You may remember last year’s exhibit Rescued, Restored, Reimagined: New York’s Interior Landmarks at the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID). Developing out of that exhibit is the new book Interior Landmarks: Treasures of New York featuring 47 of the 117 interior landmarks in New York City. On the 50th Anniversary of the city’s landmark law, this beautiful book comes at a timely moment as new pressures on the law have come to the forefront just this year – ranging from the “decalendaring” of landmarks (successfully stopped) to Intro 775 that aims to put time limits on how long a proposed landmark can sit on the potentials list.
As Hugh Hardy writes in the introduction of Interior Landmarks: Treasures of New York, “Our hope is that this publication will bring new awareness of the subject, confirming the wisdom of saving these designs and increasing public interest in what has been missed…In anticipation of the next fifty years of this goal, we also suggest that more careful consideration should be given before designation to how changes in the use of landmark interiors can be appropriately accommodated.” Hardy also highlights the inherent bias in the landmarks law towards non-Modernist structures and the difficulty in preserving buildings that were designed where “outside and inside are one.”
In the introduction, authors Judith Gura and Kate Wood also speak to the difficulty of landmarking interiors, which are designed to be used actively, and often undergo changes as needed for maintenance and function. Interior landmarking was not part of the original 1965 law, added in 1973 after the loss of places like the original Metropolitan Opera House. This modification of the landmarks law likely saved the interior of Radio City Music Hall. The book’s introduction also addresses how post 9/11 security concerns have closed off many landmarked interiors, like the Woolworth Building, to the public.
The book is therefore both a gorgeous coffee table book, with full page plates of images and text, as well as a call to action. Here are 10 highlights in the book, in which the interiors are arranged chronologically by completion date from 1811 (City Hall) to the Ford Foundation (1967). We have attempted here to showcase the range of interior landmarks in New York City, but you can certainly discover many more stunning ones depending on your personal taste.
1. Tweed Courthouse
Built through graft, to be the epitome of Boss Tweed’s political machine, the Tweed Courthouse was the second oldest government building in New York City and cost $13 million in 1881 dollars. The interior is the only-known surviving cast-iron interior in the city and the 5-level atrium has a work by Roy Lichtenstein as its centerpiece.
The Tweed Courthouse, tainted by the rampant corruption of Boss Tweed, lay unused and fell into disrepair until a 1999 renovation headed by Mayor Guiliani. Now, the building serves as the headquarters of the New York Public School system and has a charter school in the basement. Public tours are available. See more of the interior of the Tweed Courthouse here.