Tammany Hall’s Turtle Shell-Topped Restoration Approved by Landmarks

Approved design for Tammany Hall

Historic Tammany Hall (a.k.a. 44-48 Union Square East and 100 East 17th Street) will be getting restorative work and a glass dome addition meant to evoke a turtle shell. The proposal presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in November was labeled by one commissioner as “egregiously large.” On Tuesday, however, a new, smaller proposal was approved relatively smoothly. The building will be entirely commercial, with a mix of retail space on the ground floor and office space above, and Liberty Theatres, Inc. is the owner.

The building, originally designed by architect Charles B. Meyers, was completed in 1929 and actually replaced a larger building. It was heavily altered over the years. Architect Harry Kendall of BKSK Architects, who, along with with the project’s chief architect, Todd Poisson, presented the revised proposal for the new work approved for the building. Kendall cited that fact and said that many Georgian style buildings acquired domes in his justification of the addition.

Tammany Hall, existing and as approved by the LPC

Tammany Hall, existing and as approved by the LPC

The work includes more than just the dome top. The theater will be removed, facades will be restored, signage will be replaced, and new entrances will be created on 17th Street. Three plaques will be removed from the eastern end of the 17th Street side of the building and replaced with windows. However, in an update to the previous proposal, two of them will be restored and positioned in between those new windows.

Tammany Hall, approved design, as viewed from Park Avenue South

Tammany Hall, approved design, as viewed from Park Avenue South

As for the glass dome, it is a reference to a turtle seen under a statue of Lenape Chief Tamanend and Native American peoples’ use of the term “Turtle Island.” It will be part of a grand interior space that includes the fourth floor and new smaller fifth and sixth floors. It will be atop a replacement for the existing slate mansard roof. That replacement will be a terra cotta sunshade. There will attachments for window washers.

Tammany Hall, 17th Street side, existing and as approved

Tammany Hall, 17th Street side, existing and as approved

Kendall called the design a meeting of the “vastly new” and the vastly old.” He said the dome would appear “nearly hemispherical” from Union Square and added that it is “purposely unconventional.”

Tammany Hall, existing plan and approved plan

Tammany Hall, existing plan and approved plan

Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron reacted, saying “What a great presentation.” LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said that, currently, “You don’t see this building in a way that marks what it is or marks the corner.” But she said the proposed restoration “speaks volumes.” Commissioner John Gustafsson, who called the previous proposal too “dramatic,” said this time his “head [was] in the stars with the dome.” Commissioner Christopher Moore called the proposal “very stylish.” Commissioner Michael Goldblum made some great wordplay, saying there was no better building on to which to “graft an addition.”

The proposal was approved unanimously, with one condition and one suggestion. The condition was that the ground floor signage be of a masonry construction and the suggestion, made by Commissioner Michael Devonshire, was that the existing slate roof be donated to the Historic House Trust. The applicant didn’t raise any objection to that.

Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.

Talk about this project on the YIMBY Forums

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects
Follow the YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

For any questions, comments, or feedback, email newyorkyimby@gmail.com

Posted in Architecture | BKSK Architects | New York | Tammany Hall | Union Square