Interborough Rapid Transit Co. Powerhouse - 855-869 Eleventh Aveaka 601-669 West 58th Street; 600-648 West 59th Street
IRT Powerhouse between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues
Architect: Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White
Engineers: S. L. F. Deyo, Lewis B. Stillwell, & John Van Vleck
Type: Subway Powerhouse
NYC Landmark Designation: Individual Landmark
Landmarks Commission designated this former wishlist item on December 5th, 2017. Full report to follow!
A majestic symbol of the City Beautiful movement designed by the era’s most prestigious architectural firm, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Powerhouse provided electricity for New York’s first subway system. Occupying an entire city bloc, this mammoth structure was the largest powerhouse in the world upon its completion in 1904, and it represented the highest level of technical sophistication in the production of electrical power at that time. The building heralded a new era of electrified urban transportation, illustrating the power of technology to improve urban life. (Adapted from the official Landmarks Preservation commission significance statement)
East (Eleventh Avenue) Facade, Historic: Ashlar Milford granite basement, buff Roman brick,and decorative terra cotta; classical entrance surround with hood, and window opening above, at northern end of facade; projecting central pavilion containing six bays divided by rusticated pilasters with terra-cotta bases, blocks, and capitals, all with classical ornament; cartouches within pilaster capitals, each containing a pinecone cradled by two downward-pointing wings, surrounded by lightning bolts; round-arch-headed first-story window openings with gauged-brick arches, tripartite archivolts with guilloche and foliate motifs, and console keystones with eagles; garlanded wreaths with cartouches above keystones; tripartite window frames with classically decorated mullions at (reading left to right) first, second, and third bays on central pavilion; molded transom bars and tripartite transom windows with classically decorated mullions and some lattice sashes at all round-arch-headed window openings on central pavilion; frieze containing discs linked by garlands above pilaster capitals; decorative panels and paired window openings with foliated surrounds, some with lattice sashes, in bays flanking central pavilion and at attic level of all bays; machicolated frieze with inset scallop shells above attic; stepped parapet with tablet reading “INTERBOROUGH RAPID TRANSIT COMPANY” and two diamonds.
Alterations: Replacement infill within entrance opening; light fixtures, conduit, cameras, signage, and flagpoles at entrance; complete replacement of windows below transom bars within fourth, fifth, and sixth bays of central pavilion; selective replacement of awning lattice sashes with sashes of other types and with louvers; cornice removed, and original cornice location covered with cementitious material; original clock removed from above parapet.
South (West 58th Street) Facade, Historic: Similar to Eleventh Avenue facade, but with paired pilasters, no decorative pilaster blocks or wreaths, brick transom panels rather than transom windows, and with attic-level window openings grouped in
threes rather than paired; basement openings grouped in threes; possibly historic basement opening within first bay; railroad entrance portal with classical surround at eastern end of facade; tripartite window frames with classically decorated mullions; lattice sashes within most window frames.
Alterations: Roll-down gate and other infill within railroad portal; light fixtures with conduit adjacent to railroad portal and throughout facade; basement openings and areaway filled in; large square-headed basement openings with signage, gate boxes, and mirrors added within second, sixth, 10th, and 13th bays; 10th- and 13th-bay windows removed and replaced with brick; selective replacement of awning lattice sashes with sashes of other types and with louvers at other window openings; cornice removed, and original cornice location covered with cementitious material.
North (West 59th Street) Facade, Historic: Similar to West 58th Street facade, but without historic grouped basement openings; possibly historic basement opening within 19th bay; railroad entrance portal with classical surround at eastern end of facade; tripartite window frames with classically decorated mullions, molded transom bars, and tripartite transom windows; lattice sashes within some window frames.
Alterations: Roll-down gate and other infill within railroad portal; light fixtures with conduit adjacent to railroad portal and throughout facade; large square-headed basement opening with signage, gate box, mirror, and camera added within seventh bay; third-bay transom frame modified for installation of louver; seventh-bay window replaced with brick below transom; non-historic brick and other infill within 19th-bay basement opening; 19th-bay window opening filled with brick; selective replacement of awning lattice sashes with sashes of other types and with louvers; cornice removed, and original cornice location covered with cementitious material.
Roof, Historic: Pitched roof and clerestory form.
Alterations: Clerestory removed at southeast corner of building; roof (originally terra-cotta tile) and nine-pane awning sashes in clerestory replaced by, or covered with, metal; six historic smokestacks removed between the late 1960s and 2009; existing high smokestack installed in late 1960s in a different location from the original smokestacks; rooftop equipment visible over south facade.