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Request for designation of 31 West 57th Street.

WHEREAS, The Sohmer Building at 31 West 57th Street was constructed  in 1919 as a 6-story piano showroom, designed by architect Randolph Almiroty in the French Classical style, featuring a single broad archway framed by quoins; and

WHEREAS, Randolph Almiroty was a partner in the architectural firm of Browne & Almiroty established in 1910 and dissolved in 1916 and as architects they worked separately in NYC from the late 1900’s; and 

WHEREAS, Among the buildings Almiroty designed was 31 West 11t h Street, a neo-classical apartment building, built in 1910 in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and 30-32 West 24th Street, a neo-Gothic store and loft building in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District; and

WHEREAS, 31 West 57th Street was built for the Sohmer Piano Company, which occupied the entire building, and was the manufacturer of musical instruments and one of the major piano manufacturers in NYC, and is the earliest known of the extant piano company buildings even predating the showrooms for Steinway and Chickering; and

WHEREAS, The Sohmer Piano Company was one of the major piano manufacturers for close to 100 years, and their pianos are considered among the finest in the world; and

WHEREAS, Hugo Sohmer, born in Germany, founded Sohmer & Company in America in 1872, which later became the American Piano Company, is credited with inventing the first baby grand in 1884 and for making custom made pianos for such famous people as Jean Harlow, Al Jolson, Ramon Navarro, Victor Herbert (owned several), Irving Berlin (owned three), and President Calvin Coolidge; and

WHEREAS, Although Sohmer sold 31 West 57th Street in 1952, they continued to lease part of it for many years as a showroom for their pianos and sold out to Pratt, Reed & Co in 1982, which continued to make Sohmer Pianos until the 2000’s when the SMC company in Korea, the largest piano maker in the world, began to produce them; and

WHEREAS, In 1986, the building was restored by the noted N.Y. architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, and the Rizzoli Bookstore is now the sole tenant; and

WHEREAS, It is one of many buildings on the 57th Street thoroughfare that helped establish 57th Street as the foremost musical center of the country, called “Piano Row”; and

WHEREAS, 31 West 57 has a balustrade railing which occurs at the base of the second story and the parapet, flat abstracted label moldings of the second story windows, fifth story pilasters and bracketed cornices; the severe and abstract classicism of the building may have been influenced by the modern French architecture of this period; and

WHEREAS, There is some symmetry in the window detailing on floors three, four and five, and are all metal framed windows; on the sixth floor there is an eight pane French door/windows; and

WHEREAS, The Sohmer Factory in Long Island City, although no longer making pianos, was designated a NYC landmark in 2007; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five strongly supports the designation of 31 West 57th Street.

The above resolution passed with a vote of 38 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstention.  

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