Gillender Building

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Gillender Building
Gillender Building1900.jpg
The Gillender Building in April 1910. The larger structure on the right is the Hanover Bank Building, built in 1903 and demolished in 1931.
General information
Status Demolished
Type Office
Location Nassau Street, New York City
Coordinates 40°42′27″N 74°00′38″W / 40.70757°N 74.01050°W / 40.70757; -74.01050Coordinates: 40°42′27″N 74°00′38″W / 40.70757°N 74.01050°W / 40.70757; -74.01050
Construction started 1896
Completed 1897
Demolished 1910
Cost $500,000
Owner Helen Gillender Asinari
Height
Roof 273 ft (83 m)
Technical details
Floor count 20
Floor area 26×73 feet (7.6×22.25 meters)
Design and construction
Architect Charles I. Berg,
Edward H. Clark
Main contractor Charles T. Willis Company

The Gillender Building was an early 20-story[1] skyscraper in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City. It stood on the northwest corner of Wall Street and Nassau Street, on a narrow strip of land along Nassau Street measuring only 26 by 73 feet (7.9 m × 22.3 m).[2][3][4] At the time of its completion in 1897, the 273 feet (83 m) tall Gillender Building was, depending on ranking methods, the fourth or the eighth tallest structure in New York.[5]

The Gillender Building was praised as an engineering novelty, and was quoted by some as "one of the wonders of the city".[6] It attracted attention for a visible disproportion of height and footprint which commanded a relatively low rentable area, and was deemed economically obsolete from the start.[7]

After thirteen years of uneventful existence, Gillender Building was sold in December 1909 for a record price of $822 per square foot of land,[8] and was demolished in April–June 1910 to make way for the 41–story Bankers Trust tower at 14 Wall Street. The New York Times called demolition of the Gillender Building the first time when a modern skyscraper was torn down to be replaced with a taller and larger one.[6][9] It briefly held the title of the tallest building ever demolished voluntarily.[7]

Site[edit]

In the 17th century, the site north from Wall Street was occupied by John Damen's farm; in 1685, Damen sold the land to captain John Knight, an officer of Thomas Dongan's administration. Knight resold the land to Dongan, and Dongan resold it in 1689 to Abraham de Peyster and Nicholas Bayard. Both de Peyster and Bayard served as Mayors of New York. The first known building on the site, a sugar house, was built by Samuel Bayard. In 1718, most of the present-day block was sold to a church congregation, while the corner lot, cut into narrow strips, remained in possession of the de Peysters and the Bayards.[10] In 1773, de Peyster sold the corner lot to the Verplanck family for less than $1,500; the Verplanck mansion later housed Wall Street banks.[6]

The second New York City Hall, erected in 1700 and torn down in 1816,[6] stood on the site of present-day Federal Hall and occupied the eastern side of present-day Nassau Street, which, historically, curved around the City Hall. It was straightened up after the demolition of the second City Hall, but its early track was retained in the placement of the corner buildings (including the Gillender Building but not the 14 Wall Street) which were set back from the street, providing a wider than usual sidewalk.[6] In 1816, the corner lot was owned by Charles Gardner, who sold the property in 1817 for $11,200; it was further resold in 1835 for $47,500 and in 1849 for $55,000. Charles Frederick Briggs and Edgar Allan Poe operated the offices of the Broadway Journal on this site from 1844 until 1845.[11] From 1849 until December 1909, the lot remained in the hands of a single family.[6] Adjacent lots were owned by the Sampson family since 1840; in 1880, this property was developed into a seven-story Stevens Building.[12]

Construction[edit]

In 1896, Helen L. Gillender Asinari,[13][14] owner of a 6-story office building on the corner of Wall and Nassau decided to replace it with a 300-foot (91 m) tall tower, capitalizing on a tenfold increase in land value. The building was most likely named after Helen's father, millionaire tobacco merchant Eccles Gillender (1810–1877).[15] Mrs. Gillender hurried to build the new tower prior to the anticipated enactment of new, stricter building codes, which explains the shortcomings of the Gillender Building[15] (in fact, the regulations came into effect only in 1916[15]). An alternative version presented by Joseph Korom[5] attributes construction of the Gillender Building to Augustus Teophilus Gillender (born 1843), principal partner in a law firm.[5]

