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Former Tammany Hall Headquarters in Union Square Wins Landmark Status

By Irene Plagianos | October 30, 2013 9:17am
  Two rare cast-iron buildings in TriBeCa, and a 140-year-old house in LES also own landmark status on Tuesday Oct. 29.
Tammany Hall Headquarters Wins Landmark Status
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UNION SQUARE — The headquarters of the legendary Tammany Hall political machine is now a city landmark.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to grant the 1929 building on the corner of Union Square East and East 17th Street landmark status.

The three-and-a-half-story building was commissioned during the height of the Democratic political group’s fortune and popularity, when Tammany Hall-backed politicians held positions as New York's governor, the city's mayor and one of the state's U.S. senators, according to the LPC.

But just a few years after the building was finished, in 1929, Tammany Hall’s corrupt ways began to self-destruct the machine, which had wielded power since the 1850s.

Revelations about Tammany Hall’s crookedness led the city’s mayor at the time, Jimmy Walker, to resign in 1932, and caused a split in the Democratic Party, with reformers like Franklin Delano Roosevelt distancing themselves from the group.

“The architecture is interesting, evocative and referential, but the history of Tammany makes it stand out,” LPC Chairman Robert Tierney said in a statement. “Tammany means a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s certainly a touchstone of New York City, state and national politics.”

The building — now home to the New York Film Academy — was designed by Thompson, Homes & Converse and Charles B. Meyers. The architects were also responsible for the psychiatric wing at Bellevue Hospital and several buildings on the campus of Lehman College in the Bronx.

The building’s design was inspired by the original 18th-century New York City Hall, where George Washington took the oath of office as the nation's first president, according to the LPC.

The LPC also awarded landmark status Tuesday to two cast-iron buildings in TriBeCa at 39 and 41 Worth St., as well as to a 140-year-old house at 339 Grand St.

Both 19th-century TriBeCa buildings were designed by Isaac Duckwoth, an architect whose other buildings are part of historic districts in SoHo and TriBeCa.

The five-story buildings’ cast-iron facades were created by Daniel Badger, a manufacturer who popularized cast-iron fronts and made the city the center of cast-iron architecture, according to the LPC.

The building at 39 Worth St., completed in 1866, was constructed for James Smith, a New Yorker who made his fortune as a manufacturer of fire engines. Tenants over the years have included a rug manufacturer, a restaurant and a textiles company.

Neighboring 40 Worth St. was home to a prominent dry goods manufacturer, and later a linen company.

Both buildings were converted to co-ops in 1981.

“These handsome buildings are great examples of how cast-iron architecture developed in New York City,” Tierney said in a statement. “They incorporate architectural elements of differing styles, and are among the few remaining cast-iron buildings south of Canal Street that date to the era when the area was becoming the city’s premier dry goods district.”

The Lower East Side's 339 Grand St., which sits between Ludlow and Orchard streets, was built in 1833 by John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant who was deemed the wealthiest man in American before he died in 1848.

The three-and-a-half-story building is one of five Federal Style row houses Astor built, but it’s “by far” the most intact of the homes, the LPC said.

The building remained in the Astor family until the 1950s. E & I Realty nows own the residential portion, while Ideal Hosiery has occupied the ground-floor storefront since 1965.