P R O P O S E D H I S T O R I C D I S T R I C T E X T E N S I O N
UNITED CHARITIES BUILDING
The construction of the United Charities Building in 1892 was an important milestone in the history of philanthropy in New York. The building was erected for use as the headquarters of four porminent charitable institutions, the Charity Organization Society, the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, the Children's Aid Society, and the New York Mission and Tract Society. It was planned as a response to the fact that office rental costs were becoming an ever-increasing burden for charitable organizations. The idea of opening a building to house several charitable organizations had first been broached in 1885, but nothing was done about this proposal until 1890, when a subscription was started by the Charity Organization Society to raise funds for the erection of such a structure. A year later, John S. Kennedy, a wealthy banker involved with several charitable groups, offered to pay the entire cost of the site and building.
Kennedy chose R.H. Robertson as architect for the project. Robertson was an appropriate choice, having had extensive experience with the design of buildings for charitable and religious institutions, including the YWCA at 7 East 15th Street and the related Margaret Louisa Home at 14-16 East 16th Street (both in the LadiesŐ Mile Historic District) and the Academy of Medicine on West 43rd Street (demolished). Robertson was assisted by the firm of Rowe & Baker; James Baker was KennedyŐs nephew. It is generally believed that Robertson was fully responsible for the exterior of the United Charities Building, which was designed in the Renaissance Revival mode that had begun to use early in the 1890s. Baker may have been responsible for some of the interiors. The most important interior space, the ground-floor Assembly Hall, entered directly from an entrance at the east end of the 22nd Street elevation, is undoubtedly RobertsonŐs work. Although somewhat deteriorated, this room is an extraordinary survivor from the late 19th century. It contains a cast-iron coved ceiling, supporting piers, plaster foliate decoration, plaster roundels with childrenŐs heads, and a speakerŐs platform.
The original United Charities Building was a seven-story structure with a two-story limestone base, four-story brick central section divided into two two-story units, and a crowning mansard roof over the entire East 22nd Street elevation and half of the Park Avenue south frontage. The main entrance was through a wide round arch on East 22nd Street, but there were subsidiary entrances on Park Avenue South (known as Fourth Avenue at the time the building was constructed). On Park Avenue South, the building was divided internally into two sections, each with a separate entrance (after Kennedy's death in 1909 the section to the north was named the Kennedy building). In 1897, James Baker was commissioned to remove the mansard and add three additional stories to the entire structure, Baker received additional work in 1915, when he designed the four-story addition at 111 East 22nd Street that was planned to provide space for the New York School of Philanthropy.
The main section of the United Charities Building still houses philanthropic institutions, notably the Community Service Society, formed in 1939 by the merger of the Charity Organization Society and the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. The Kennedy Building and the 22nd Street extension have been sold., The Kennedy Building is now apartments. In 1946, the extension became the headquarters of the DockbuildersŐ Union. In the 1980s, the union sold the building and it underwent a conversion for commercial use (it became a restaurant and modeling agency). In 1991, the entire United Charities complex was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Gramercy Park Hotel
Church Missions House
New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
United Charities Building
Manhattan Trade School for Girls
Family Court Building
Gustavus Adolphus Swedish Lutheran Church
Miss E.L. Breese Carriage House
111 & 113
115 & 117
IRT Company Substation
65 & 71