The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission moved swiftly on Tuesday to calendar a group of historic structures, and one proposed historic district, allowing for their designation by the Commission in the future.
Among the structures the Commission calendared are the former Hotel Seville in Nomad, which is now known as the James New York; The Emmet Building, at 95 Madison Avenue, which is also in the same neighborhood; the exterior and some interior spaces of the National Society of Colonial Dames New York State Headquarters, on the Upper East Side; and the 1st Spanish United Methodist Church, in East Harlem, which is also known as the People’s Church.
The Commission will also consider the creation of a historic district which stretches roughly between West 130th and 132nd Streets, and between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, in Central Harlem.
For the sites in Nomad, the Commission barely wasted any time in calendaring the items. The former Hotel Seville, the Commission’s staff explained, is a distinct example of Beaux Arts-style architecture and was designed by Harry Allan Jacobs, and built between 1901-04. An annex designed by Charles T. Mott was added between 1906-07. The Emmet Building is a Neo-Renaissance structure designed by Barney & Colt for American politician Thomas Addis Emmet, in 1912. Emmet maintained his residence at the top of the building, and the floors below, in this 16-story structure, were used as offices (and still are today).
The National Society of Colonial Dames’ headquarters prompted a little more discussion. The Dames are a group founded in 1891 that now mostly works in the field of historic preservation. Aside from running its headquarters from the Upper East Side, the building also serves as a museum. Commissioner Frederick Bland questioned the merits of landmarking the interiors of a space owned by a private organization, and whether this move would mean landmarking interiors of other museums across the city.
Other Commissioners noted that this could be a point of discussion when the space comes up for a public hearing, and also noted that while the building served a private organization, many of the spaces were open to the public.
Similarly, the church in East Harlem raised questions about the purview of the Landmarks Commission. The building was selected not for its architectural merit but cultural significance, particularly in light of the recent rezoning of the neighborhood.
The church is known for its association with the Puerto Rican activist group, Young Lords, who occupied the church on separate occasions in 1969 and 1970, as a form of civil disobedience, to carry out work like feeding the neighborhood’s homeless population, which the church had prevented them from doing at the time. Most Commissioners agreed that it was an exciting new avenue for the Landmarks Commission to explore.
The historic district moved swiftly like the first two items. The Commission’s staff pointed out that the area was notable for its mostly unified, late 19th century buildings designed in the Neo-Grec style; and that it was a major cultural hub, being home to Ragtime legend Scott Joplin, and many actors and actresses who performed at the erstwhile Lafayette Theater on West 132nd Street.
In the coming months, the Commission will hold public hearings on all these items to determine whether they are worthy of landmark (or historic district) status.