Looking up at the AT&T switching building at 33 Thomas Street, June 2022
Looking up at the windowless building at 33 Thomas Street,

Walking the streets of New York City, passersby might notice that most of the buildings they pass are meant to be inviting: storefronts draw customers in, brownstone stoops welcome neighbors inside, and office building windows allow onlookers to observe thousands hard at work. But mixed into the densely built ecosystem of New York City are buildings that seem out of place. These “monoliths,” with towering concrete and stone walls that have few or no windows are uninviting and almost standoffish. The blank walls of these windowless buildings, though, hide incredible secrets as the diverse and sometimes surprising functions of these buildings often motivate their impenetrable appearance. Uncover the secrets that hide within these ten mysterious and monolithic windowless buildings in New York City.

1. Spring Street Salt Shed

The Spring Street Salt Shed. a windowless building.
The Spring Street Salt Shed from the West Side Highway,

The Spring Sheet Salt Shed sits out of place among the luxury apartments that line the west side of lower Manhattan. The shed resembles a massive iceberg, its smooth gray concrete slabs meet to form angular points that give it an imposing coolness. The windowless building, completed in 2015, stores massive mounds of road salt totaling 5,000 tons for the city’s sanitation department. In the days before an impending snow storm, a massive garage door at the back of the building opens to reveal the vault where snowplows and trucks source their salt. 

Magnified pictures of salt crystals and crumpled paper inspired WXY Architecture + Urban Design and Dattner Architects. The project, lauded by the American Institute of Architects and by the New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, was originally met with years of public outcry from the shed’s wealthy neighbors. But its placement is part of an effort by the city to create equity in terms of which neighborhoods are forced to house services that the whole city needs. As people explore Hudson Square or walk up and down Hudson River Park they will come across this piece of astounding yet intimidating architecture.