Interior view of the rotunda. "Element #E," from Five Brushstrokes sculptural works by Roy Lichtenstein.
Patricia, our informative volunteer docent.
A photo from the Conservancy's 1977 Public Buildings Inventory report.
Tweed Courthouse, February 2013
February 1, 2013
The Old New York County Courthouse, better known as Tweed Courthouse, is architecturally one of New York’s greatest civic monuments and is the second oldest city government building in Manhattan, after City Hall. Built between 1861 and 1881, it is the product of two of New York’s most prominent 19th century architects, John Kellum (1809-1871) and Leopold Eidlitz (1823-1908). The Courthouse has retained its original spatial arrangement, encompassing 30 monumental courtrooms and a central rotunda. Their immense cast-iron structural and decorative elements are unparalleled in any American public building. It was designated a New York City landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
In 1977, the Conservancy released its Public Buildings Inventory. This survey photographed and cataloged 760 Federal, State and City owned buildings of architectural interest in New York City built before 1940. The idea sprang from the announcement that the City was about to demolish the historic Tweed Courthouse and the ensuing preservation battle convinced the Conservancy that it was essential to have a readily-at-hand file of architecturally important publicly owned buildings. Tweed Courthouse was saved from the wrecking ball and the Conservancy helped fund the Courthouse’s extensive roof repair in 1977.
In 1999, a comprehensive restoration began to return Tweed to its original grandeur. The front staircase, which had been removed in 1940 to widen Chambers Street, was reconstructed. The restoration also included the reapplication of the historic paint scheme, which includes faux brick painting and gold leaf appliqué.
Today, Tweed is home to the New York City Department of Education and the first floor is occupied by a public school.
Thanks to the Public Design Commission of the City of New York and Patricia, our informative volunteer docent, for a great tour. If you are interested in a public tour of the Tweed Courthouse, click here.
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Throughout the year, Circle tours go behind-the-scenes of some of New York’s most interesting historic properties. Some tours require hard hats to visit projects during restoration, while others showcase completed restorations of commercial buildings, residences, museums, churches, and synagogues. On occasion, conservators, engineers, and craftspeople open their studios to our Circle members.