For Immediate Release: May 18, 2021
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Both buildings are architecturally, historically and culturally significant and represent NYC's diverse history.
New York – Today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously voted to designate 70 Fifth Avenue, known as the Educational Building, in Greenwich Village and Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz at 715 West 179th Street in Washington Heights. Both buildings are architecturally, historically and culturally significant and represent NYC's diverse history. 70 Fifth Avenue is significant for housing the national office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) among a remarkable tenant roster of progressive organizations that have shaped American society, and Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz is significant as an important social and religious anchor for the Washington Heights' Latino community for the past 40 years
"LPC is committed to ensuring diversity and inclusion in our designations," said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. "As part of our equity framework launched earlier this year, we are prioritizing designations like 70 Fifth Avenue and Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz, to make sure that we are telling the stories of all New Yorkers. 70 Fifth Avenue recognizes the important contributions of the NAACP, as well as many progressive organizations that advanced social justice and equity and Holyrood Episcopal Church recognizes the history of New York City's Latino community in Upper Manhattan."
Commissioned by book publisher-philanthropist George Arthur Plimpton and built in 1914, 70 Fifth Avenue is a 12-story office and loft building located on the southwest corner of West 13th Street in the Greenwich Village Built. The L-shaped office building, designed by Charles A. Rich, is an understated and refined example of the Beaux Arts style that features two street facades clad in white brick and stone with a classical tripartite configuration. The building is historically significant as the former national office of the NAACP in the early-20th century, as well as many significant organizations that advanced social justice and equality -- a legacy carried on for almost 50 years by its current owner, The New School. The NAACP, one of the oldest and largest civil rights organizations in the United States, leased offices at the building for almost ten years, from February 1914 to June 1923. During this period, the NAACP grew nationwide and launched a series of effective campaigns against segregation, race discrimination, and mob violence, particularly the horrendous practice of lynching. The building also attracted many progressive non-profit groups as tenants, including the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) who founded the National Civil Liberties Bureau (later known as the ACLU) in the building, League for Industrial Democracy, League of Nations Union, National Board of Censorship in Motion Pictures (later the National Board of Review), National Child Welfare Association, New York Teachers Union, Pan American Society, Women's Peace Party, World's Court League, as well as many book publishers. In 1972, the building was acquired by The New School, a world-renowned progressive university with approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The well-preserved building is currently part of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at The New School's Parsons School of Design.
Holyrood Episcopal Church, built between 1911 and 1916 at the corner of West 179th Street and Fort Washington Avenue, is one of the most impressive and beautiful churches in the neighborhood. The Gothic Revival style church designed by the architectural firm of Bannister & Schell, is constructed of rough-faced stone with intricate terra cotta decorative details and features an impressive front facade dominated by a large arched stained-glass window with geometric tracery. The church has served Washington Heights since its construction over 100 years ago and has remained an important institution within the neighborhood, its congregation changing to reflect the influx of residents from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and other Spanish-speaking places starting in the 1960s. In response to the large Dominican population, the church has provided facilities for the Dominican Women's Development Center, an independent nonprofit that advances gender equality, social justice, education, and similar causes. By 2012, in recognition of its role in this community, the church changed its historic name to add its Spanish translation, becoming Holyrood Church – Iglesia Santa Cruz (the medieval English word Holyrood and the Spanish Santa Cruz both translate to "Holy Cross"). Today, the parish is actively involved in humanitarian and culturally diverse programs for people of all ages, the LGBTQ community, the hearing impaired, immigrants, and the homeless and hungry.
"Today's vote recognizes the contributions the NAACP and other prominent civil rights organizations made at 70 Fifth Avenue," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. "I want to thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission for designating this historically significant building which will now be protected for generations to come."
"I am happy to hear that Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz is being designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)," said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. "This building has been very important to our community and has contributed so much to our neighborhood both culturally and spiritually. The Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz landmark is not only significant because of the history of the building, but it also represents a place that has always welcomed immigrants. I look forward to continuing to work alongside Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll, my colleagues in government, and advocates to continue identifying important and historical sites in our community."
"As an institution founded to engage citizens in solving pressing social issues, The New School has long advanced the values of social justice and equality to strengthen our community," said Tokumbo Shobowale, Executive Vice President for Business and Operations for The New School. "We welcome the designation, which recognizes the vital history of this building that today houses the university's acclaimed Sheila Johnson Design Center, an academic and creative hub located at 70 Fifth Avenue. The space reflects The New School's rigorous, multidimensional approach to education and provides a street-level view into the innovative work of our Parsons School of Design community."
"For over 125 years Holyrood Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz has been the heart and soul of Washington Heights," said Father Barrios of Holyrood Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz. "We believe that the beauty of being a landmark is defined not only by the beauty of its physical structure but also by its ability to allow the community to have access to enjoy this space as a zone of liberation to reaffirm and accompany them in their daily struggles. Hence, we are proud to move our church into this new phase of interconnectedness and interdependence with the community."
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City's architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 37,000 buildings and sites, including 1,439 individual landmarks, 120 interior landmarks, 11 scenic landmarks, and 151 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/landmarks and connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCLandmarks and www.twitter.com/nyclandmarks.