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The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark

The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
-The new Fulton Center Transit Hub and the newly Restored Corbin Building
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
-Corbin Building detail
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
-Corbin Building detail
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
-Corbin Building before restoration
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
The Corbin Building is Designated an Individual Landmark
-Corbin Building, circa late 1800s

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the richly decorated Corbin Building, on the corner of Broadway and John Street, an individual landmark on June 23. The Conservancy had long advocated for the restoration and designation of the 1889 building and its incorporation into the Fulton Center. It was initially slated to be torn down, along with the rest of the block, for the new facility.

As part of our campaign, the Conservancy brought in engineers to assess the building’s structural stability and to ascertain that it could be adapted for reuse as part of the Fulton Center. We also helped generate political and editorial support. Today the beautifully restored building complements the modern, state of the art, portion lower Manhattan’s new transit hub.

The Corbin was designed by the prominent 19th century architect Francis Hatch Kimball in high ornamented style, featuring elements derived from the Francois Premier style of early 17th century France. Kimball, who was a pioneer in the use of architectural terra cotta, deployed it exceptionally well at Corbin. Its fine arches, belt courses, cornices and parapets, are festooned with richly textured figurative and geometric decoration.

The building also incorporated the latest structural technology of its day including load bearing iron beams and Guastavino tile vaults. The construction technology employed at the Corbin would quickly evolve, in cities like New York and Chicago, into the fully-realized steel skeleton and masonry curtain wall construction of the early skyscrapers. As such, the Corbin can well be described as a proto-skyscraper. At only nine stories in height, it was nevertheless one of the three or four tallest commercial buildings in Manhattan when it opened for business in 1889.

The building’s history has come around a full circle. The original builder and namesake, Austin Corbin, was a transportation pioneer, as a founder of the Long Island Railroad. After a century of housing various offices, it is once again part of the transportation infrastructure. The MTA’s integration of Corbin into the transit hub is an excellent example of how historic buildings can be adapted for new uses. We were thrilled to see the MTA’s spectacular restoration, which has recaptured the beauty of Kimball’s design including light brown sandstone bands accented by ruddy terra cotta trim and bright red painted cast iron window bays. Dragons, griffins, dolphins, urns and spiraling vines are among the varied decorative motifs employed on the two principal street facades. Prior to restoration, the facades were uniformly dark brown. Their cleaning and conservation uncovered the surprisingly colorful and strikingly original appearance that we can admire today. In its newly restored state, the Corbin Building is surely one of the historic gems of lower Manhattan.