The East Village, while it is rich in unique cultural and architectural history, lacks significant landmark protections east of Second Avenue. Village Preservation has long been working toward greater protection for this storied sprawling neighborhood. Prior to the designation of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District and the East 10th Street Historic District in 2012, there was very little landmark designation in the East Village. Two unusual exceptions were the Public National Bank of New York Building at 106 Avenue C and the Wheatsworth Bakery Building at 444 East 10th Street, both landmarked on September 16, 2008 – both designed in a distinctive and unusual style, rare not only for New York, but all of America.
Built in 1923, the Public National Bank of New York Building at 106 Avenue C was designed by Eugene Schoen (1880-1957), an architect born in New York City of Hungarian Jewish descent. Schoen graduated from Columbia University in 1902 and soon after traveled to Europe, meeting influential Viennese Secessionist architects Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann in Vienna. This irrevocably impacted his approach to architecture and design. Today, Schoen is best remembered for his work in furniture design, but he was at the forefront of modern American design throughout his career. This building is a rare example of the influence of the Viennese Secessionist movement in the United States that perfectly illustrates the movement’s influence on the Art Deco style that would rise to prominence in the late 1920s. The building is faced in light grey granitex (a material meant to resemble the color and texture of grey granite) with painted terra cotta details above a polished grey granite base. The corner entrance is surrounded by eye-catching notable polychrome Viennese-inspired terracotta ornament. Throughout the facade design, there are many direct references to Hoffmann’s work such as the highly stylized molded cornice.
Just a few blocks north of the Public National Bank of New York Building at the corner of East 10th Street and Avenue D is the Wheatsworth Bakery Building. J. Edwin Hopkins, an expert in the world of industrial bakery design, designed this bakery between 1927-1928. Despite the building’s industrial utilitarian purpose, Hopkins expertly integrated references to the Art Deco and Viennese Secessionist styles through features like a granite base, large multi-pane pivot steel windows, and polychrome terra-cotta friezes with green circles at the base and the parapet. The restrained terra cotta friezes are characteristic of this style of architecture. The door surrounds at both ends of the facade display terra cotta panels with images of bundles of wheat stalks. Wheatsworth, Inc., who commissioned the building, invented the ubiquitous Milk Bone dog biscuit and were industrial providers of whole wheat flour. Shortly after the completion of this building, Wheatsworth was acquired by the National Biscuit Company, also known as Nabisco, in 1931. At this time, this part of the East Village was almost exclusively industrial. However, over the years these large industrial buildings have been replaced with public housing, parking lots, and a public pool. The Wheatsworth Bakery Building is one of the few remaining industrial buildings in the far East Village.
Village Preservation’s East Village Building Blocks, our web-based tool which provides detailed historic information on each property in the East Village, and the accompanying in-depth report “A History of the East Village and its Architecture” by Francis Morrone provide an excellent record of the neighborhood and illustrate how important it is to protect the history and integrity of this neighborhood. To learn more, please visit:
- Our catalog of designation reports for all designated landmarks and historic districts in our neighborhoods
- Our tour of all thirty individually designated landmarks in the East Village, including these two, from our East Village Building Blocks website
If you’d like to call on the city to expand landmark protections in the East Village, click here.