The Sad Destruction of Chickering Hall

If you’ve traveled down West 57th Street lately, you may have noticed that the Chickering Hall building at 29 West 57th Street has a fresh new coat of paint. In light of the fact that the building is slated for demolition, this hardly seems like a necessary gesture of historic restoration on the part of property owners. In reality, it was undertaken in a futile attempt to mask the preemptive demolition of the building’s iconic architectural details.

As previously reported, Vornado stripped the sculptural ornamentation off the 29 W 57th Street facade in order to prevent the Cross & Cross building from being designated an individual landmark.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission had been in the process of evaluating the property based on an earlier Request for Evaluation submitted by the Save Rizzoli Committee. When the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation informed Vornado that the property was eligible for listing on the National Registry in early February, Vornado executives went ballistic. Not long after that, After Hours work permits went up and jack hammering on the facade commenced.

Despite the presence of scaffolding, the destruction of the facade had been plainly visible from the street for weeks. Nervous over recent national attention to the story in the press, Vornado sought to make the alterations less apparent to bystanders. Unfortunately for Vornado, we have extensively documented the mutilations to Chickering Hall conducted by their contractors before the paint job went up. As you can see from the images below, Vornado removed not only the famed Legion of Honor medallions and caryatids, they methodically stripped the entire exterior of practically every ornamental detail.

Concerned citizens outraged over real estate developers subverting the landmark review process should contact Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and insist that proposed legislation to reform the Landmarks Preservation Commission include tough measures to prevent developers from preemptively demolishing historic, landmark-worthy buildings.

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