Preservationists fight to save Midtown Manhattan's 19th-century Demarest Building

Demerits for Demolition

Preservationists fight to save Midtown Manhattan's 19th-century Demarest Building

As more revered Midtown buildings are set to be replaced with new development, an iconic structure from 1890 has come under further threat. (Via Google Street View)

Another prominent Midtown Manhattan building could be demolished and replaced with a 26-story mid-rise tower. 

The Demarest Building, a 19th-century, iron-framed structure on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, has long been loved for its three-story-high arched windows and unique history as a high-end horse carriage showroom and later as the home of the world’s first electric elevator. Its owners, Pi Capital Partners, filed an application for the new building this summer but have yet to begin the paperwork for a demolition permit, according to amNewYork

Over the past few years, preservation groups have tried without success to stop the project. They worry that, if destroyed, the Demarest Building would be a major loss for the city, given its architectural and technological legacy. It was designed in 1890 by local firm Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell, the practice of St. Patrick’s Cathedral architect James Renwick Jr., and built by Aaron T. Demarest, a prominent carriage and automobile manufacturer. The then-upcoming Carnegie Hall was thought to be the design inspiration for the light-orange Beaux Arts building, though it’s unlikely since they were built around the same time. 

Preservationists are set to gather today at 10:30 a.m. at a rally on-site (339 Fifth Ave.) to protest the Demarest’s potential demolition. The event is co-organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has repeatedly appealed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the building as a local landmark and has launched a petition (here) to save the building. The LPC claims its exterior has been altered too much since opening nearly 140 years ago. 

Andrew Berman, the organization’s executive director, told amNewYork that despite any changes, the Demarest Building is particularly significant given its age and because it’s a “great link to New York’s commercial past and its development as the commercial capital of the world.” 

Situated blocks away from Penn Station and near Herald Square as well as the Empire State Building, the structure is and has always been a cornerstone of activity. While now the ground floor contains a Wendy’s, a souvenir shop, and a money exchange, the upper portion of its tan brick facade—with its terra-cotta panels and detailing—has remained architecturally iconic, preservationists argue ,and should be saved. 

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