|Great Architects of New York: Henry J. Hardenbergh|
|Former Site of the Dominick & Haff Glass Factory and Warehouse
543-545 West 23rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10011
West 23rd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, north side
Glass Factory and Warehouse
Hardenbergh designed a glass factory and warehouse for the Dominick & Haff Company, a silverware manufacturer. I managed to find an aerial photo of the building on the web. The photo shows a six-story, maroon brick building with significant ornament for a warehouse, including a flat, five-arched brick pediment.
The story of how this building was demolished is fraught with neighborhood controversy, as is all development in New York, and subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences. As part of "80/20" affordable housing project that would have set aside 67 apartments for people with low incomes, Levine Builders of Douglaston, Queens, was to demolish Dominick & Haff Glass Factory at 543 West 23rd Street, and an adjacent building, a Neoclassic depot designed by Ernest Flagg and built in 1904 for the United States Express Company, in the fall of 2002. But before that could happen, preservationists from Columbia University and the Historic Districts Council tried to save the buildings from demolition. They managed to win a promise from the New York State Historic Preservation Office that the office would nominate the buildings for the National Registers of Historic Places. Had the buildings been accepted, it would have been illegal to tear them down.
Meanwhile, Manhattan Community Board 4 pursued the matter on a different front. The board wrote a letter on Nov. 7, 2002, asking the New York State Housing Finance Agency to withdraw funding from the project as a way to discourage construction of these buildings and buy preservationists time to secure their listing on the national register. The board wrote: "Although the Board has consistently supported affordable housing, we must oppose this application for 80-20 funding if the important historic resources represented by these buildings should be lost as a result. The buildings are striking and represent relatively rare aspects of the work of these two distinguished architects. Both have been listed in surveys of significant buildings that should be preserved in the area. The prospect of demolition has aroused considerable concern among preservationists, members of the community, and elected officials." The housing finance agency withdrew $90 million in bonds it had said it would allocate to finance Levine's building. Evidently somewhat frustrated, a spokesman for Levine told The Times: "We feel caught between two competing city policies. … One encouraged us to try and develop West 23rd Street, and now another is trying to preserve it."
Though the state had agreed that the buildings were eligible for the national register, and had nominated them, they hadn't yet been accepted into the register. Before they could be, Levine tore them down in 2003 and proceeded with his building. This time, lacking state financing, it didn't set aside any apartments for people with limited incomes. The Community Board's worse-case scenario had unfolded: The historic buildings were torn down and the apartment building that didn't include any affordable housingwas built. My only complaint is that I become interested in cataloging Hardenberg's architecture two years too late to photograph the building.
There is nothing wrong with 555 West 23rd Street per se. It's an attractive building, and with 337 apartments it will help to improve the street vibrancy in west Chelsea and help the city's tax base. An abandoned factory/warehouse did neither. The developer said he was unable to turn Dominick & Haff building into apartments. But one wishes the developer and the architect of this building, the Stephen B. Jacobs Group, had figured out a creative way to save this facade and still develop their building. The Dominick & Haff would have provided a grand entrance for 555's residents.
Note: The New York City Department of Buildings' 1903 New Building permit No. 683 lists the Dominick & Haff building's designer as Ernest Flagg, who designed the adjacent warehouse built in 1904 at No. 555. I believe this is probably an error in filling out the form, which lists Hardenbergh's office's address, 10 West 23rd Street, not Flagg's office address, 35 Wall Street.
Here's a helicopter's eye view of the building before it was demolished. This image was taken from Windows Live Local, which has incredibly cool aerial views of the city and has come to serve as a historical resource in instances where buildings are torn down.