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Former Home of Macy's and Mutual Reserve Building Become City Landmarks

By Jill Colvin | December 21, 2011 7:43am
R.H. Macy Co. Store was home to Macy's before it moved to 34th Street.
R.H. Macy Co. Store was home to Macy's before it moved to 34th Street.
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Landmarks Preservation Commission

MANHATTAN — Macy’s former flagship store, the 117-year-old Mutual Reserve Building and the Midtown hotel where Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia held his inaugural ball have been designated Manhattan’s newest landmarks.

Once frequented by the likes of Henry Miller, Edith Wharton and Doris Duke, the Beaux-Arts style Hotel Wolcott, at 4 W. 31st St. has had a long and storied history, including serving host to the former mayor’s second inaugural ball in 1938, the Landmarks Preservation Commission said.

Two decades later in the fall of 1958, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers stayed at the Wolcott while recording at the Beltone Studios, which were also housed in the building. According to the hotel's site, 'Stay Close To Me' and 'Don't Cha Know' were both recorded during the session, with Holly on guitar.

In addition to its well-heeled clientele, the 12-story building also features a unique pink brick and limestone façade and was designed by architect John Duncan, the man behind the General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.

“It’s as eye-catching today as it was when it opened 107 years ago,” LPC Chairman Robert Tierney said in a statement following a unanimous vote approving its induction.

Father south, the LPC also voted to landmark part of the former R.H. Macy’s department store near the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 14th St.

The tall, slender Beaux-Arts style building, dating back to 1897, was part of the retail giant's final expansion before it moved to its current home on West 34th Street back in 1902, the LPC said.

The building was also where the retailer, founded by Rowland H. Macy, grew famous for a series of innovative retail strategies, including offering money-back guarantees.

“The annex provides a tangible link to the original site of Macy’s, the department store that is practically synonymous with New York City,” Tierney said of the building, which has since served as the home of the parent company of Christmas light manufacturer Noma Lites, Inc., as well as lingerie, sportswear and jewelry shops.

Finally, TriBeCa's newest landmark is the 117-year-old Mutual Reserve Building at 305 Broadway, at the corner of Duane Street.

The 13-story building, designed by William H. Hume, was one of the first in the city to use a steel cage-frame structure, an early version of the skyscraper.  

Originally built as offices for the Mutual Reserve Fund Life Association, an insurance company, the building has had many tenants over the years, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission from 1967 to 1980, the LPC said.

"This robust building retains a formidable corner presence, and recalls the period when several other insurance companies had their headquarters on this part of Broadway," Tierney said.

Each of the three buildings was identified by the commission during a comprehensive survey of nearly 23,000 properties city-wide.

With reporting by Julie Shapiro.