Link - article by Avi Abrams

Where is this stupendous architecture when you need it?

Sorry folks, they do not build them like this any more. These imposing structures with all the look and atmosphere of a superhero's (or a supervillain's) headquarters now exist in a time warp, dwarfed by lifeless and faceless obelisks of financial and corporate might, only infrequently noticed by the busy and harried populace below.

I am talking about the 1920s and 1930s imperial style in architecture, loosely classified as Art Deco (although Art Deco is a much wider definition). The gothic and Gotham-styled edifices that were built in Manhattan and Chicago in the heady days before and during Depression are incredibly attractive to our eye, asking to be featured on DRB as often as possible. Well, here is the first installment, with many more (we hope) to come.

(images via 1, 2)

Trinity Building, New York

Architect: Francis H. Kimball
Location: 111 and 115 Broadway at Thames Street.
Built in 1904-1907.
Height: 22 floors, 308 feet (94 m) high

Built to complement Trinity Church (the true anchor of Wall Street), with just as much style and elaborate gothic feel, this fantastic building has to be seen to be believed.

(images credit: Andrew Prokos, Irving Underhill)

First, it sports some truly beautiful ornamental sculptures (including brass dragons!) and second - well, just wait till you see it in the light of a full Moon... it will seem as imposing as Harry Potter's castle, if you squint just right and forget about dozens of bulkier buildings around it).

(image credit: M.G. Chan, Gargoyles of New York)

Here is Trinity Church with Trinity Building right behind it. They do go together quite well:

(image via Sound Mind)

Trinity Building and Trinity Church are shown together in this postcard (left image); on the right is the photograph from 1914, where Trinity skyscraper is already fully constructed and the work continues on even taller buildings behind it:

(images via 1, 2)

(images via 1, 2)

To give you some perspective how this little corner of the world changed through time, here is the Trinity Church surrounded by "mighty skyscrapers" in 1847:

... and then, going even further back in time, the original Trinity Church gutted in the fire of 1776; and the second one built around 1800:

(images via)

Surrounded by a forest of skyscrapers... it even has sculpted roots:

(images via 1, 2)

We already wrote about 9/11 memorial "Roots" sculpture by Steve Tobin. Time to remind us again:

(images via 1, 2)

"During the September 11, 2001 attacks, as the 1st Tower collapsed, people took refuge from the massive debris cloud inside the church. Falling wreckage from the collapsing tower knocked over a giant sycamore tree that had stood for nearly a century in the churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel, which is part of Trinity Church's parish and is located several blocks north of Trinity Church. Sculptor Steve Tobin used its roots as the base for a bronze sculpture that stands next to the church today."

This is how this area looked on September 11, 2001:

(image via, photo by Ted Nellen)

Gargoyles, Dragons and Pinnacles

Returning to the Trinity Building: check out the gothic turrets and towers on top of this skyscraper! Hard to see from any lower levels, but aerial photography really gives it justice:

(images via)

"The Trinity is headed, at the Broadway/Thames angle, by a cupola, while the U.S. Realty is topped by crenellated frontons." It is also worth mention that Trinity Building was constructed on the very place of the first office building in New York.

(image credit: MaryLea)

This is true Neo-Gothic style: plenty of fanciful and broken-on-purpose carvings, ornamental portals - and yes, even dragons:

(image credit: Wally Gobetz)

Gargoyles are in abundance on both buildings (see our article about these unseemly and fascinating creatures here):

(image credit: Bill McKay)

(images credit: M.G. Chan, Gargoyles of New York)

The gargoyle on the right is from the adjacent US Realty Building:

(images credit: M.G. Chan, Gargoyles of New York)

More interesting gargoyles and also a mystery of a "masked lady" sculpted face on Trinity Building's facade can be seen on Scouting New York: highly recommended site for all interested in discovering hidden NY gems.

These were probably the first twin towers in New York

Trinity Building lives up to its gothic character. It even has a twin tower - the humbly named US Realty Building. But do not be deceived by its ho-hum name: this skyscraper is just as rich in ornaments and Art Deco detail as the Trinity Building. This is great: all the more real estate to explore for those who appreciate art deco and imperial architecture!

(images via 1, )

These building stand so close to each other that they are even connected by a bridge: this steel footbridge was added in 1912.

(image credit: Emilio Guerra)

Can you imagine trying to look out of the office windows in the towers facing each other? You would stare right into the other guy's sandwich. Not to mention that it will be permanently dark (these towers were built before the famous "stepped-back" skyscraper shapes became the norm, and so this is perhaps one of the few true sunless canyons left in gothic New York).

Incredible building. Together with the Trinity Church, this pair of architectural masterpieces presents the true testimony to the spirit of sophisticated and dynamic place that is New York - with the additional blessing of the Holy Trinity right in the New York's busiest heart.



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Blogger MekQuarrie said...

Fantastic article. Thanks for the effort taken to put it together...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article, and I hate to do this to someone who appreciates architecture, but this building is not Art-Deco. Not even close. It is gothic. Art-Deco began in Paris in the 1920s, the Trinity Building was built in NYC in 1904-05. Just sayin.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

You are absolutely right. We did have to fit it under "Art Deco" series, but only reluctantly. I am pretty sure, though, that gothic style has had significant influence on development of Art Deco - including this skyscraper as something to measure up to.

Blogger ben said...

are those gargoyles on trinity building or are they actually grotesques?

Anonymous NiceGuyLosAngeles said...

Your description of modern architecture as "lifeless and faceless obelisks of financial and corporate might" is spot-on target.

Anonymous A Pedant Writes... said...

They are indeed grotesques, as they don't spout water.

Still, fab article. Who are all the carved faces over the main entrance?

Anonymous JRS said...

Let's have more! I once dedicated a whole day to doing nothing but walking about Manhattan seeking out all the lovely old art deco/gothic/whatever-you-want-to-call-'em buildings that still exist, tucked away beneath the modern layer of mammoth skyscrapers. I found the easiest way to locate them was to go up about 30 floors in a building and find a large glass window to look down out of... made 'em easy to spot and mark on a map for closer inspection. New York City actually has a gorgeous architectural heritage still in existence, it's just hard to see those grand old trees for the forest of the newer buildings.

Anonymous ambien without rx said...

I found the easiest way to locate them was to go up about 30 floors in a building and find a large glass window to look down out of... made 'em easy to spot and mark on a map for closer inspection.

Blogger L. Schrader said...

These two buildings aren't even close to being art-deco. They are neo-gothic.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art deco can be neogothic like the Tribune Building in Chicago. These lean more on the beaux arts side though.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say you "had" to call it Art Deco? Why? Who is in control at your site that they make you post something wrong?

Blogger Unknown said...

My great great grandfather died during the construction of the The Trinity Building in 1906.


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