The Best of Preservation

National awards given

90
90 West Street

Credit: Mark Anderson, AIA

Visit the website maps.google. com, type in "90 West St., New York, NY," then click on "Search Maps," and you end up with a street plan in Lower Manhattan. An arrow indicates an address adjacent to the southwest corner of Ground Zero. Next, if you select "Satellite," something unexpected happens. Zooming in, a bird's-eye view appears of architect Cass Gilbert's 90 West Street Building, the revival of which won one of this year's National Preservation Awards, announced on Nov. 2 in Pittsburgh (see page 8).

The image is out of date. Probably shot in late 2002 or early 2003, it captures a heavily damaged building—a gaping hole from Sept. 11, 2001, where the roof should be—when it was stranded between two renovations, the first nearing completion at the time of the terror attacks, and the second about to begin.

"Theirs was a restoration," says Peter Levenson, one of the building's current owners, referring to the pre-Sept. 11 project. "Ours is a reconstruction, done with the same materials and techniques as the original." Levenson and other parties bought the 1907 building in late 2002 for $13 million. "I'd seen pictures showing rubble from the World Trade Center lodged in the walls," Levenson says. "By the time I was involved, it was just a burned-out shell, its roof and base melted and lots of crumbling terra cotta."

In 1905, Gilbert began designing the 23-story, terra cotta-clad Gothic tower. It was a precursor of the 60-story Woolworth Building nearby, started in 1910, and for which, along with the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., the architect is best known. His scheme gave the tower a granite base, terra-cotta middle floors, and a copper mansard roof. 

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