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Yorkville Bank, Three Firehouses and Two Hotels Are City's Newest Landmarks

By Amy Zimmer | June 13, 2012 10:09am

MANHATTAN —  What does the Yorkville Bank building on the corner Third Avenue and East 85th Street have in common with two firehouses in the Bronx and one in Queens and two Midtown hotels?

All six structures, built in the early 20th century were named new landmarks on Tuesday for their architectural distinction and significant roles they played in the rapidly growing metropolis shortly after the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

"All of these buildings illustrate how far New York City had come by the start of the 20th century and signaled the promising direction in which it was headed," Commission Chairman Robert Tierney said in a statement.

The four-story Yorkville Bank, at 1511 Third Ave., is now home to a Gap and an Equinox gym — and is under renovation by its owner, Related Co. But before that, the stately Italian Renaissance Revival building served as the center of Yorkville banking for more than 85 years.

The bank, whose shareholders were largely German or of German descent, was built in 1905 with granite, limestone, brick and terracotta. The building has been well preserved over the years, along with its massive sculpted bronze entrance doors with Classical allegorical figures and motifs.

The Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts had called it a “prime example of the graceful architecture that was designed, constructed, owned and frequented by German-Americans” and “one of the rare, fully-intact survivors in a neighborhood marked by unsympathetic alterations and characterless new construction.” 

The Friends group is presently undertaking a large-scale survey of the architectural history of the once-thriving German community.

“This building, both in terms of its styles and materials, is an enduring symbol of the time when Yorkville was largely a German-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Commission Chairman Tierney said.

Of the newly landmarked firehouses, Engine Company 41’s Renaissance Revival structure at 330 E. 150th St. in South Melrose, was built in 1903 as one of the first to respond to an increase in population after the city's consolidation. A stone eagle sits above the central arched opening of the firehouse, which was designated a squad of emergency responders in 1990 and lost six firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001.

Engine Company 83, Hook and Ladder Company 29, at 618 E. 138th St. in Mott Haven, is a Neo-Classical two-story building designed by Robert Kohn, one of a handful of American architects who produced designs influenced by the Viennese Secessionist Movement.

Engine Company 304, Hook and Ladder Company 151 in Forest Hills, Queens, is a Neo-Medieval building with steep gables clad with copper roofs that looks more like a church than a civic building, LPC officials noted.

The 12-story Martha Washington Hotel, at 30 E. 30th St., between Park and Madison avenues, was built in 1903 as the city’s first of several hotels for professional women, arriving in the city at that time in increasing numbers but with few options. It had a tailor shop, drug store, shoe polishing parlor, private dining room and restaurant open to the public.

The movie “Valley of the Dolls” was filmed there, and it was once home to the Women’s Suffrage Council.

It remained a women’s hotel until 1998 and is now called the King & Grove Hotel.

Hotel Mansfield, at 12 W. 44th St., a 12-story 1902 Beaux-Arts building between Fifth and Sixth avenues, catered to “well-heeled men and childless couples,” who stayed in its large suites temporarily or permanently, the LPC said.  It is now a boutique hotel called the Mansfield Hotel.