Architectural Secrets in the Middle of New York
Midtown Manhattan is home to some of the most iconic buildings in the world: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the headquarters of the United Nations. Midtown is home to Rockefeller Center, the Broadway Theater District , and Times Square, plus the headquarters for NBC, CBS, and ABC television networks.
Not surprisingly, the majority of New York City’s tallest office buildings, hotels, and apartment buildings all within Midtown. But despite all the commuters, residents, tourists, hotels, and students continually crisscrossing the streets and avenues of this most urban environment, there are still secret places… places most New Yorkers have never visited, and likely don’t even know about.
For instance, how would you like to read a book in a peaceful green space next to a waterfall without leaving the center of the city?
Your average New Yorker might be forgiven for not knowing about Midtown Manhattan’s Greenacre Park. It’s easily located on East 51st Street if you are looking for it—but if not, the signage is not especially prominent and with all the engaging distractions that are simply part of walking in New York City, you could easily miss it.
Funded and maintained by Abby Rockefeller Mauze’s Greenacre Foundation, and designed by Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay Associates (whose motto today is “We Create Places That Prove Human Potential”), Greenacre Park opened in 1971 with a footprint of roughly only 1/7 acre— roughly 60-feet wide by 120-feet deep. It seems much larger due to the use of the space inside.
Granite, brick, and steel materials provide a nice contrast on the separate terraced areas for sitting. Plantings of honey locust, evergreens such as rhododendron, azalea, Japanese holly, and Andromeda, seasonal flowers and of course the dramatic waterfall in the rear of the park on the lowest terrace beckon the visitor to come inside and linger.
Visitors may not notice immediately, but one benefit of the 25 foot waterfall is that its roar baffles the noise of the city surrounding the park. This creates a feeling for visitors of peaceful calm in the middle of the City that Never Sleeps, and an experience they are unlikely to forget.
This Neo-Gothic structure opened in 1856, designed by famous architect James Renwick, Jr., who also designed New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue and Grace Church on Broadway, as well as the Smithsonian Building in Washington, D.C.
Part of the reason for the unfamiliarity of New Yorkers with the ruins today is location. The Renwick Smallpox Hospital was built on what was then called Blackwell’s Island—known today as Roosevelt Island. Lying in the East River, between Manhattan and Queens, the distance of the island from the rest of the New York population was the primary consideration in selecting it for isolating patients with highly contagious smallpox.
Even today, though the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge runs directly above, the only easy access is via the Roosevelt Island Tram. Those willing to part with the price of a subway ride can insert their Metro Card at the station at 59th Street and Second Avenue and soar above the river—with terrific views along the way. The Renwick ruins are located at the southern tip of the island, an easy walk on the sidewalk– with still more views of Manhattan to your right.
Between its opening in 1856 and 1886, when it was converted to a training facility for nurses, the 100-bed hospital treated 7,000 smallpox patients annually. The facility served one purpose or another until the 1950s, when it was closed and its operations moved to new buildings in Queens. The building fell into disrepair and began to crumble until the 1970s when architect Giorgio Cavaglieri inspected it and made plans to reinforce the walls. In 1972, the hospital was added to the National Register of Historic Places, making it New York City’s only landmarked ruin.
Visiting can be especially interesting at night, now that the Renwick Ruins are illuminated. A paved walkway allows visitors easy access to walk around the remaining structure—though a gate and fencing surrounds and protects what is left.
Architectural secrets in New York. They are there, if you are willing to look. Discovering them is fun, and part of the fun is seeing how the design inspiration elevated what could have been something mundane into something extraordinary.
Design Inspiration fuels architectural projects, and new materials are available to fulfill the inspiration. Roos International can help you create your own dream design of something special– we’ve been fostering Design Inspiration for over 30 years now. Our reason for being is to help bring your ideas to reality.
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And below you can see how Lab Designs™ ebony laminates were used by South Branch Construction Services in the Oceanside 4 Elevator Cabs on Fisher Island.
Oceanside 4, Elevator Cabs, Fisher Island
Roos makes it easy to design and create the kind of looks that make people take a special trip to see—the kind of looks that can inspire years into the future. Come create your own masterpiece, with the largest selection of decorative surfacing materials for walls, surfaces, and ceilings all in one place. Come to Roos International.