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The Slow Death of 523-527 Sixth Avenue and 104-106 West 14th Street

523-527 Sixth Avenue/104-106 West 14th Street circa 2022

Each day Village Preservation monitors over 6,500 building lots in our neighborhoods for demolition and new building permits. This practice is integral to taking proactive measures to preserve the architectural integrity of our neighborhoods. Recently, there has been a troublesome influx of demolition permits filed in our neighborhood: 813 and 815 Broadway between 11th and 12th Streets in our proposed South of Union Square Historic District’s, and a collection of buildings including 519 and 523-27 Sixth Avenue/100 West 14th Street, as well as 102 and 104-06 West 14th Street. 

14th Street and 6th Ave Train Station with 523-527 Sixth Avenue/104-106 West 14th Street turret in background circa 1916.
1940s Tax Photo.

523-527 Sixth Avenue is a commercial building built as offices with small scale retail at street level. Commissioned by Albert Wyckoff and designed by Theo Thompson in 1896, the building is an excellent example of Romanesque Revival style architecture. Responding to the massive amounts of noise and vibration created by the nearby Sixth Avenue El (which opened along 14th Street in 1881 and ran until it was dismantled in 1939), this building rests on a heavily reinforced foundation. Architect Theo Thomson designed the building’s two street facades to be viewed both from the ground and from the elevated train. From the ground level, pedestrians would see the main entry surrounded by Corinthian columns, and the heavily ornamented doors and windows capped by the first-level stringcourse. From the elevated tracks, viewers had a picturesque view of the corner turret, rising above the second level stringcourse and solidly articulated in buff-colored brick and heavily rusticated details.

523-527 Sixth Avenue/104-106 West 14th Street circa 2014
523-527 Sixth Avenue/104-106 West 14th Street circa 2016

In 2010, all four buildings came under joint ownership. All lie outside of the Greenwich Village Historic District and therefore do not have landmark protections. At some point between 2014 and 2016, both 523-27 Sixth Avenue and 104-06 West 14th Streets were stripped of character-defining historic architectural details, including both buildings’ cornices and the “witch’s hat” atop the distinctive corner turret of 523-27 Sixth Avenue/104-106 West 14th Street, making landmark designation virtually impossible. In recent years, as the buildings have been gradually emptied, maintenance has also been neglected, and the buildings were allowed fall into increasingly shabby condition. 519 Sixth Avenue is a non-historic one-story taxpayer, and 102 West 14th Street long ago had its historic windows and cornice removed.

The 1876 104-06 West 14th Street prior to the removal of its cornice

By removing the historic features, the developers behind this demolition (consciously or not) also helped prevent any reasonable chance of landmark designation being extended to what had been handsome, distinctive, historic buildings (104-06 West 14th Street was an elegant cast-iron building worthy of the SoHo and NoHo historic districts until its architectural butchering). Village Preservation works tirelessly to monitor these kinds of changes in our neighborhoods in an effort to stop preservation emergencies before they happen. To learn more about our wide range of advocacy campaigns, click here. To take action on one of those campaigns, click here.

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