Another Times Square Landmark Bites the Dust

The Studebaker Building (at the left of the photo, with the Four Roses sign atop it) is coming down. From today’s Times:

Built in 1902 as a showroom for Studebaker Brothers vehicles . . . the once elegant 10-story building at 1600 Broadway, also facing 48th Street and Seventh Avenue, served over the years as the backdrop for countless postcards and snapshots of the Great White Way. Its rooftop has been a pedestal for enormous signs advertising Maxwell House, Chevrolet, Braniff and Sony. Long after the Studebaker roadsters and coupes moved out, its ground floor was home to the Ripley Believe It or Not! Odditorium (“Curioddities From 200 Countries”), Howard Clothes and Tony Roma’s A Place for Ribs. Columbia Pictures may be said to have been born there, since it was in an office at 1600 Broadway that Harry Cohn, Joseph Brandt and Jack Cohn formed the C.B.C. Film Sales Company in 1920. Four years later, tired of the nickname “Corned Beef and Cabbage,” they renamed the company Columbia. In other words, 1600 Broadway was one of New York’s most familiar unknown buildings.

Sherwood Equities, the owner of the property and the developer of the Renaissance hotel, has applied to the city’s Buildings Department to construct a 25-story, 136-unit apartment tower at 1600 Broadway. It would rise 290 feet, almost three times as high as the Studebaker Building, which is not a landmark. Jeffrey Katz, the chief executive of Sherwood, said that he had seriously explored renovating the 102-year-old structure but that doing so would not be feasible. “It’s drastically out of place at this time,” Mr. Katz said. “It wants now to become something else.”

—“It wants now to become something else,” my Aunt Betty. At least have the grace to be honest and say, “I want to make s shitload of money, so I’m tearing down a beautiful 102-year-old building.”

Well, you will be able to attach more signs to a bigger building.

It’s a building. Who cares.

[QUOTE=Eve <snip>“It wants now to become something else,” my Aunt Betty. At least have the grace to be honest and say, “I want to make s shitload of money, so I’m tearing down a beautiful 102-year-old building.”[/QUOTE]

Exactly. Atlanta is notorious for tearing down beautiful old buildings for the same reason. Younger Atlantans find it hard to believe that we actually had to have “Save the Fox” campaign back in the '70s to keep it out of the hands of BellSouth and safe from the wrecker ball.

:: shakes head ::

Good lord, what a sad, beauty-free life you must lead.

-And now we take you to a live interview in Times Square with our roving reporter, Bob Forapples. Bob?

Bob: I’m here now in beautiful Times Square where, for the first time in its one-hundred-plus-year history, The Studebaker Building has agreed to speak with us. Hello, Studebaker Building.

Studebaker Building: Hello, Bob. Great to be here.

Bob: You don’t really have much choice, do you?

Studebaker Building: I disagree, Bob. Just the other day I was talking to Mr. Katz of Sherwood Equities, and he asked me if I wanted to be renovated.

Bob: I see. And what did you tell him?

Studebaker Building: I told him I felt out of place here, and I wanted to become something else.

Bob: What would you like to become?

Studebaker Building: Well, I was hoping for something like that pyramid at the Louvre, or maybe a Gehry, you know, like that Disney Concert hall they have there in California. You know, something modern and wild. Really catch the eye.

Bob: Uh-huh. And what was Mr. Katz’ reaction to this?

Studebaker Building: Well, he wasn’t too happy, you know? He said money doesn’t grow on trees, and he would probably just build an apartment tower like the ones up Columbus Avenue. I was very disappointed.

Bob: That’s a shame. But, like I said, you don’t have much choice, do you?

Studebaker Building: All I can say is, I’ve got some loose bricks up towards the top of my facade. I would hate to see Mr. Katz meet with an unfortunate accident if he happened to walk underneath one.

Bob: Well, you’ve been a great sport, and good luck in whatever future you have left to you. Goodbye, Studebaker Building.

Eve, I’m with you. I understand the desire to make money with new properties, but it breaks my heart a little to see beautiful old buildings being torn down. I live in Omaha, where the downtown has been taken over by First National Bank and Union Pacific, and the lovely brick and stone buildings from 100 years ago are being demolished in favor of that staple of modern society, Glass + Steel. Ugh.

caphis, why do you feel the need to crap on this thread? That’s rude.

As far as I’m concerned, the last Times Square landmark bit the dust when Peepland closed its doors.

Do you mean Peepland or Peepworld? The one with the sign of the dame sitting on the cresent moon is not only gone, that whole block (just east of the new Condé Nast building on 42nd) has been leveled.

It’s pretty much enclosed by glass now, right, and doesn’t look much like that anymore? I’ll have to take a look.

To me it’s the Suntory Whiskey and Coke Sign building. :slight_smile:

As much as I’d enjoy a luxury condo in the city, I think that’s about the worst location in the world to live at–always crowded, extremely noisy, bright lights, lumbering tourists blocking the sidewalks 24/7…

On a more serious note, let me recommend two books for those of you who, like me, loved New York in all its sleazy glory:

Tales of Times Square, by Josh Alan Friedman. An account of the sleaze that was Times Square in its heyday.

Down 42nd Street: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics at the Crossroads of the World, by Marc Elliot. A serious history of the politics of the endless cycle of development and redevelopment of Times Square.

Peepland. On 42nd, between 7th and 8th, with the giant eye peeking through a keyhole.

I don’t know how you reached that conclusion given simply that I won’t shed a tear over a building being replaced. I apologize if I lead a beauty-free life because I see this building as nothing more than a pile of organized metal, brick, and whatnot.

Sure, it’s pretty, but it’s still just a building.

Eh, some people are able to find beauty in things that are younger than 50 years. You have a relentless affinity for the past which ranges from charming to disturbing.

Personally, I thought the Studebaker was a decrepit, ugly piece of crap. It could have been much nicer if it had been properly maintained, but who’s to say that the new building won’t be an architectural marvel in its own right?

Did I say I was tearing my hair and rending my garments over it? I’ve been in NYC for 25 years, I know nothing is permenant. Doesn’t mean I can’t be sad to see a lovely old remnant of Times Square demolished.

Actually, I like some of the new buildings they’ve put up on the block of 42nd netween 8th and B’way, so you obviously don’t know me as well as you think you do.

Don’t apologize; I don’t dislike you, I feel sorry for what you’re missing in life.


The Mona Lisa? It’s just a bunch of organized wood, paint, and whatnot.

Sure, it’s pretty, but it’s still just a painting.

Any idea what the new building will look like?

How strict is New York about new construction fitting in with the old?

To quote the former head of the Architectural Review Board here in Richmond (which is home to some very old, very note-worthy structures and neighborhoods):

“Just because the building is old, doesn’t make it worthy of preservation.”

If the building has some unique quality to it, is representative of a style that is fast disappearing, has a significant place in history, of is in any other way objectively worth preserving, then I’m for keeping it. In that cas, the City should buy the property and then re-develop it or sell it for an adaptive reuse. Should the City want to preserve it and let it sit, that’s fine, too, provided the City buys it. If, however, the building is just old and doesn’t meet any sort of quantifiable criteria for preservation, I have to say that it belongs to the owner and he’s free to do with it as he pleases.

I’ve been involved in too many of these types of cases in my professional career to think otherwise.

I’m going to request this thread be closed. I just wanted to post a wistful good-bye to a building I’ve enjoyed seeing for the past 25 years, but apparently a couple of people would rather be unpleasant and ridicule my admiration for old architecture.