Building facades spared from the wrecking ball

I guess the developer of this residential high-rise at 931 First Avenue and 51st Street deserves praise.

He could have bulldozed the entire circa-1892 Romanesque revival elementary school building located on this corner and put up his high-rise at street level. 

Instead, he kept the beautiful facade in place and built a condo tower inside it.

It’s kind of the same story with this new New York University dorm, a sleek, 26-story tower in the East Village.

It was constructed behind what’s left of St. Ann’s, on East 12th Street near Fourth Avenue, which spent most of its life as a Catholic church. Put up in 1847, it started out as a Baptist church and even housed a synagogue in the 19th century.

When NYU made its plans for the dorm a few years back, they decided to preserve a portion of the church’s facade and the gothic tower.

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11 Responses to “Building facades spared from the wrecking ball”

  1. Chris Says:

    Not a fan. Rarely do these developers decide to preserve the facades out of the goodness of their hearts—it’s almost always a token response to help quell neighborhood protests, and architectural consideration is an afterthought.

    Say what you will about the Hearst Building, at least the architect gave it some thought.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    At least in the case of NYU, I think preserving that sliver of a facade was supposed to convey that they were a good neighbor.

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    At least a tiny sliver remains, with the way things have disappeared in the area it’s good that something was still saved. Perhaps the church kept its faith.

  4. LoveNY Says:

    Very interesting. I once read a story about a brownstone off of Lexington that was saved because the resident, an elderly Italian woman, refused to leave when a skyscraper was planned. Apparently you can still see this brownstone, now surrounded by the skyscraper. I always wondered if the story was just legend or based in fact.

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    I’ve heard rumors like that too. Something to investigate and maybe do a future post on, thanks!

  6. Soho Jeff Says:

    If the developers had their way, these structures would be gone entirely. Had city officials more respect for historic city architecture, they would never allow such destruction in the first place. These building remnants are the results of negotiations and concessions among the various interested parties including passionate preservationists in the neighborhood who usually have the least bit of say. The St. Ann’s remnant is particularly sad…the majestic stone reminds us of what once lay there and what was demolished for yet another dorm. A bit like a wall-mounted trophy head, some think it’s neat, while I feel bad it was once a living, breathing animal. I pass the non-functional “structure” frequently and wonder if things would be better if it weren’t there to remind us of yet another fallen icon of a lost New York.

  7. tompkins Says:

    Unfortunately what was built by NYU just behind the church on E 12th St is one of the most brutally ugly buildings to blot our fair city. 1963 era upended chemical facility in New Jersey anyone? Leaving the steeple seems like a cruel joke.
    If you havn’t seen it, are in a good enough mood and need a good laugh,
    come on down. I avoid walking on the block.

  8. 3rd Avenue Rezoning Plan Up for Review - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] [Photo Credit: Ephemeral NY] […]

  9. Some East Side cross streets carved into corners « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 51st Street and First Avenue. At some point it went up for sale and was bought by a developer—who kept the 1892 facade and built a high-rise inside it. Share this:TwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  10. A surprising relic inside Bellevue Hospital’s lobby | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Check out a few recent examples here: a church-turned-NYU-dorm and a condo springing up from inside the shell of an old elementary school. […]

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