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The Designers Behind the Architecture South of Union Square

Grace Church Rectory Fourth Avenue, designed by James Renwick Jr.

The Historic District South of Union proposed by Village Preservation has many amazing buildings designed by great architects of the 19th and 20th centuries. We have previously (and extensively) highlighted the work of James Renwick Jr. in the area. But many other incredibly accomplished architects — some of equal prominence and standing to the renowned Renwick, some of lesser fame — constructed striking designs in this area, which boomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of those was architect Louis Korn. Korn was born in New York and attended Columbia University. Upon graduation in 1891, he joined the firm John B. Snook & Sons. By 1892, he started his own firm, designing many buildings which would become New York City landmarks, such as 91-93 Fifth Avenue in the Ladies Mile Historic District, and 7 Great Jones Street in the NoHo Historic District. South of Union Square, Korn designed four remarkable loft buildings: No. 84 University Place, an 1894 seven-story Romanesque Revival style loft; 60 East 11th Street, an 1895 seven-story Renaissance Revival style loft; 64-66 East 11th, an 1897 eight-story neo-Renaissance neo-Romanesque style loft; and 29 East 10th Street, an 1899 eight-story neo-classical style loft.

64-66 East 11th Street

Another architecture firm that helped shape the area was Starrett & Van Vleck. Goldwin Starrett was the youngest brother in the formidable Starrett family, who were responsible for major designs throughout New York City, the simplicity of which is to be admired. Goldwin’s brother Theodore was the founder and president of Thompson and Starrett, the general contractors of the Woolworth Building; his brother Paul Starrett was the founder and president of Starrett Brothers & Eken, the general contractor of the Empire State Building. His other brother William A. Starrett played key roles in the George Fuller Company before joining his brother at the Starrett Brothers & Eken Company to help construct the Empire State Building. 

But Goldwin was the only architect in the family. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1894 (only one year before structural engineer Marion Parker) and went on to work with Daniel H. Burnham’s company in Chicago. In 1900, he joined his brother Theodore’s company, and in 1908, he partnered with Ernest Van Vleck. Together Starrett and Van Vleck designed such notable buildings as the Everett Building, the Fifth Avenue Lord and Taylor building, and the Saks Fifth Avenue building. South of Union Square, Starrett designed two lofts. The first is a 1903 twelve-story neo-Classical style loft building. This remarkably simple loft building is typical of Goldwin Starret’s architectural style. The second building, at 101-111 Fourth Avenue, is an almost perfectly intact thirteen-story terra cotta-covered loft building designed and constructed by the firm in 1919. 

Another prominent firm with many impactful designs in the area was Buchman & Fox. The firm was founded by Albert Buchman, a graduate of Cornell Univerisity. In 1887, Buchman partnered with architect Gustav Deisler, who retired in 1899, prompting Buchman to take on a new partner, Mortimer J. Fox. Fox worked with Buchman on such notable projects as the Times-Annex Building, the B. Altman Building, and 17 West 16th Street in the Ladie’s Mile Historic District. Mortimer Fox, interestingly, retired from the partnership in 1917 to head the Columbia Bank, and in 1928 he became a painter. But while they were together, South of Union Square they designed 1903 12-Story Beaux-arts extension of the Hotel Albert; two ten-story Beaux-Arts-style loft buildings at 57 East 11th Street and 61 East 11th Street; and the extraordinary 80 Fifth Avenue, a 1908 16-story Renaissance Revival office building. 

Hotel Albert, designed by James Irving Howard, Henry Hardenbergh, Buchman & Fox, and Henry Hardenbergh (r. to l.)

These are just some of the architects whose aesthetic and structural designs helped shape this unique area, which in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was on the cutting edge of commercial and cultural innovation. These masterful architects designed multiple buildings across the area to create a true and cohesive sense of place.

Explore more about South of the Union Square here, and help get the area landmarked and protected here.

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