The spot is more famous for its previous use: In the late 18th century it was the Kennedy House, built for Archibald Kennedy, who resided in it until he succeeded as Earl of Cassilis. During the American Revolution it served briefly as headquarters for Generals George Washington and Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee. The structure survived as the Washington Hotel. In 1884, Edward H. Kendall designed the "Washington Building", an ornate commercial building.
The building was bought by the International Mercantile Marine Company (later known as the United States Lines) in 1920 or 1921, then extensively refaced and remodelled on a maritime theme in 1921 from plans by Walter B. Chambers).
The building has side entrances facing Battery Park which are modeled "First Class" and "Cabin Class"; The main entrance is surrounded by shells and sea icons; the windows on the second floor alternate with mosaic shields of renowned port cities; inside, a compass rose is prominently depicted in the marble floor, and two enormous murals depict shipping lanes. The former booking room is modelled on an 18th-century ballroom, with columns and elaborate railings at either end, along with four imposing chandeliers. Now a bank branch uses the room as its banking floor. The IMM competed with the Cunard Line, which had remodeled its building in a similar way two years before.
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