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Stanford White's Beaux Arts IRT powerhouse is now a NYC landmark

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The structure powered the city’s pioneering transit system in the early part of the 20th century

Courtesy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission

A 113-year-old active powerhouse, that takes up an entire city block between Twelfth and Eleventh Avenues and West 58th and 59th Streets (it’s right behind Bjarke Ingels’s Via 57 West) has been declared a New York City landmark. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to designate the Stanford White-designed Beaux Arts structure as an individual landmark.

“This building is both an engineering feat and an architectural treasure that has endured for over a hundred years,” said LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “Our designation will ensure its long-term presence and enhance the streetscape with the majesty and craftsmanship of this beloved historic icon.”

The building has been a part of the LPC’s backlog initiative, and the Commission decided to keep it on the calendar last December.

The structure was built in 1904 to power the city’s Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway. At that time, it was capable of producing 100,000 horsepower, and was able to hold more than 30 million pounds of coal.

Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White designed the building with the ideas of the City Beautiful movement, according to the Landmarks Commission, which was a movement aimed at beautifying American industrial cities. Some of the standout features of the structure include the “unified façades cloaked in Milford granite, Roman brick and creamy terra cotta with neoclassical ornament.”

Con Edison acquired the building in 1959, and made changes to modernize the structure, but none that altered its character too much from the original. Con Edison had concerns about how landmarking the structure might impede future modernization efforts, but in the end the Commission and Con Ed came to an agreement on how to manage future changes post-landmarking.

“This building is a magnificent testament to industrial power, and its obvious architectural and historical significance are why so many of us have worked for so long to see it landmarked,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in a statement.