The construction contract was awarded to Charles T. Willis Company; Hecla Iron Works, Atlas Cement Company and Okonite Company of Passaic were principal suppliers.[16] The Gillender Building cost $500,000 to construct[5][9] and attracted attention due to the disproportion of its height and footprint.[13] The new structure occupied a narrow strip of land measuring 26×73 feet, or about 8×22 meters,[4] ruling out efficient space plans. Quicksand under the site required use of caisson foundations;[17] caissons consumed the underground space that could be otherwise used by bank vaults or retail storage, further reducing the building's value.[17] Its rentable area (30,000 square feet or 2,790 square meters) was on par with Manhattan's 1897 average for pre-skyscraper buildings (26,300 square feet or 2,400 square meters) and lower than the area of adjacent six-storey Stevens Building.[18] The disproportion was made more evident in 1903, when the new Hanover National Bank Building, built on the same Nassau Street block and being only marginally taller, dwarfed the slender Gillender Building.[2]

Architecturally, the Gillender Building, designed by Charles I. Berg and Edward H. Clark, belonged to "a series of elegant towers in various classical modes erected in New York in the 1890s"[19] and is now considered "a notable example" of its period along with the Central Bank Building (William Birkmire, 1897, demolished) and the American Surety Building (Bruce Price, 1894–1896, extant).[19] Structurally, it was based on fully wind-braced steel frame with masonry infill.[16] The main volume of the tower rose to 219 feet (67 m) without setbacks, with a three-story cupola crown reaching 273 feet (83 m).[16] The New York Times erroneously called Gillender the "highest office structure in the world",[7][9] although the earlier Manhattan Life Insurance Building (1894) was taller at 348 feet (106 m). Berg and Clerk followed the Italian rule of triple vertical partitioning: expensive decoration was limited to the three bottom floors (what the pedestrians see from the street) and the upper two floors and the crowning tower. Massive cornices above the second and third floors visually separated the lower levels from the clean wall surface stretching above up until the fourteenth floor; starting from the ninth floor, it gradually re-acquired ornaments and arched windows as if in anticipation of the ornate Italian Baroque[5] cupola above.

Advertised as fully fireproof and as the most modern tower on the market,[7] Gillender Building was occupied by financial firms through its short lifetime and was perceived as economically obsolete from the start.[7] There were no notable incidents other than two lightning strikes in its spire in July 1897 and May 1900; the latter "sent splinters flying in every direction" without casualties.[20]

Sequence of deconstruction images, 1910[edit]

Top floors and spire 
Higher elevations 
Midsections 
Lower sections 
Final demolition 

Takeover[edit]

Gillender Building
New York skyline in 1902. Gillender Building in the center, behind the Trinity Church.

In 1909, the Financial District experienced a rapid series of land acquisitions by financial institutions.[12] The Bankers Trust Company joined the process after Bank of Montreal, Fourth National Bank, and Germania Insurance acquired their properties on Wall and Nassau Streets.[12] Bankers Trust, which was established in 1902, had been a tenant at Gillender Building for six years[21][22] and their choice of site was motivated by its location near the New York Stock Exchange.[21] The company, with J. P. Morgan on the board,[21] grew rapidly and intended to land itself permanently in the "vortex of America's financial life".[23]

In July 1909, Bankers Trust signed a long-term lease agreement with the Sampson family, owners of the Stevens Building;[12] lease was preferred to purchase due to high price of Wall Street land.[23] Located on the same Wall-Nassau block as the Gillender Building, the L-shaped, seven-story Stevens Building wrapped around it and possessed far longer facades on both Wall and Nassau Streets.[12] Initially, the press reported that Bankers Trust planned to build a 16-story office building wrapping around the Gillender Building, with the two bottom floors outfitted to be "one of the finest banking rooms in the city".[12] Later, it was disclosed that they had been negotiating purchase of Gillender Building since April 1909;[13] the deal would have consolidated enough Wall Street land for a new tower with 94 feet (29 m) frontage facing Wall Street and 102 feet (31 m) on Nassau Street.[9]

In December 1909, The New York Times reported a new record set: The Manhattan Trust Company, a bank connected to Bankers Trust through common control by J. P. Morgan,[24] acquired the Gillender Building from Helen Gillender Asinari, paying approximately $1,500,000 for the property occupying 1,825 square feet (169.5 m2), or $822 for a square foot[13] of Manhattan land that was worth $55,000 sixty years earlier.[6] Negotiations were in progress since April 1909 and the sale was virtually closed in November.[13]

