Conservancy Testifies in Support of Windermere Restoration
1940 Tax Photo
Aerial View of 9th Avenue
Stone Sill Detail
Proposed Restoration - West 57th St.
Proposed Restoration - East 9th Ave.
The Conservancy testified at a Landmarks Commission hearing on November 12, a milestone in the history of a remarkable West Side building. The Windermere is a complex of three tenements, constructed in 1880-81. The red brick buildings all feature common materials and decorative elements, with picturesque textured, corbelled, and polychrome brick, stone trim, and Romanesque round arched windows.
The Windermere is the oldest-known large apartment complex remaining in an area that was one of Manhattan’s first apartment-house districts. The apartments were marketed as flats for ‘The New Woman’ in 1881 – single, working women, living alone. The Conservancy commissioned research that led to the building’s designation as an individual landmark and a finding of eligibility on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
When the Conservancy added the Windermere to our Endangered Buildings List, the complex had endured two decades of virtually no maintenance at the hands of an absentee owner. In 2005, the Conservancy retained a preservation engineer who found the building to be in precarious condition, and unsafe for occupancy. While the masonry and foundation were in good repair, much of the roof and floor framing had extensive water damage and the structural stability of the masonry parapets, cornices and decorative features was a concern.
Following designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the LPC initiated a suit against the owners, arguing demolition by neglect. In 2009, the City has reached a settlement with the previous owners resulting in the payment of $1.1 million in civil penalties to the City, and a separate agreement which included a commitment by the buildings’ new owner to repair and maintain the structures.
This month, the Conservancy testified in support of a proposal to restore the façade to its historic appearance and insert rooftop additions as part of a plan that would allow reuse of the Windermere as a boutique hotel. The Commission approved the proposal. Despite the best efforts of many foes, the Windermere has survived and will prosper. This is truly a preservation victory for the Conservancy and the City.