel for Women reached the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday.
The Upper East Side building, located at 140 E. 63rd St., was built in 1927 as a residence for single women looking to begin careers in the Big Apple.
Up-and-coming stars Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Liza Minnelli and Candice Bergen all passed through the 700-room apartment complex, as did celebrated writers Joan Didion and Sylvia Plath, who used a fictionalized version of the hotel in her acclaimed novel “The Bell Jar,” according to Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts Executive Director Tara Kelly.
“Its residents were largely made up of aspiring models and actresses, who paid as little as $12 a week for nine-foot by twelve-foot cubicles,” Kelly explained during a speech to the commission, explaining the Barbizon’s significance.
“[It was] one of the earliest residential alternatives for women looking to take advantage of the new professional opportunities in New York City during the 1920s.”
Ed Kirkland, of the Historic Districts Council, also took the opportunity to praise the Barbizon’s cultural and architectural importance.
“Years of records — magazines, newspapers and books of all kinds, whether factually or fictionally based — have given the Barbizon a kind of floating identity on the East Side,” Kirkland said. “Buildings like this should be preserved.”
The campaigners want it to be given landmark status.
The Barbizon, which enforced strict dress and conduct rules, including prohibiting men from ascending above the ground floor, was converted into condominiums in 2006.
While the original interior has already been modified, Kelly argued that maintaining the Barbizon’s original exterior – featuring Italian Renaissance, Gothic and Islamic architecture – would help “codify the social and cultural importance of the building.”
If the landmark application is approved, the Barbizon’s owners would be required to come before the commission before making any major changes to the façade.
The vote on whether to designate the building as a landmark had not been scheduled as of Tuesday afternoon.