1 April 2013

5 Beekman Street: Manhattan’s Financial District’s Hidden History

When it was built in 1881-83, 5 Beekman Street was the first high rise building in New York.  Things have changed on the street outside but 5 Beekman has been closed for many years, frozen in time.  It is set now to become a luxury hotel which will open in late 2014. So, here’s an opportunity to see 5 Beekman before it is restored - a slice of Manhattan's hidden history.  To keep up to date and learn more, go to the official website.

The building was originally called the Kelly Building, named after the drygoods retailer and banker Eugene Kelly, a first generation Irish immigrant who funded its construction.  Kelly was a man of immense wealth, he had a fortune of over $600 million dollars.  As you can see from the pictures, the building was opulent to say the least – it cost $400,000 to build.

The building was part of the first wave of 9 story buildings, the first of their kind in New York, which were built between City Hall and Bowling Green.  By the time it was built it had been renamed – to Temple Court – and it was generally well received, even if one reviews called the two towers of the building a pair of donkey’s ears.

The 165,000 square foot gorgeous historic landmark was built around a nine-story central lobby, encircled by Victorian iron railings on each floor.  It was originally build to house law firms, but has been completely empty for more than a decade, and mostly shuttered since 1940 (because it did not comply with fire regulations). The railings around the atrium were walled off and became the back wall of offices. No one saw the atrium for decades.

Yet some of its more recent residents were the Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Hospital Credit Exchange and an office of the US Navy.  There are big plans afoot to turn it in to an enormous hotel and it must be said that a building of this beauty should be put to good use.  After all, although it has weathered the years remarkably well, if it were left to its own devices it would eventually deteriorate beyond repair.

All photographs by Flickr User Rob Boudon

First Image Wikimedia