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

WHEREAS, 17 West 56 Street (between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas) is a limestone and brick Neo-Georgian townhouse, built in 1870 and designed by John G Prague, an architect who became one of the best known builders on the Upper West Side of Manhattan from 72nd to 89th Streets, and has many landmarked buildings to his credit; and

WHEREAS, During the 1890s, the neighborhood where this townhouse is located became a fashionable address for Manhattan’s banking elite and other wealthy families; and

WHEREAS, In 1903, the new owner, Mrs. John A. Logan commissioned Augustus N. Allen to remodel the façade in the Neo Georgian style and convert it to the newly popular “American basement” scheme with the entrance at street level, since residences accessed by a stairs to a stoop had become unfashionable; and

WHEREAS, Its richly ornamented facade includes a segmental-arched entry set in a rusticated limestone ground floor, a dignified Neo-Georgian brick facade above the ground floor with three attractive pedimented dormers gracing the peak roof; and

WHEREAS, Allen was known for designing grand estates in for New Yorkers in Manhattan, Long Island and New Jersey including the John Jermain Memorial Library for Mrs. Russell Sage built across the street from her summer house on Long Island in memory of her grandfather, which was presented as a gift to the people of Sag Harbor; and

WHEREAS, Allen also designed the extraordinary landmarked Campbell Apartment at Grand Central Terminal, originally designed as an office for Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1923; and

WHEREAS, By 1932, 17 West had become an ornate midtown café, called The Royal Box, that filled the entire building, flaunting prohibition laws, whose owner was a well known criminal and professional killer of the time named Owney Madden, also May West’s boyfriend and protector ("Sweet but oh so vicious" is how she described him years later. The café was raided when people were finishing lunch on New Year’s Eve and Federal Agents said it was the richest setting they had ever invaded); and

WHEREAS, In 1973 Takara Belmont, a company headquartered in Osaka, Japan, the current owner, bought it and it became offices and showrooms for the company which makes furniture and equipment for spas, beauty salons and barbershops; and

WHEREAS, This building was listed in the 1979 Midtown West Survey by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as among 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 17 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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