Powerful Allies

The Powerhouse, ca. 1906, from the collections
of the New-York Historical Society,
via the 2009 Columbia report
"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!"
~ Samuel G. White,
architect and great-grandson of Stanford White

“By virtue of its vast interior spaces, its location, and its compelling industrial beauty, the powerhouse has the potential to serve us in many ways. Should Con Edison move on, it’s easy to imagine the building entering a new phase of life as an amenity for the entire city—a museum, a mixed-use center—who can predict?  But one thing is certain: it needs to be preserved.”

~ Robert A. M. Stern, architect

“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?  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.”

~ Mosette Broderick, professor at New York University,
author of
Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America's Gilded Age

“The IRT Powerhouse is beautiful, compelling and historically significant building that deserves preservation and protection.”

~ Douglas Durst, Chairman of The Durst Organization

As the power station’s original use becomes increasingly obsolete through new technology, the block-long edifice stands out as Manhattan’s most obvious location for re-adaptation as a museum or cultural center.  Many existing institutions have considered expanding to this site but, after the initial dream, shied away because of the enormous interior spaces and design challenge.  My dream persists:  A vintage auto museum with rotating exhibits and complementary uses ensuring a constant flow of local and foreign visitors, and an ever-changing schedule of events.”
~ Robert Quinlan, Quinlan Development Group

"In its current function as a steam generation plant, the Powerhouse building is vastly underutilized, particularly its great hall, which holds the most potential for conversion to a spectacular public space.  The type of energy production here is suboptimal from an efficiency and environmental point of view.  If ConEd switched to cogeneration here, as they’ve done in 60% of the rest of their system, the plant would be twice as efficient, providing for steam as well as additional electricity, on a footprint one-third the size of the existing plant.  This would open up a world of possibilities for the historic building to serve the public in other important ways."
~ Ashok Gupta, Natural Resources Defense Council

“I am delighted that the Preservation League of New York State has chosen the Powerhouse as one of it's 2012 Seven to Save buildings.  This masterpiece of Beaux Arts design by Stanford White is a landmark by every measure; an icon of modernity and industrial history, architecturally superb, pleasing to the eye, and it stands at a prominent site on the Hudson shore.  We should no more destroy it than we would Grand Central, and we cannot afford to lose it as we Penn Station. Once preserved for adaptive use, it will become as iconic a symbol of New York as the Muss d’Orsay is of Paris and Tate Powerhouse of London. Let’s get serious about preserving the very best of our heritage, and save the powerhouse as a legacy for generations to come.”
~ NYC Council Member Gale A. Brewer

“As a long-time supporter of landmark designation for the IRT Powerhouse, I applaud the Preservation League of New York State for recognizing the exceptional historic significance of this magnificent building and including it in this year’s ‘Seven to Save’ campaign.  I am deeply concerned that the Powerhouse—one of the finest examples of New York City’s early 20th Century ‘City Beautiful’ movement and an enduring monument of the original IRT subway line—generally remains subject to the whims of a voracious real estate market.  The Preservation League’s multifaceted support will be invaluable as we continue the fight to save it.”
~ NYS Senator Thomas K. Duane (D, WFP – Manhattan)

"Throughout New York City, historic buildings have been successfully used to bring new life to neighborhoods. It would be fitting for this magnificent building - which electrified our subways - to become the catalyst for revitalizing a key section of Manhattan's waterfront."

~ Simeon Bankoff, Historic Districts Council

“Although the Powerhouse is currently still in use as a source of steam power for Manhattan it offers a long-term opportunity just as great, as energy technology advances, requires a smaller footprint, and opens up new possibilities for the building's future use."
~ Robert Hammond, Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line

“As John Jay College opens its spectacular new building on 11th Avenue, we look forward to engaging our changing neighborhood and, in particular, our neighbor, the Powerhouse, which provides historical richness and architectural beauty to the community.”
~ Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Joint letter from: 
    • Friends of Terra Cotta
    • Historic Districts Council
    • Hudson River Powerhouse Group
    • Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America
    • Municipal Art Society
    • Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America
    • The New York Landmarks Conservancy
    • Riverside South Planning Corporation
    • Roebling Chapter Society for Industrial Architecture 
  • Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art
  • Chuck Close, artist
  • Andrew Scott Dolkart, Director of the Columbia University Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
  • Clifton Hood, author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed NY York 
  • Robert A.M. Stern, architect and author of New York 1900

Further Reading
A selection of testimony from the July 14, 2009, public hearing at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission:

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