The Downtown Book logo

Financial District logo

Broadway logo

71 Broadway

Block 21 Lot 6

71 Broadway

71 Broadway overlooks Trinity Church just to its north on Broadway

By Carter B. Horsley

The very tall Gothic Revival, brownstone spire of Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street is one of New York's greatest landmarks for its architecture, its history and its inseparable associations with the international images of Wall Street as the financial center of the world.

Its isolated splendor at the foot of Wall Street is greatly enhanced by its very large, surrounding cemetery that gives it extraordinary "light and air." Although the former Irving Trust Building at One Wall Street surpassed the church in height, it did not overwhelm it and the church's open space is one of the most impressive in New York especially because the north and south sides have spectacular Gothic Revival-style, limestone office buildings with wonderful detailing that significantly augment the elegance of this major urban place.

This is the exceedingly distinguished building on the south side of the cemetery and its main facade, between Broadway and Rector Street, faces north towards the church and other major New York City landmarks such as the former Equitable Building and the former Marine Midland Bank buildings at 120 and 140 Broadway, respectively, in the background. It also used to have fine views of the tops of the World Trade Center, which was demolished in terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but it will have vistas of the new towers planned for "Ground Zero."

71 Broadway is across from 1 Wall Street

71 Broadway, right, is across Broadway from 1 Wall Street, center

This building was converted from an office building to a rental apartment building in 1998 and no other apartment building in New York City has comparably dramatic views with the possible exception of Olympic Tower just to the north of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral on Fifth Avenue at 51st Street.

Waterfront locations have their allure as do those that front on parks, but both often do not offer central, convenient locations and their views may be beautiful but not dramatic. This building almost makes the facades of the best Fifth Avenue apartment buildings pale in comparison architecturally.

This is the best of the second-generation of converted office buildings in Lower Manhattan that began to flourish in the mid- and late 1990's. The first generation, dating back to the 1980's, included 33 Liberty Street, a very fine skyscraper a few blocks away that is a slightly more impressive building but hemmed in by other major buildings.

While the first generation of such conversions suffered from a lack of residential neighborhood services, the newer crop has led the way to a significant increase of such amenities in the area. New restaurants and stores have opened and the vast and very impressive residential development at Battery Park City along the Hudson River just to the west has buttressed the transformation of the downtown business district to a mixed-use enclave of considerable diversity that has been also aided by the attractions of the South Street Seaport along the East River and the creation in the late 1990's of several museums at the foot of Broadway to the south.

It would be misleading, of course, to proclaim this as the city's most exciting residential neighborhood as it still needs an infusion of more restaurants, markets and stores, and the completion of many major construction projects, but from an architectural viewpoint it is without peer.

This 23-story building was erected in 1897 and was designed by Francis Kimball of Kimball & Thompson. From 1901 to 1976, it was the headquarters of U. S. Steel.

In their great book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City, Fourth Edition," Norval White and Elliot Willensky observed that the building's "entrance is a triumphant Roman ensemble," adding that "financier Russell Sage was almost assassinated in 1891 in an older Empire Building that occupied this spot before replacement by this Empire Building. He quickly threw his male secretary at the bomber, muffling the intended damage to himself but almost killing his secretary. Sage withstood his assistant's law suit and died very rich. His widow later established the Russell Sage philanthropies, among them Forest Hills Gardens."

The limestone-clad building has 237 apartments with high ceilings and desirable northern exposures. The building offers a free health club and has a doorman, storage space, a sundeck, a bicycle room, video security, a recreation room and a laundry on the 21st floor. It is a hop, skip and jump from the Wall Street subway station on Broadway.

The entrance is flanked by two pairs of polished granite columns that are surmounted by a portico topped by eagles sitting on globes. The entrance unfortunately is up a broad small flight of stairs that leads to a very large lobby behind less than inspired entrance doors.

Although it is dwarfed by the more famous Art Deco skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan that came in the generation after its construction, this building was and is a very significant contributor to the fabulous ambiance of downtown that inspired and awed the world.

Use the Search Box below to quickly look up articles at this site on specific artists, architects, authors, buildings and other subjects


Home Page of The City Review