Saturday, January 31, 2015

Knox Building

The Knox Building on the corner of 5th Ave. and 40th street, drawn from the fifth floor of the Mid-Manhattan Library. In the background are the Met Life building and the Conde Nast building.

The building was built in 1901-02 by Edward Knox, a Civil War hero who had taken over his father's business, the Knox Hat Company, which had fallen into financial trouble. Edward Knox rescued the company and turned it into one of the most prominent hat manufacturers of the time. He hired the architect John H. Duncan to design this ten-story building to be his flagship store and business headquarters. Duncan had also designed Grant's Tomb and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, as well as a number of residences in the Upper West Side. Today, the Knox brand of hats is only familiar to vintage clothing aficionados, and Duncan's name only known by historians and architecture buffs, despite having designed some of New York's most iconic structures. I guess Heidi Klum is right: One day you're in, the next day you're out!

Knox Building ca. 1914
Knox Building today

The Knox Building was a significant addition to the NYC architecture scene. It was one of the most dramatic examples of the Beaux-Arts style. As you can see, when built, it dominated the surrounding skyline, and could be seen from miles down the avenues. In 1964, the building was purchased by the Republic National Bank (and later HSBC), and in the 1980s they built a 29-story ugly glass tower wrapped around the Knox. Anyway, I think it's ugly, or at least just a generic glass behemoth.. The site Newyorkitecture says: "The artfully done tower comes off as drape backdrop for the Beaux Arts Knox Building." The Knox Building itself was landmarked in 1980.