New Yorkers can often be heard collectively agonizing over changes to their city’s veneer. Thankfully for the nostalgic, the Landmarks Preservation Commission—established in 1965 in response to the demolition of McKim, Mead, and White’s original Pennsylvania Station—works to keep the past intact by declaring certain neighborhoods, buildings, and even facades off-limits to developers. Still, many historic-looking structures, their forms intact, have undergone transformations in function. Here, a look at five notable New York buildings that are markers not only of the past, but of the passage of time.
1. 25 Broadway
Once a ticketing hall for Cunard Steamship Line, this seminal 1921 structure, conceived by Benjamin Wistar Morris and landmarked in 1995, has retained its nautical decor through years as a post office and, now, a Cipriani venue. “Aside from the elegant limestone facade, what struck us was the unique maritime interior decorated with shells, seahorses, and Columbus’ ships sailing routes,” says Maggio Cipriani, son of the current owner.
2. 55 Wall Street
This grand chamber was built by Isaiah Rogers circa 1842 and landmarked in 1965. It housed the Merchants’ Exchange, the Stock Exchange, and other commercial institutions before becoming the home of Cipriani Wall Street. “I love the majestic columns, the grand interior with the beautiful domed Wedgwood ceiling, and the rich history behind it,” says owner Giuseppe Cipriani.
3. 768 5th Avenue (The Plaza)
Designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh, the iconic 1907 property is a pop-culture Zelig, guest-starring in everything from children’s book series Eloise to the movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. When the building—the city’s only landmarked hotel—underwent a mid-2000s overhaul to incorporate private residences, Gill got a tour of the construction site—and then got locked in. “It was an absolute ghost town. Wandering through was so bizarre,” he says.
4. 2 East 61st Street (The Pierre)
While Schultze and Weaver’s 1930 building isn’t landmarked itself, it’s part of the Upper East Side Historic District (a neighborhood designated for preservation in 1981). The property’s top floors have lived multiple lives: During the Depression, they housed a restaurant frequented by Broadway chanteuse Kitty Carlisle and socialite Edith Bouvier “Little Eddie” Beale; today, they’re a penthouse for a new generation of bluebloods.
5. 233 Broadway (The Woolworth Building)
Once the headquarters of the F.W. Woolworth Company—and the tallest building in the world—the Cass Gilbert-designed skyscraper (built in 1912, landmarked in 1983) was partially purchased by Alchemy Properties in 2013, refurbished by designer Thierry Despont, and is now topped by luxury condos that give the city’s fast-spawning needle towers a run for their money.