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BY ALBERT AMATEAU | The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously last week to designate the exterior and the first floor lobby of the 1932 Cities Service skyscraper at 70 Pine St.
The 66-story Art Deco building is one of the most recognizable buildings in the Manhattan skyline and at 952 ft. it is one of the tallest.
“Many Art Deco skyscrapers were built in New York City in the late 1920s and 193s but few from this era can boast the lavish interiors, intricate metalwork and visibility of this building,” L.P.C. chairman Robert Tierney said on June 21.
When it was completed, the Cities Service Building on the lot bounded by Cedar, Pine and Pearl Sts. was the third tallest structure in the world, behind the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.
Henry L. Doherty, who founded Cities Service as an oil industry holding company in 1910, ordered the construction of building in order to expand the existing officers in two adjacent but separate buildings on Wall and Pine Sts. The two adjacent buildings have since been demolished.
The architectural firm Clinton & Russell, Holton & George, which designed the building, also did the Apthorp Apartments on W. 79th Sts. and the Beaver and Broad Exchange buildings in the Financial District, which are also landmarked buildings.
The exterior of 70 Pine is clad in white brick, gray Indiana limestone and speckled rose and black granite. The Pine and Cedar St. sides each have a pair of monumental arched entrances framed with limestone reliefs that repeat the triangle and trefoil logo of Cities Services. The entrances also have aluminum ornamentation including stepped pyramids echoing the building’s spire and butterflies on sunflowers. Each of the Pine and Cedar St. portals has a 14-ft. tall model of the building.
The main lobby is now the city’s 112th interior landmark. The lobbies of the Woolworth Building, the Grand Central Terminal Concourse and several Broadway theaters are other internal landmarks.
The Cities Service lobby, designed by the same firm that did the exterior, has marble floors, walls and staircases, and includes molded plaster ceilings suggesting light waves. The lighting fixtures are cast glass and the elevator doors have aluminum figurative panels, designed by Rene P.Chambellan, a prominent architectural sculptor of the day.
“It is one of the most stunning office building lobbies in New York City,” Tierney said.
Cities Service was renamed Citgo in 1965 and the building was the company headquarters until 1972. In 19 76, AIG, the insurance firm, bought the building and refurbished the exterior and the lobby in t he 1990s. In August 2009, when AIG’s finances began unraveling, Sahn Eagle L.L.C., a real estate developer, bought the building.
Other occupants of the building over the years were Merrill Lynch, Pierce Fenner & Beane, and McGoverns, a 25,000 sq. ft. athletic club owned by Artie McGovern, a former boxer and trainer whose clients included Babe Ruth among the club’s 1,000 daily visitors.