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It’s a curiosity that happens often in Paris, but not so often in New York: Facade-only structures and buildings adapted to original facades. We’re all familiar with buildings that are built atop old ones – The Hearst Building adapted into a high rise by Norman Foster, The Porter House in the Meatpacking by SHoP Architects–but it’s rare to see just the front shell of a building hanging out solo. Preservation is often the impetus behind such strange building configurations, explaining why its a common sight in Paris where laws on building alteration are much stricter than here.

But if you look carefully in New York City, you may find some:

The brick facade at 141 Canal Street is currently being renovated and the fire escapes reconditioned, according to the NYC Department of Buildings, but the combination of the unbricked facade and the angle of the photograph makes it look like a fake building. Here’s a shot of the bricked facade in August 2011 from Google Maps:

The following image shows the unique shape of the building mass from the side, showing that it’s not a facade-only building but it could easily be mistaken for one!

It’s also a building that has been reported for numerous building violations, including loose planks on the scaffolding and failure to include guardrails. The original facade had an engraved stone detail with the date of construction–1914–I wonder if it’ll be back after its redone.

St. Ann’s Church on E. 10th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue was demolished to make way for an NYU dorm that was completed in 2005, but the facade was retained:

We couldn’t find an inscription or plaque so the church facade stands incongruously alone amidst the 26-story dorm. According to the East Village blog of the New York Times, its demolition jump started attempts to limit out of context development on 3rd and 4th avenues.

On Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking is another seemingly skinny facade:

Skinny Facade-Gansevoort Street-Meatpacking District-NYCPhoto by Julian Ferraldo for Untapped Cities

The York College Child and Family Center in Jamaica, Queens is an example of an adaptive reuse of the landmarked St. Monica’s Catholic Church, built in 1856. It suffered a collapse in 1998 leaving only the facade and bell tower. If ever on the Long Island Rail Road, you’ll see this structure from the train just after Jamaica.

Similarly on Staten Island, the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne was also reconstructed after a fire in 1973:

Staten Island Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne Church-Facade-NYC

Have you come across any buildings like these in New York City? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment if you have. Here are some real fake facades in Paris and for more on quirky building habits, read about the suburban proliferation of fake window shutters on the East Coast.

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.

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2 Comments

  1. […] We love a good fake facade, especially when it hides a secret subway entrance. Untapped Cities tracked down a few facades that are fake, look fake, or hide a thoroughly modern exterior behind an older interior. Our favorite is the one at 141 Canal, which really only looks fake. [Untapped Cities] […]

  2. […] We love a good fake facade, especially when it hides a secret subway entrance. Untapped Cities tracked down a few facades that are fake, look fake, or hide a thoroughly modern exterior behind an older interior. Our favorite is the one at 141 Canal, which really only looks fake. [Untapped Cities] Monthly Archive […]

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