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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
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The West Street Building
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The West Street Building
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The Flatiron Building was designed on a very visible site, and Daniel Burnham took advantage of the site in the design of the building. But he was not the only architect that did that. Cass Gilbert, in his design for the 1905 West Street Building, also understood the visibility of the site. The West Street Building originally stood right on the waterfront across from the piers, but it is several blocks inland now. And so he designed a spectacular Gothic Revival-style building that had a sumptuous top, was filled with ornament, and would be highly visible from the river.

The building was a speculative venture that was planned to attract businesses that were involved in shipping, such as railroad companies, shipping businesses, and coal firms—all of whom would want to be near the piers.

The building was extraordinarily well received when it was completed, and it was a very successful building. Over the years, it has undergone a lot of changes to its interior, including alterations by Cass Gilbert, late in his life, when he was asked to simplify the original lavish Gothic lobbies.

This is a building that is also endangered today. It was seriously damaged when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. And the building is now enshrouded in netting, and its future is very much in doubt, despite the fact that it is a landmark building and it held up well, even though there were some serious fires inside the building.


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