On January 2, 1910, the press reported that the Manhattan Trust has resold the building;[22] Bankers Trust, the new owner, completed consolidation of a large corner property. By April 1910, the final cash price paid to Manhattan Trust was adjusted to $1,250,000;[6] in exchange for the $250,000 difference, the Manhattan Trust retained long-term lease rights for the ground floor "and some other space in the building".[22] This brought nominal cash price per foot on par or below the earlier record ($700 per square foot for a lot on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway).[13] Contemporaries agreed that the Manhattan Trust and Bankers Trust acted in accord and that the latter targeted Gillender Building from the start.[22] Bankers Trust absorbed Manhattan Trust Company in February 1912.[24]

The press anticipated the upcoming demolitionof the Gillender Building "as the first time when such a high-class office building representing the best type of fire-proof construction" would be torn down[9] and "one of the largest building operations ever undertaken in New York".[6] Bankers Trust publicized the drafts by Trowbridge & Livingston to build a 39-story[25] tower that, when announced, would be New York's third tallest building after the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower and the Singer Building[6] built in 1909 and 1908, respectively.

Demolition[edit]

Gillender and Stevens buildings (in red) and the Bankers Trust Building that replaced them. Nassau Street facade.

Demolition of the Stevens Building commenced in the beginning of April 1910.[6] The contract to demolish the Gillender Building was awarded to Jacob Volk, known for his work on the McAdoo Tunnel,[9] who himself claimed experience in demolishing 900 buildings.[26] Initially, Volk subscribed to complete the job in 35 days and pay a $500 penalty for each day delayed;[9] the schedule was later extended to 45 days. The building's tenants remained in the tower until the wrecking crews arrived on-site.[9] Demolition commenced April 29, 1910,[9] and was officially completed June 16, 1910, one day ahead of schedule.[27] It cost Bankers Trust $50,000 plus $500 for advance completion; the contractor also received all the scrap valued at $25,000.[27]

Demolition was preceded with erection of a massive timber canopy over the sidewalks and a wire mesh over the street to protect people from falling debris. Inside, elevator shafts were converted into garbage chutes for the torn partitions and exterior masonry scrap. By May 2, the top belvedere was dismantled completely and most of the cupola masonry was removed, exposing its steel skeleton.[28] By the end of May, most of the Stevens Building was torn down; the Gillender Building's masonry walls were removed down to the seventh floor and steel skeleton was down to eleventh floor.[29] By June 12, all that remained of Gillender Building was a single level of its steel frame visible above protective scaffoulding.[30] In the following four days, the ground was completely cleared; work on its underground foundations commenced a month later.[31] The granite slabs from the Gillender Building were recycled into tombstones of the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.[32]

Of the 250[9] men involved in the demolition project, two Italian workers were injured by falling girders, one of them died in the hospital.[27]

The famous Gillender Building, which when erected twelve years ago on the northwest corner of Nassau and Wall Streets was called the tallest skyscraper in the world, its tower rising some 300 feet above the streets, has gone the way of other landmarks.
- The New York Times, June 17, 1910[27]

The Bankers Trust Company Building, now known as 14 Wall Street, was completed in 1912, then being the tallest banking building in the world.[2] The bank occupied only the three lower floors; its main operations were housed elsewhere in less expensive offices.[33] About 19 years later, Bankers Trust acquired and demolished the adjacent Hanover, Astor, and Pine Street Buildings, and replaced them with an annex to the original Bankers Trust Building, which was completed in 1933 and tripling its rentable area.[2] Helen Gillender Asinari died a year earlier, in 1932.[15]

In fiction[edit]

The Gillender Building is the site of a final scene in Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder, a 2006 novel reconstructing Sigmund Freud's 1909 visit to New York. The narrator and Nora Acton (linked to Freud's case study of Dora) meet for the last time in the Gillender cupola, watch the New York skyline, well aware that the building will be soon torn down.[34]

