Sitting atop the freight transport center of the city is one of New York City’s oldest ‘modern’ buildings. The Starrett-Lehigh Building on West 26th Street was built in 1931 as a transportation and distribution center for the Starrett real-estate interests and the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Casting an unconventional shadow against the clunky grey buildings around it, the Starrett-Lehigh’s famous floor-to-ceiling windows are just one facet of its wacky design. Most recently, it was the site of the opening night gala of the 2015 Chelsea Music Festival, currently ongoing. Here are the top 6 fun facts we dug up about the place.
5. Intended as a Distribution Plant, The Building Sits Directly over A Freight Yard and the Chelsea Piers
Photo from New York Public Library
Built during a time when most everything was transported by train and Chelsea was one of the city’s most lucrative shipping and containment centers, the Starrett-Lehigh Building was constructed as a hub for freight transportation. It was built right on top of the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s working freight yard and was used primarily to store and process items in transit.
4. It Still Uses 30-Foot Elevators to Transport Food Trucks
The building used enormous 30-foot elevators to lift trucks and freight cars, brought in from the Lehigh Valley Railroad freight yard, to the upper floors of the building. The freight yard is now no longer used, but its elevators remain. Trucks for FedEx and UPS can unload on each floor, as seen in the photograph above. Often, local food trucks are invited to drive straight into the building and are lifted via these elevators to various levels that offer food truck lunch. Tommy Hilfiger is said to drive his car straight to his office floor!
3. Its Current Tenants Include The Offices of Martha Stewart, Tommy Hilfiger, and Club Monaco
Though conceived as a transportation hub, the building now houses several important forerunners of the arts. Hailed as a ‘cool’ new office space because of its unconventional architecture, the building’s largest tenant is the Tommy Hilfiger USA corporate headquarters.
2. Its Unique Curtain Wall Design Contains Eight Miles of Glass.
Most of the building’s offices and studios are treated to panoramic views of the Hudson River, which just under a century ago was once brimming with shipping containers. The building itself needs very little artificial light because of its windows, and is supported from the inside by steel beams because its walls, made entirely of class, cannot directly support its own weight.
1. It Might Be One of the Largest Buildings in the City
The building takes up an entire city block, one of only a few, like Macy’s Herald Square, to do so. The site’s geological makeup made for an interesting floor plan with a nine-floor wing on the west, an 18-floor wing on the east, and a 19-floor middle section.
In more current contexts, the building is one of the hosts of the 2015 Chelsea Music Festival, now in its 6th season, and was the site of the Festival’s opening night gala last Friday. The building’s Canoe Studios also hosted a handful of events last weekend including a survey of Finnish and Hungarian fiddlers and the 150th birthday celebration of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and Danish composer Hans Nielsen.
The Chelsea Music Festival is an annual celebration of Finnish and Hungarian culture, music, food, and language. Its opening gala featured a selection of Finnish and Hungarian classical pieces played by world-renowned musicians. Check here for more information.
Next, read about the Floating Train Barge that Crosses the Hudson River Twice a Day. Get in touch with the author @jinwoochong.