Landmarks50: Sullivan’s Only NYC Skyscraper
We continue the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Landmarks Law by learning about individual landmarks in and around Greenwich Village. Next up: the Bayard-Condict Building in NoHo. Located at 65-69 Bleecker Street, the Bayard-Condict Building is universally considered one of the most significant commercial building utilizing skyscraper structural techniques in New York City. Designed by Louis Henry Sullivan and built in 1897-99, this terra-cotta structure provided a new and startling contrast to the classically-inspired skyscrapers being constructed in New York City by architects at that time. The Bayard-Condict Building is the only Sullivan-designed building in New York City, and expertly manifests the architect’s motto of the skyscraper as a “proud and soaring thing.”
Sullivan was an important leader of the “Chicago School” of commercial architecture, which developed during the late 19th century and stimulated the subsequent movement of 20th century modern architecture in the United States and Europe. He was the first architect to solve the design problem of the “tall building,” in which most architects considered height, volume and uniformity of plan – the primary characteristics of tall buildings – to be artistic liabilities. Consequently, when architects used historical principles in designing tall buildings (ones that had been developed for low horizontal buildings), the results were often fragmented. However, Sullivan saw the tall office building as a new problem in architectural design, one that contained and suggested its own solution, a problem that meant the tall building should not conform to architectural rules or conventions. Click here for Sullivan’s list of practical conditions that the architect of a tall building should address (and possible solutions).
As the only skyscraper of the period that freely expresses its structural components in the manner of the Chicago School and the first truly modern skyscraper in New York City, the Bayard-Condict Building is an exceptional structure in the canon of New York City architecture. Because of this, and the importance of Louis Sullivan, whom the LPC designation report refers to as “one of this country’s greatest, most innovated and influential architects…” the Bayard-Condict Building was designated an individual landmark in NoHo in 1974. The report also notes the significance of the building’s exuberant ornament of an organic folate nature which complements the structural innovations of the building, that the terra-cotta curtain wall which was unique at that time in New York.
Click here for the State and National Register Report.
Click here for the State and National Register Photos.