Advocacy Alert: Save the McGraw-Hill Lobby in NYC

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McGraw Hill Lobby NYC
Photo Credit: Lynn Farrell for the Art Deco Society of New York

Please find the letter below from MDPL Board Chair Jack Johnson transmitted to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee.

Dear Chair Carroll,  

The Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) is distressed by the news that the irreplaceable Art Deco lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building is under threat of destruction. MDPL is the oldest Art Deco Society in the world, founded by Barbara Baer Capitman and Leonard Horowitz in 1976. For 55 years, we have worked diligently to preserve the architectural heritage of Miami Beach and to promote the importance of Art Deco architecture around the United States and the world. Barbara Capitman featured the McGraw-Hill Building in her book Rediscovering Art Deco: A Nationwide Tour of Architectural Delights, posthumously published in 1994.

We urge the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to act quickly to protect and landmark the lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building. Art Deco enthusiasts around the world are distressed to learn that one of the world’s most vivid and important examples of the Art Deco/Streamline Moderne Style lobby might be lost forever. This lobby is as important as the lobbies of the most famous Art Deco buildings in New York City, including the Empire State, Chrysler and Rockefeller Center buildings.

When the LPC landmarked the building’s façade in 1979, a design feature noted in the designation report is the alternating blue-green steel bands separated by silver and gold colored metal tubes that adorn the ground floor façade. 

Similarly, the 1989 nomination of the building to the National Register of Historic Places describes the building’s most notable feature as “the polychromatic streamlined ground floor on West 42nd Street.” This distinctive ornamentation, that epitomizes Art Deco style, curves into the main entrance of the building and is seamlessly carried into the vestibule and lobby, where the alternating bands are complemented by enameled steel panels of vivid emerald green. The lobby is so clearly a continuation of the building’s Art Deco façade that if the LPC and the National Register of Historic Places deem the exterior worthy of Landmark designation, the distinctive period lobby must also carry the same level of importance. 

The destruction of this one-of-a-kind Art Deco lobby would essentially erase one of the world’s only remaining artifacts of this significant moment in design history.

We urge the LPC to keep this important building as visually stirring as originally intended by granting the full protections of the New York City Landmarks Law to the McGraw-Hill Building’s Lobby––the world’s irreplaceable, astonishingly polychromatic, Emerald City extravaganza.

Speaking personally, I have admired the McGraw-Hill building since I moved to New York City in 1966, when it’s distinctive emerald tower could clearly be seen from just about anywhere on Manhattan’s West Side. When my curiosity about the building drew me to take a closer look, I fell in love with its extraordinary ground floor decorations and its matching lobby. This was before I even knew what Art Deco architecture was!

In 1999, my career took me from New York to Miami Beach, where I soon became a member of the Miami Design Preservation League. In 2001, I became a member of the MDPL Board and in 2018 was elected Chair of the Board. In October of this year, I will be making my annual visit to New York City to visit old friends and explore New York’s Art Deco buildings. I sincerely hope that I will find the McGraw-Hill lobby intact, preserved and protected.

Thank you very much for your timely action. 

Sincerely,

Jack Johnson

Chair of the Board

Miami Design Preservation League

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