In M. K. Hobson's Hotel Astarte, The Warlock "had his fingernails polished by a mute Chinese woman he kept in locked in a small room in his office on the top floor of the Gillender Building on Wall Street". The story is set in June 1910 and October 1929, when the Gillender Building had already been dismantled.[35]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 17 floors in the main tower volume and three floors in the cupola
  2. ^ a b c d "Introduction and History of the Bankers Trust". The Skyscraper Museum's Virtual Archive. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  3. ^ Contemporary New York Times (e.g. New Bankers' Trust Company Tower Sets Building and Realty Records, April 10, 1910) reported marginally different footprint of 25×74 feet
  4. ^ a b Whitehand, p. 121: 7.6×22.25 meters
  5. ^ a b c d e Korom, p. 219
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "New Bankers' Trust Company Tower Sets Building and Realty Records" (PDF). The New York Times, April 10, 1910. April 10, 1910. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Korom, p.221
  8. ^ $822 per square foot is most quoted figure (Korom, p. 221, Silver, p. 210, The Skyscraper Museum Virtual Archive). Willis, p. 150, provides a marginally different figure of $820 per square foot
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Skyscraper Going: Higher One Coming. Razing 20-Story Gillender Building to Make Room for 32-Story Bankers' Trust Home". The New York Times, April 30, 1910. April 30, 1910. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  10. ^ See the 18th century map and corresponding notes in Bankers' Trust Company Tower Sets Building and Realty Records, April 10, 1910.
  11. ^ Wolfe, p. 26
  12. ^ a b c d e f "New Office Building for Wall Street. Sixteen-Story Structure, Costing $1,500,000, to Go Up on the Stevens Site" (PDF). The New York Times, July 9, 1909. July 7, 1909. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f "$822 a Square Foot, Record Land Price. Sale of Northwest Corner of Wall and Nassau Streets Passes Old $700 Mark" (PDF). The New York Times, December 16, 1909. December 16, 1909. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  14. ^ Granddaughter of George Lovett who purchased the site in 1849 - Bankers' Trust Company Tower Sets Building and Realty Records, April 10, 1910.
  15. ^ a b c d Gray, Christopher (June 4, 2000). "Streetscapes/Readers' Questions; Building's Name, Gallery's Photo, Complex's Origin". The New York Times, June 3, 2000. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  16. ^ a b c Korom, p. 220
  17. ^ a b "History of the Bankers Trust. April 1910". The Skyscraper Museum's Virtual Archive. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  18. ^ Whitehand, p. 124
  19. ^ a b Condit, Gary W. "Skyscraper. Part 2. History and development". Grove Art Online / Museum of Modern Art, NY. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  20. ^ "Bolt Destroys Second Flag Pole Erected in the Same Spot" (PDF). The New York Times, June 1, 1900. June 1, 1900. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  21. ^ a b c Ward, Zunz p. 146
  22. ^ a b c d "Gillender Building Resold" (PDF). The New York Times, January 2, 1910. January 2, 1910. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  23. ^ a b Ward, Zunz p. 147
  24. ^ a b "Bankers' Absorbs Manhattan" (PDF). The New York Times, February 21, 1912. February 21, 1912. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  25. ^ 32 rentable floors and 7 storage floors in the pyramidal top; two underground bank vault floors and one underground mechanical floor (New Bankers' Trust Company Tower Sets Building and Realty Records, April 10, 1910)
  26. ^ "Breaking Records in House Wrecking. The 20-Story Gillender Building Fast Coming Down Before the Contractor's Attacks" (PDF). The New York Times, June 3, 1910. June 3, 1910. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  27. ^ a b c d "Gillender Building Down" (PDF). The New York Times, June 17, 1910. June 17, 1910. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  28. ^ "Demolition process: May 5, 1910". The Skyscraper Museum's Virtual Archive. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  29. ^ "Demolition process: May 31, 1910". The Skyscraper Museum's Virtual Archive. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  30. ^ "Demolition process: June 12, 1910". The Skyscraper Museum's Virtual Archive. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  31. ^ "Foundation work: July 19, 1910". The Skyscraper Museum's Virtual Archive. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  32. ^ Silver, p. 210
  33. ^ Willis, p. 150
  34. ^ Rubenfeld, Jed (2006). The Interpretation of Murder. Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-42705-0. ISBN 978-0-312-42705-4. , pp. 425-429
  35. ^ Hobson, M. K. (June 2007). "Hotel Astarte". Realms of Fantasy. [dead link]

References[edit]

External links[edit]