Thursday, March 22, 2012

Preservation League adds IRT Powerhouse to Seven to Save list of endangered places for 2012-13


Preservation League of New York State
(contact info below)

ALBANY, March 26, 2012 – The Preservation League of New York State has named Manhattan’s former IRT Powerhouse, located on Eleventh Avenue at 59th Street in Manhattan, to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

The Powerhouse holds a unique position in the history, life and physical fabric of New York City. It was constructed to generate power for the city’s first subway line, which opened in 1904 and revolutionized transportation between the city’s neighborhoods. This massive structure—occupying an entire city block—stands as a symbol of modernity, on a par with great public buildings such as the New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1902, the IRT hired Stanford White of the firm McKim, Mead and White, among the most prestigious architects of their day, to design this Beaux-Arts masterpiece.

“Since 1999, Seven to Save has mobilized community leaders and decision-makers to take action when historic resources are threatened,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “A Seven to Save designation from the League delivers invaluable technical assistance, fosters increased media coverage and public awareness, and opens the door to grant assistance for endangered properties.”

The rapidly growing waterfront neighborhood surrounding the Powerhouse presents both opportunities and challenges for the building’s preservation. Most of New York’s early power stations have been demolished, including four operated by Consolidated Edison (the current owner of the IRT Powerhouse) between 2005 and 2008. By virtue of its architecture and pivotal location, however, the Powerhouse has captured the imagination of developers and investors, who recognize its potential for vibrant adaptive use as a mixed-use space, with its energy functions relocated to a more efficient, sustainable facility. The inclusion of the Powerhouse on the League’s Seven to Save list will help raise awareness of this building’s significance and facilitate discussion around creative solutions for preserving the building. To foster the conversation, a blog called “Save the IRT Powerhouse” has been launched at

According to Samuel G. White, architect and great-grandson of Stanford White, “The powerhouse is a perfect illustration of Stanford White’s determination to transform every corner of New York from a featureless sea of brownstone into a capital worthy of a Renaissance prince. Here, hierarchy, scale, proportion, color, and ornament are harnessed to celebrate the power—not of a despot, however enlightened—but of technology in the service of civilization. Take a pair of binoculars over to Eleventh Avenue and enjoy the feast!”

“At the turn of the 20th century, New York City stretched out from the Battery to Hamilton Heights. But how to transport the population from the top to the bottom?” asked Mosette Broderick, professor at New York University and author of Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America’s Gilded Age. “The IRT was created to move people rapidly beneath the streets and, on the forlorn bank of the Hudson River gridded by railroad tracks rose its power supply. The building, a marriage of convenience, a modern metal shed with the face of an aging actress, the utilitarian made beautiful, is our city’s Temple of Power.”

Douglast Durst, Chairman of The Durst Oranization, said, “The IRT Powerhouse is beautiful, compelling and historically significant building that deserves preservation and protection.”

The inclusion of the IRT Powerhouse on the Seven to Save list provides the opportunity for the League to work with local advocates to protect the building and its surroundings. “With this program, we provide targeted support to seven of New York’s most important and endangered historic resources,” said Erin Tobin, the Preservation League’s eastern regional director for technical and grant programs. “Whether sites are threatened by insensitive, ineffective or insufficient public policies, general neglect, and, in some cases, outright demolition, we have a proven record of working with community advocates to save a number of significant properties.”

Since 1999, publicity and advocacy resulting from Seven to Save designation has led to the rehabilitation and reopening of the Oswego City Public Library, the rebirth of Montauk Manor on Long Island, and the rededication of the once-abandoned George Harvey Justice Building in Binghamton along with successes at several other locations.

The Preservation League of New York State is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1974. The League invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, and the protection of New York’s historic buildings and landscapes. It leads advocacy, economic development, and education programs all across the state.

FROM: Preservation League of New York State
44 Central Avenue
Albany NY 12206-3002

CONTACTS: Colleen M. Ryan, Director of Communications
Preservation League of New York State
518-462-5658 ext. 17;

Kate Wood, Executive Director

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