Protecting Our Landmarks
CUNY is the guardian of a rich collection of architecturally distinctive and important buildings that reflect and symbolize New York City’s magnificent architectural, educational, political and social history. Historic sites such as City College’s neo-Gothic North Campus, designed by George B. Post, and the Stanford White Beaux-Arts jewel, Bronx Community College, join a developing portfolio of inspirational new structures by prominent architects, Baruch College’s light-filled Vertical Campus by William Pedersen and Lehman College’s Apex Sports Facility designed by Rafael Viñoly, among them. As CUNY builds its legacy, it is also preserving structures that have been declared national and city landmarks for their historical significance. Elegant, evocative and educational, the following historic sites have been given new purpose as centers of learning, while preserving the University’s – and the city’s -- precious heritage.
The City College of New York
The iconic North Campus of City College, built more than a century ago, is considered one of the finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture at any institution in the United States. The site features five landmark structures designed by distinguished American architect George B. Post, on a scenic campus between St. Nicholas Terrace and Convent Avenue, stretching from 138th Street to 140th Street in upper Manhattan.
Completed in 1907, the campus became the new home for City College, which had outgrown its original facility at 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue. The buildings, as well as four great arches, were constructed as one complete project, resulting in a unique harmony and architectural cohesiveness.
- As early as 1897, academicians were referring to the campus’ site as “the Acropolis.”
- Architect George Browne Post also designed the original New York Times Building in 1889 and the 1903 New York Stock Exchange Building.
Bronx Community College
University Heights Campus
Announcing the designation on Oct. 17, 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the original buildings “a nationally significant example of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States, and among the most important works by Stanford White, partner in McKim, Mead & White, the preeminent American architectural firm at the turn of the 20th century.”
Designed by McKim, Mead & White, in particular Stanford White, the hall is one of three buildings adjoining the historic Colonnade that provides a panoramic view of the Harlem River. It is used for offices and classrooms
- McKim, Mead and White also designed the Brooklyn Museum and the Morgan Library.
- The 1912 classical building forms one end of the semicircular Hall of Fame.
- It was once part of New York University.
During the late 1940s, New York University embarked on a major building campaign. Many prominent architects participated, including Breuer who relocated his practice to New York City in 1946 and was commissioned in 1956 to design a comprehensive master plan for the University Heights campus. Among the five structures built, Begrisch Hall was the most daring. Executed in exposed reinforced concrete, it features a pair of sloping cantilevers that spring from side-wall trusses and appear to defy gravity. These bold sculptural forms reflect specific programmatic requirements, enclosing a pair of steep-floored lecture halls, seating a combined two hundred- and-fifty students.Full text <pdf>
Sara Delano Roosevelt House
The dignified, landmarked Georgian-style double townhouse at 47-49 E. 65th St. in Manhattan, now the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, was the Manhattan home of FDR and his wife, Eleanor from its completion in 1908, with Sara Delano Roosevelt occupying No. 47 and her son and daughter-in-law Franklin and Eleanor residing in No. 49. The fourth-floor front bedroom of No. 49 was where FDR, stricken with polio in 1921, began his struggle to convalesce from the crippling disease and resume an active life.
In 1942, a year after Sara Delano Roosevelt’s death, a group of citizens raised funds to purchase the brick townhouse and gave it to Hunter College for use as a social and interfaith center – an act that so pleased President Roosevelt that he furnished its library and donated books for it.
- The Georgian-style double townhouse was commissioned by Sara Delano Roosevelt. She lived in one half; her son and daughter-in-law, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, occupied the other.
- When he was stricken with polio in 1921, FDR began his convalescence in the fourth-floor front bedroom.
- President Roosevelt was so delighted by the deal that he furnished its library and donated books for it.
The Graduate Center
B. Altman & Company Department Store Building
The CUNY Graduate Center has been located in the stately, landmarked B. Altman & Co. Building at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue since 1999. Upgraded into a state-of-the-art academic facility, the Italian Renaissance palazzo-style classic today provides a distinguished and centrally located campus for the Graduate Center in the heart of midtown Manhattan, while preserving a legendary, multifaceted gem of New York City history.
The opening of the famed B. Altman department store at 365 Fifth Ave. in 1906 sparked the transformation of then “middle” Fifth Avenue from a small-scale street of expensive shops into a new-era shopping mecca lined with multi-story department stores – the box stores of their day.
- The B. Altman & Company Building, which opened in 1906, transformed Fifth Avenue into a big-box-store shopping mecca.
- Benjamin Altman, the store’s founder, was the first major employer to install restrooms and a subsidized cafeteria for his employees; the first to inaugurate a shorter business day and Saturday closings in the summer; and the first to provide funding for employee education.
Louis Armstrong House
“From a humble, two-room shack in New Orleans, he rose to the top of the world and having risen to the top of the world, he came to live in Corona,” former New York Mayor John Lindsay once said of the famed jazz genius and pioneer Louis Armstrong.
Armstrong lived for nearly three decades in the modest, brick-fronted Corona, Queens home that today is the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which is partnered with Queens College, and open to the public for events, school tours, research or simple homage to Satchmo’s life and incomparable contribution to American culture, the museum holds troves of Armstrong memorabilia -- thousands of items from recordings and photographs to letters, manuscripts, trumpets and artifacts.
- Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, bought the modest brick-covered frame house in Corona in 1943.
- Lucille bought the house without telling him. Louis had never had a permanent residence. When she handed him the key, he told the cab driver to wait for him because he had no intention of staying.
- It was his home base for the last 28 years of his life.
- The house looks much as it did when he lived there.
St. Monica's Church
The York College Child and Family Center, an affordable child care and education program for the children of York students, opened in 2009 on the redeveloped site of the former St. Monica’s Catholic Church, a historically significant Early Romanesque Revival-style brick church built for $25,000 in 1856 to serve the then-growing Irish Catholic population in Jamaica.
The City of New York took over the church building in 1973 as part of the York College Urban Renewal Site, but a lack of plans for the vacant structure left it vandalized and in disrepair long after completion of York’s campus in the mid-1980s.
- It is one of the earlier surviving examples of Early Romanesque Revival architecture in New York and one of the only Roman Catholic Churches in the city executed in this style.
- Archbishop John Hughes initiated an immense building program. When he died in 1864, his legacy encompassed 85 churches, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and St. Monica’s.