Update 9/11/2013 – Been meaning to update for a while. 5 Beekman is NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR FILMING, EVENTS, OR ANY OTHER RENTAL PURPOSE due to ongoing construction.
5 Beekman Street has a secret.
You’ve probably passed it a million times in your travels through downtown Manhattan.
Certainly anyone who has ever visited J&R Row or hit the Starbucks on the opposite corner for a post-Brooklyn-Bridge-walk bathroom break has noticed its twin towers, and perhaps wondered how much its wealthy tenants pay to live behind its beautiful brick and terra-cotta facade.
Except, 5 Beekman Street doesn’t have any tenants. In fact, it’s completely empty, essentially abandoned, and has been for a decade, with a portion of its interior shuttered since 1940…
When you first go through the front doors, the lobby might strike you at first as nothing more than the gutted remains of an old building.
And then you look up…
…to the most beautiful atrium in New York City, over nine stories overhead…
…enclosed by a beautiful, fully-restored iron and glass skylight.
Looking back on these pictures, I still can’t believe this property has sat vacant just a block from City Hall for so long. The entire atrium is in incredible condition, due to the fact that it has been shuttered for more than 65 years, preserving it like a mosquito in amber.
Each floor is lined with beautifully detailed cast iron railings:
The ceilings are also cast iron, and covered in detail:
And that upward view…I’ve never seen anything like it in New York.
Once known as Temple Court, 5 Beekman Street was built in 1882 and today is the earliest surviving “fireproof” office building of the pre-skyscraper period. It is also the third building in the city to have had an elevator installed.
For the first twenty years, 5 Beekman Street was home to several major law offices. After, its space was rented out to a variety of tenants. During initial renovations, for example, this sign was uncovered beneath a layer of paint revealing one former tenant: “Hospital Credit Exchange, Inc. One Flight Up.”
In 1940, the atrium was boarded up due to firecode violations, as seen in the below picture published in the NY Times. Completely hidden, later tenants would never know of its existence, seeing only a walled corridor (though a secret door offered an amazing discovery to those who stumbled upon it).
The atrium is now fully up to code and is ready to be restored:
The nearby Woolworth Building, visible through the skylight, opened 31 years later in 1913.
In recent months, 5 Beekman has been a popular New York shooting location, appearing as the backdrop for numerous television productions and print ads.
Still, my strong hope is that 5 Beekman will one day find new life as a hotel, a perfect use for the space and a great reason to restore it to its former grandeur. Not only would the public be able to enjoy its beautiful interior, there would be an undeniable reason to maintain what has survived, making it quite possibly the most unique hotel in all of New York City.
One of my favorite details are the wood-paneled arches lining the balcony offices, which once featured windows.
So neat to imagine having an office on the other side of one of these windows.
Another, with glass in tact:
The fully-restored skylight roof, revealing the eastern tower and the new Frank Gehry building:
Around the turn of the century, an annex was built onto the southern portion of 5 Beekman, enlarging it significantly.
This resulted in a roof portion, offering views of the skylight from outside:
Another of my favorite details…
…Each of the balconies is held up by these fantastic cast-iron dragons:
Seriously, how great is this?
The walls of the main staircase are covered in beautiful cast-iron patterns similar to the balconies (once a window, the views are now obstructed by the annex).
Much of the original tile work remains, which would be beautiful if brought back to its original luster:
Another tile design:
Even the door frames have character:
If the building were to become a hotel, I’m told the two towers would potentially become three-story penthouse suites:
The two conical roofs originally had windows, which have since been covered up. They would hopefully be restored during restoration:
This is the lower level…
…featuring great views of City Hall Park…
…and the Woolworth Building.
A set of stairs brings you into the next level of the tower…
The second floor of the tower:
A small fireplace which might one day function again:
The connecting chimney rises up beside the tower:
Finally, another flight of stairs takes you into the third level of the tower. You can see the outline of former windows:
There’s one last level to get to the very top, which would be opened up for the three-story penthouse to create a 30-foot high, cathedral-style ceiling.
As for the rest of the building, countless rooms branch off from the atrium, all of which would become the primary hotel space:
Finally, one last interesting space to mention. From the lobby…
…head down a set of stairs…
…and you find yourself in 5 Beekman’s fascinating basement, where you can see the iron support beams going into the foundation.
If the hotel plan goes through, this might one day become a bar/night club, which would be a really, really awesome use for the space, especially with the beams/brickwork left somewhat exposed:
The basement is huge, taking up the full footprint of the building. In fact, according to recently unearthed information, it once housed the largest vault in the world.
An interesting arched doorway:
More of the basement:
As I was heading out, I noticed this small oven in one wall – I’d love to know what purpose it once served:
Some time ago, I mourned the loss of Theatre Alley, which is gone for good following the destruction of a building at the southern end. If 5 Beekman does become a hotel, this might get a complete overhaul, with an outdoor cafe and antique street lamps.
There are big plans in the works for 5 Beekman Street, and I’m optimistic that it will one day be restored to its former prestige. Sure, I probably won’t be able to afford to stay here, but one of the reasons I much prefer a hotel conversion, as opposed to offices or condos, is that at very least, everyone in New York can walk in the lobby and admire its beauty.
PS – Again, be sure to join the Facebook fanpage here to keep up to date on 5 Beekman Street news and shoots! And for any serious production inquiries regarding the space, send me an email at email@example.com.