Pershing Square, Manhattan

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Coordinates: 40°45′07.6″N 73°58′39.6″W / 40.752111°N 73.977667°W / 40.752111; -73.977667

The Park Avenue Viaduct over 42nd Street, under which is Pershing Square; the green sign in the center of the bridge says "Pershing Square". Grand Central Terminal is on the center and left.
Pershing Square as originally proposed in 1919, showing (from L) a never-built replacement for the new Murray Hill Hotel, the Belmont Hotel, a never-built replacement for the new Hotel Manhattan, the Biltmore Hotel, Grand Central Terminal, and the Hotel Commodore

Pershing Square is a public square in Manhattan, New York City, located where Park Avenue and 42nd Street intersect in front of Grand Central Terminal. The main roadway of Park Avenue crosses over 42nd Street on the Park Avenue Viaduct, also known as the Pershing Square Viaduct. Two service roads, one northbound and one southbound, connect 42nd Street with the main roadway of Park Avenue, at 40th Street.

Pershing Square was named after John J. Pershing in 1919. The name was originally supposed to apply to the block bounded by Park Avenue, Lexington Avenue, 41st Street, and 42nd Street. Three buildings were ultimately developed on the block in the 1920s: the Pershing Square Building, 110 East 42nd Street, and the Chanin Building. Subsequently, the name applied to the service roads of the Park Avenue Viaduct. A tourist information center under the viaduct, at Pershing Square, was built in 1939; it was later reconfigured to be a store and then a restaurant. The service roads between 42nd and 41st Streets were converted into a pedestrian public plaza in 2018.

Development[edit]

The square is named after General John J. Pershing, and was originally intended to be an open plaza in Pershing's honor occupying the entire block between 41st Street, Park Avenue, 42nd Street, and Lexington Avenue. Until 1885, Steuben Street—named for Revolutionary War general Baron von Steuben—ran diagonally across the block. The Grand Union Hotel was built on the northwestern corner of the block in 1883.[1] The eastern part of the block contained the Manhattan Storage Warehouse, which was built in 1882.[2] The hotel was condemned via eminent domain in 1914, and it was subsequently demolished to make way for the construction of the New York City Subway's Grand Central–42nd Street station, which ran diagonally below the site.[1][3]

Shortly after the opening of the Park Avenue Viaduct in 1919, the area at the bottom of the viaduct was renamed for Pershing.[4] The former Grand Union Hotel space was proposed for use as an open plaza[5] with a three-story memorial called "Victory Hall".[6] The idea of a victory hall was opposed by Fiorello H. La Guardia, president of the New York City Board of Aldermen.[7] The Transit Commission attempted to sell the building site in May 1920 for $2.8 million (equal to $27.5 million in 2019),[8] but no one placed a bid.[9][10]

In July 1920, a realty consortium headed by investor Henry Mandel bought the Grand Union site.[11][12] Mandel gave the Bowery Savings Bank the center part of the Pershing Square block, which would be developed into an office building at 110 East 42nd Street,[13] completed in 1923.[14][15] The western part of the site became the Pershing Square Building, also completed in 1923.[16] The eastern part, which contained the storage warehouse, was redeveloped into the Chanin Building, which opened in 1929.[17] The "Pershing Square" name subsequently applied to the service roads of the Park Avenue Viaduct between 40th and 42nd streets.[18]

Viaduct space and closure to traffic[edit]

The space under the viaduct between 41st and 42nd streets was originally used as a trolley barn.[19] In 1938, the city announced that it would build a tourist information center within that space in advance of the 1939 New York World's Fair.[20] The city subsequently built a steel and glass-brick structure under the center arch of the viaduct.[21][22] The structure, located at 90 East 42nd Street,[23] opened in December 1939 and was initially used to provide tourist information.[24][25] During World War II, the space was used by United Service Organizations, and after the war, became an outpost of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.[26] The building had become an unemployment office by the 1980s.[21][22]

In 1989, the Grand Central Partnership proposed to turn the space under the viaduct, at the time a discount store, into a restaurant. Pershing Square would also be closed to traffic between 41st and 42nd streets.[27] At the time, the space was occupied by discount retailer North Pole Stores, which relocated elsewhere in March 1992.[26] The Grand Central Partnership decided to go forward with the restaurant-conversion project in 1993. However, the project had experienced difficulties because Manhattan Community Board 5 was opposed to the partnership's plan to close the adjacent block of Park Avenue, and the city had requested that the project undergo a lengthy zoning procedure called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.[28] The community board opposed the closure because, between Seventh Avenue and Second Avenue, the only opportunity for eastbound traffic on 42nd Street to make a right turn was at Park Avenue.[29]

