Left: Architect/Office for Metropolitan History; Right, Michael Falco for The New York Times

Consolidated Edison Building

(formerly Consolidated Gas) (1910 -1929)
2-12 Irving Place, 121-147 East 14 Street, 120-140 East 15th Street
Architects: Henry Hardenbergh, Warren & Wetmore
Designated in 2009

On February 10, 2009 the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the 26-story Consolidated Edison building and tower, built in stages between 1910 and 1929, at 4 Irving Place, 121-147 E. 14th St., and 120-E. 15th St., as a city landmark.

“The Con Ed Building has a commanding presence in the Union Square neighborhood and also has one of the great towers that define the Manhattan skyline,” said Robert B. Tierney, Landmarks commissioner, at the Feb. 10 designation.

Consolidated Edison Building, 4 Irving Place, (2-12 Irving Place, 121-147 East 14 Street, 120-140 East 15th Street), Manhattan., 1910-1911, Henry Hardenbergh, architect; additions: 1912-14, Henry Hardenbergh, architect; 1926-28; Warren & Wetmore, architects, Thomas E. Murray, Inc, engineers; 1928-29 Warren & Wetmore, architects, Thomas E. Murray, Inc, engineers. Landmark Site: Borough of Manhattan Tax Map Block 870, Lot 24 in part, consisting of the land on which the described building is situated, excluding the 1915 addition at 142 East 15th Street and the parking lot to the east.

On October 28, 2008, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed designation as a Landmark of the Consolidated Edison Building and the proposed designation of the related Landmark Site (Item No. 1). The hearing had been duly advertised in accordance with the provisions of the law. A total of seven witnesses, including a representative of the owner, City Council member Rosie Mendez, and representatives of the Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Union Square Community Coalition, the Historic Districts Council, the Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America, and Manhattan Community Board 6 spoke in favor of the designation. There were no speakers in opposition to the designation.

The Consolidated Edison Building, constructed in stages between 1910 and 1929 for the Consolidated Gas Company, predecessor to Consolidated Edison, and designed by the leading architectural firms of Henry Hardenbergh and Warren & Wetmore, is a monumental presence in the Union Square neighborhood and has one of the great towers that define the Manhattan skyline.

The earliest sections of the building, on East 15th Street and the northern end of the block front on Irving Place, built in two phases between 1910 and 1914, were among the last major works of the eminent architect Henry Hardenbergh. Hardenbergh’s eighteen-story, classically- inspired facades feature giant segmental arches and double-story porticos at the base and rusticated limestone piers balanced by strong horizontal moldings at the upper stories and are enlivened by a rich blend of Classical Revival and Renaissance motifs. Hardenbergh also incorporated an early and historically-significant program of nighttime illumination in his design, which is reflected in the presence of light sockets on the spandrel panels, soffits, upper-story window embrasures, and crowning cornice of the 1910s wing. Between 1926 and 1929, Warren & Wetmore working in association with the engineering firm of Thomas E. Murray built two more additions on Irving Place and East Fourteenth Street, wrapping eighteen-story office wings, which matched the Hardenbergh- designed portions of the building, around a signature twenty-six-story corner tower. This monumental limestone-clad tower has a three-story colonnaded base and a setback tower featuring illuminated clocks, a bell chamber treated as colonnaded temple modeled on the Hellenistic Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, a bell-capped roof framed by corner obelisks, and a gigantic bronze- and-glass lantern.

Characterized by the New Yorker as “a sturdy shaft, classic in detail and vigorous in silhouette,” the Consolidated Edison tower won critical praise and was among the finest of Warren & Wetmore’s late works. Dubbed the “Tower of Light” in corporate literature, the tower was intended to be both a symbol of one of the nation’s leading producers of power and light and a memorial to the company’s employees who had died in World War I and incorporates numerous devices in its decorative program such as torches and burning urns appropriate for a building associated with lighting and with funereal monuments. These dual purposes were also served by an elaborate program of nighttime illumination, inaugurated in July 1929. Although the lighting has been updated to reflect modern technology, the tower continues to be illuminated at night and remains in the words of the New York Times one of the “crowns of light [that] grace the skyline” and a symbol of Consolidated Edison, Inc. Consolidated Edison Inc. is the successor to a long line of power and light companies, beginning with New York Gas Light Company, founded 1823, which have played an integral role in the development of New York City. The Consolidated Edison and its predecessors, the Consolidated Gas Company of New York and New York Edison, have continuously been headquartered here since the building’s construction.

Source: nyc.gov, USCC

Read more:
Historic Districts Council Newsstand

A Beacon of the Changing Times
New York Times - September 12, 2008 - By Christopher Gray

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