Wednesday, January 27, 2010

☞ REVIVE: The Corn Exchange Building Revealed

The landmark Corn Exchange Building on the corner of East 125th Street and Park Avenue has finally shed its post-demolition scaffolding. Even though the building was protected by landmark laws, the Department of Buildings deemed that it was unstable and declared a state of emergency demolition back in October of last year. Even though some experts who had examined the building earlier in the year believed the building was structurally sound, the DOB took over and dismantled the site. Walking by yesterday, the veil that covered the two story base was finally gone and we got a close up look at the architectural details that remain.

When we started covering the story of the former Mount Morris Bank building, the scaffolding had already been up for some times and not many close up photos of the building were available. The base now reveals many unique details that shows the richness of the the original architecture. There is a mix of stone and masonry that includes cut brownstone, red terracotta oraments, granite columns and vaulted brick work. The second to last photo shows the arched entranceway and the remnants of lettering that spell Corn Exchange Bank can be seen. The gaps at the remaining cornice section as seen in the third and fourth photos are where the grand cast iron oriels used to be (see top photo). It's still unclear what the DOB did with these one-of-a-kind architectural elements, but one would hope that they would be stored for future reference. From the last picture, one can see that the walls are about three feet thick, so there's definitely no instability left.

We mentioned in the past that the Octagon Building on Roosevelt Island was rebuilt with much less remaining, so let's hope the right developers come in to restore the beloved East Harlem landmark in the future. Read more about the long history and efforts to save the Corn Exchange Building in our past post: LINK.  Archival photo courtesy NYPL


  1. Yet another glorious fuckup by the Department of Buildings, bravo.

  2. What a real shame. Another architectural masterpiece bites the dust.

    Although, I'm a little bit confused as to how a building of this historical magnitude could have ended up soley in the hands of Ethel Bates to begin with? Absolute madness. She may have had a genuine vision to create a culinary school (which I still think would be a wonderful addition to Harlem), but she had absolutely no business acumen whatsoever in this field (yes, she went to business school, but that does not make you qualified). How was this allowed to happen?

    Why people are intent on destroying the historical aspects of Harlem (and NYC) I just do not know. So much money is generated from tourists who come to see these beautiful buildings (yet alone the local residents who SURELY must feel something when this historical destruction continues to occur), yet we still insist on ripping them apart for what I am sure is monetary gain (greed).

    Is there a general apathy amongst local residents to not fight this sort of thing (i.e. they do not care either way) or is it really such a lost cause and considered figthing the impossible fight?

  3. Apparently the community board was trying to push Bates to choose one of the many proposals given to her by developers. She declined on all of them. She would have gotten a 49% share of the building but she wanted majority control.

  4. This was my favorite building. I always wanted to live in it. Shame on you DOB, buildings just aren't made like that anymore.

  5. This is a terrible situation, the whole building is utterly destroyed, what's left isn't even worth looking at.

  6. We need to bring back the life of The Corn Exchange Building.
    We have to hold on to all businesses,memories and of course - keep land marks safe and make sure they remain.