In 1995, the city and the Grand Central Partnership unveiled plans to restore the space at a cost of $2 million, then lease it as a restaurant.[30] The Pershing Square Cafe signed a lease at the space in 1997.[31] The owner of the renovated space, Michael O'Keeffe, placed so much attention to the renovation of the space that the project's costs increased to $5 million, and the cafe's opening date was pushed back by several months. The details in the cafe included slot-headed screws, the only ones available when the viaduct was built; chairs and electric cords imported from Paris, and a hand-rubbed paint scheme. The entrance of the cafe was placed at 42nd Street, while the kitchen was located near the 41st Street section of the viaduct.[32] The service roads between 41st and 42nd streets remained open to traffic until 2018 when they were converted into a pedestrian public plaza.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Landmarks Preservation Commission 1980, p. 4.
  2. ^ "Chanins Will Build $12,000,000 Tower; 52-Story Office Building Will Rise in Lexington Avenue, Between 41st and 42d". The New York Times. June 22, 1927. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 28, 2020. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  3. ^ "The Passing of Old Hotels" (PDF). The Real Estate Record: Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. 93 (2407): 818. May 5, 1914. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved May 11, 2020 – via columbia.edu.
  4. ^ "Name Street For Pershing; Space in Front of Grand Central Becomes Pershing Square". The New York Times. December 3, 1918. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  5. ^ "Plan To Create New Public Square On East Forty-second Street". The New York Times. February 9, 1919. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  6. ^ "Plans for Victory Hall; Board of Estimate to Consider Proposed Pershing Square Building". The New York Times. June 13, 1919. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  7. ^ "Assails Victory Hall Plan; LaGuardia Opposes Proposed Site in Pershing Square". The New York Times. February 10, 1920. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  8. ^ "Grand Union Hotel Site To Be Sold at Auction This Week" (PDF). The Real Estate Record: Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. 105 (21): 673. May 22, 1920 – via columbia.edu.
  9. ^ "Victory Hall Site Draws No Buyers; Upset Price of $2,800,000 for Grand Union Hotel Plot, Costing City $4,221,000, Ignored". The New York Times. May 27, 1920. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  10. ^ "Grand Union Hotel Site Goes Begging at Auction Sale" (PDF). The Real Estate Record: Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. 105 (22): 708. May 29, 1920. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved May 11, 2020 – via columbia.edu.
  11. ^ "Bids $2,900,000 for Grand Union Site; Henry Mandel Offers Upset City Price for Valuable Pershing Square Plot". The New York Times. July 21, 1920. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  12. ^ "Builders Buy Grand Union Site" (PDF). The Real Estate Record: Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. 106 (6): 787. August 7, 1920. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 20, 2019. Retrieved May 11, 2020 – via columbia.edu.
  13. ^ "Pershing Square Building" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. November 25, 2016. p. 7. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  14. ^ "Move $202,000,000 In Crowded Streets; Train of Armored Cars, Machine Guns Bristling, Transfers the Bowery Bank's Wealth". The New York Times. June 24, 1923. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 28, 2019. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  15. ^ "Bowery Savings Opens New Home". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. June 22, 1923. p. 22. Retrieved October 28, 2019 – via Brooklyn Public Library; newspapers.com open access.
  16. ^ Seward, Anne (June 22, 1924). "Banking, One Flight up, New City Business Feature". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 27, 2019. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  17. ^ "Walker at Opening of Chanin Building; Other Officials Visit Tallest Skyscraper in the Midtown Section". The New York Times. January 30, 1929. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 28, 2020. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  18. ^ Landmarks Preservation Commission 1980, p. 5.
  19. ^ Martin, Douglas (November 16, 1995). "Plan for Pershing Square Would Yield New Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  20. ^ "Information Aid for World's Fair". New York Daily News. December 19, 1938. p. 279. Retrieved June 7, 2020 – via newspapers.com open access.
  21. ^ a b "Historic Structures Report: Park Avenue Viaduct" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. August 11, 1983. p. 4.
  22. ^ a b Landmarks Preservation Commission 1980, p. 6.
  23. ^ "90 East 42nd Street". NYC.gov. New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  24. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1939). New York City Guide. New York: Random House. p. 222. ISBN 978-1-60354-055-1. (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City.)
  25. ^ "1,200 an Hour Jam City's New Information Booth to Play Quiz". New York Daily News. December 19, 1939. p. 277. Retrieved June 7, 2020 – via newspapers.com open access.
  26. ^ a b Slatin, Peter (August 22, 1993). "Al Fresco Dining Facing Grand Central?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  27. ^ Shepard, Joan (November 29, 1989). "42d Street plan may get a nibble". New York Daily News. p. 661. Retrieved June 7, 2020 – via newspapers.com open access.
  28. ^ Slatin, Peter (August 22, 1993). "Al Fresco Dining Facing Grand Central?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  29. ^ Lambert, Bruce (April 24, 1994). "Neighborhood Report: Midtown; Lose a Little of Park Avenue, Gain a Little Park?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  30. ^ Martin, Douglas (November 16, 1995). "Plan for Pershing Square Would Yield New Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  31. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (May 14, 1997). "Restaurant to Fill Niche Under Park Ave. Viaduct". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  32. ^ Varner, Bill (August 15, 1999). "Cafe to call attention to Pershing Square". The Journal-News. p. 3. Retrieved June 4, 2020 – via newspapers.com open access.
  33. ^ Warerkar, Tanay (February 16, 2018). "Busy block near Grand Central Terminal will transform into a pedestrian plaza". Curbed NY. Retrieved December 5, 2018.

Sources

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