A Terra Cotta Gem Shines on West 14th Street
I often get asked what my favorite building is in our area, and 154 West 14th Street ranks up there as one of my tops. Located at the very prominent corner of Seventh Avenue and West 14th Street, this polychromatic, 12-story visual delight is replete with glazed terra cotta in hues of white, beige, yellow, cobalt blue, celadon and green, and designed in an eclectic combination of styles including Secessionist, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and Mission Revival. On June 28, 2011, it was made an individual New York City landmark.
154 West 14th Street was constructed in 1912-13 for lawyer-banker and real estate developer Leslie R. Palmer as a speculative loft. It was built in anticipation of the extension of Seventh Avenue, completed in 1917, and the construction of the Seventh Avenue subway line underneath. This steel-frame structure employed the latest technology in loft construction with maximum allowance for light to the interior spaces, accommodations for automotive delivery and freight elevators.
The architect responsible for the design was Herman Lee Meader (1874-1930) who after graduating from Harvard in 1898 worked for the architectural office of Ernest Flagg. In 1911 he established his own practice and had some notable commissions, all of which included terra cotta as a cladding material. These included the Cliff Dwelling Apartments (1914-17 – also for Palmer) at 339 West 96th Street and the Greenwich Village Theater (1916, demolished) at Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street which was an experimental theater for Marguerite Abbott Barker (daughter of the president of Eastman Kodak Co.).
154 West 14th Street conforms to a tripartite arrangement of base-shaft-capital differentiated by color and materials. The three-story base is entirely clad in the polychromatic glazed tile, which is also featured at the mid-section on the spandrels between the white brick piers and at the top section. The terra cotta was manufactured by the New York Architectural Terra Cotta Company which was the city’s only major producer of architectural terra cotta at the time. Palmer was a long-time director of the company and this building served as a virtual advertisement for the product.
To read more about this building and its history, click HERE for the designation report