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26 West 56th Street, request for designation as a landmark

WHEREAS, 26 West 56 Street (between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas) is one of a group of five brownstone row houses built in 1871, designed in the "Neo-Grec" or Greek Revival style for its owner, George Da Cunha, an architect, by D. & J. Jardine; and

WHEREAS, David Jardine was born in 1830 in Scotland and came to NY at the age of 20, took his younger brother John into the business, and as D&J Jardine designed many buildings that have become landmarks; and

WHEREAS, George Hart was granted the deed to 26 West 56th Street in 1893; Hart was an original Director and President of the Central Crosstown Railroad Company, the president of the Second Avenue Railroad Company and the Christopher and 10th Street railroad all of which he managed until consolidating; he was also a director and trustee of several banks; and

WHEREAS, 26 West was originally accessed by a stoop and was recessed from its lot line, and by the first year of the 20th century the block became the townhouse residences of many prominent bankers who hired well-known architects to design them; and

WHEREAS, In 1907 the facade was altered by the well-known architect Harry Allan Jacobs to eliminate the front stoop and replace it with a street level entry and a limestone Beaux-Arts facade  which was the fashion of the time; and

WHEREAS, Jacobs, trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was engaged by Henry Seligman, the prominent banker who lived in #30 in what eventually became a landmark; and

WHEREAS, Jacobs was a specialist in residences for prominent New Yorkers like the Cuttings and Guggenheims; a writer and contributor to the NY Times real estate section; designed many buildings that have become landmarks including the Friars Club in Manhattan.  (In 1911, he proposed an additional avenue between 5th and 6th from 200-250 feet wide, starting at 42nd and going up to 59th Street to create a dignified thoroughfare and alleviate traffic in the same way it was done in Paris, with buildings on each side restricted to 7 stories. He was a winner of the Prix de Roma and a fellow of the American Academy of Rome); and

WHEREAS, Jacobs extended the building to the lot line and designed a simple but impressive Beaux-Arts style limestone façade with a dormered mansard roof, an elegantly carved wreath of leaves over a lion’s head in the recessed tympanum over the entrance, with the fourth and fifth floors set back to the line of the original house; and

WHEREAS, In 1908, Seligman granted the deed to E. Hayward Ferry with the stipulation that as long as Seligman resided at 30 West 56th, No. 26 could only be used as a single family residence; Ferry was a Harvard graduate who was a vice president of important banks and a philanthropist; and

WHEREAS, In the 1960s, the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation and the American Film Institute were occupants in the building; and

WHEREAS, Alarcon Holdings bought it in 1988 and owns the current building's occupant, Spanish Broadcasting System, the #3 Spanish-language radio broadcaster in the US which reaches more than half the US Hispanic population; and

WHEREAS, The elegant Beaux-Arts-style limestone facade has not been changed since Harry Jacobs designed it in 1907; and 

WHEREAS, 26 West 56 Street was listed in the 1979 Midtown West Survey by the Landmarks Preservation Commission among the buildings worthy of landmark designation; and

WHEREAS, The West 54 -55 Street Block Association has researched this building and its architectural, historical and cultural significance and strongly recommends its designation as a landmark; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends that the New York City Landmarks Preservation commission approves the designation of 26 West 56 Street as a Landmark.

The above resolution passed by a vote of 27 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining.

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