British Empire Building

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Coordinates: 40°45′30″N 73°58′41″W / 40.75826°N 73.97792°W / 40.75826; -73.97792

Fifth Avenue facade

The British Empire Building, also known by its address 620 Fifth Avenue, is a 6-story retail building located on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Completed in 1934, the structure is part of Rockefeller Center, and was built in the Art Deco style.

Construction[edit]

The building was part of the original construction of the Rockefeller Center, with an oval-shaped retail building originally planned for the block. The oval building was scrapped in early 1931,[1][2] and an updated plan proposed a tall 41-story tower and two smaller 6-story retail buildings on the site of the oval building.[1] Because the canceled oval building had contained rooftop gardens, Raymond Hood suggested the idea for rooftop gardens across the complex, including on all of the retail buildings.[3][4] These gardens would be curated by Ralph Hancock.[5][6]

As American tenants were reluctant to rent in these retail buildings, Rockefeller Center's manager Hugh Robertson, formerly of Todd, Robertson and Todd, suggested foreign tenants for the buildings.[7][8] The first themed building that was agreed on was the British Empire Building, the more southerly of the two buildings, which would host the governmental and commercial ventures of the United Kingdom.[2][9] The cornerstone of the British Empire Building was laid in June, when Francis Hopwood, 1st Baron Southborough, placed the symbolic first stone in a ceremony.[10][11] The British Building's structural steel started construction in October of that year.[12] The British Empire Building opened by early May 1934.[13]

Description[edit]

The British Empire Building is located north of its architectural twin, La Maison Francaise.[14]:326 It is a six-story standalone building with a limestone facade with a sixth-story setback, as well as a partial ​1 12-story penthouse on the west half of the seventh story and a garden on the east side of the seventh-story roof.[15] The Channel, a 60-foot-wide (18 m), 200-foot-long (61 m) planted pedestrian esplanade, separates the British Empire Building and La Maison Francaise.[16] The British Empire Building contains ground-level storefronts on all four sides and a cornerstone inscribed with the building's name.[17]

The British Empire Building commissioned artists who were both British and non-British. As Britain did not have a good economy at the time due to the reduction of its empire in previous years, most of the artwork in the building focused on the empire itself rather than its artistic contribution.[15] Carl Paul Jennewein, an American of German descent, created nine gold-leaf figures on three distinct panels above the entrance signifying different parts of the empire; these panels visually underscored the divisions in the triple-paneled doorway below.[18][19][20] Jennewein also created a cartouche that depicts authentic British motifs combined in a single fictional coat of arms.[21] Rene Chambellan designed the bas-reliefs on the sixth floor of this building, consisting of motifs modeled on the coats of arms of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.[22][23] On the secondary entrances, Lee Lawrie placed decorations signifying symbols of the empire's power, such as Tudor roses, gilded passant guardant lions, and the wing-footed god of commerce, Mercury.[24][25]

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission added landmark status to the exteriors of all the original Rockefeller Center's buildings in 1985.[26][27] In its approval of the complex's status, the commission wrote, "Rockefeller Center ranks among the grandest architectural projects ever undertaken in the United States".[28] The roof gardens of the wings were restored in 1986 for $48,000 each.[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Adams 1985, p. 92.
  2. ^ a b Krinsky 1978, p. 59.
  3. ^ "PLANS REVISED FOR RADIO CITY" (PDF). The New York Sun. August 24, 1931. p. 20. Retrieved November 16, 2017 – via Fultonhistory.com.
  4. ^ Hood, Raymond (August 23, 1931). "The Babylonian Dream Soon to Be Made Reality in Radio City Is Seen by the Architects as a Huge Experiment Holding the Possibility of a Completely Transformed Metropolis" (PDF). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  5. ^ "GARDENS OF THE WORLD ATOP RADIO CITY; New York Watches the Growth of a New Venture in the Realm of Horticulture" (PDF). The New York Times. 1934-09-02. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  6. ^ "New York's "Hanging Gardens"" (PDF). Albany Times-Union. 1934. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  7. ^ Adams 1985, p. 87.
  8. ^ Krinsky 1978, p. 69.
  9. ^ "RADIO CITY BUILDING SEEN AS AID TO BRITAIN; Head of London Syndicate Says Offer Was Friendly Gesture by Rockefeller" (PDF). The New York Times. January 8, 1932. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
  10. ^ "BRITISH LAY STONE IN ROCKEFELLER CITY" (PDF). The New York Times. 1932-07-03. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  11. ^ "Nobleman Lays Cornerstone in Radio City". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. July 3, 1932. p. 6. Retrieved November 10, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "British Unit is Begun at Rockefeller Centre" (PDF). The New York Times. 1932-10-19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
  13. ^ Adams 1985, p. 93.
  14. ^ White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot & Leadon, Fran (2010), AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195383867
  15. ^ a b Adams 1985, p. 96.
  16. ^ Federal Writers' Project 1939, pp. 334–335.
  17. ^ Adams 1985, pp. 99–100.
  18. ^ Federal Writers' Project 1939, pp. 339–340.
  19. ^ Adams 1985, pp. 96–97.
  20. ^ Roussel 2006, p. 79.
  21. ^ Roussel 2006, p. 80.
  22. ^ Adams 1985, pp. 109–110.
  23. ^ Roussel 2006, p. 82.
  24. ^ Adams 1985, p. 97.
  25. ^ Roussel 2006, pp. 84–85.
  26. ^ Glancy, Dorothy J. (January 1, 1992). "Preserving Rockefeller Center". 24 Urb. Law. 423. Santa Clara University School of Law: 426. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  27. ^ Adams 1985, pp. 270–271.
  28. ^ Adams 1985, p. 269.
  29. ^ "PROSPECTS; Roof-Garden Restorations". The New York Times. 1986-06-29. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-23.

Sources[edit]

  1. Adams, Janet (1985). "Rockefeller Center Designation Report" (PDF). City of New York; New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
  2. Krinsky, Carol H. (1978). Rockefeller Center. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-502404-3.
  3. Federal Writers' Project (1939). New York City: Vol 1, New York City Guide. US History Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60354-055-1.
  4. Roussel, Christine (May 17, 2006). The Art of Rockefeller Center. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-3930-6082-9.