The Abandoned Palace At 5 Beekman Street

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.

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You’ve probably passed it a million times in your travels through downtown Manhattan.

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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.

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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…

Until now.

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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.

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And then you look up…

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…and up…

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…and up…

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…to the most beautiful atrium in New York City, over nine stories overhead…

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…enclosed by a beautiful, fully-restored iron and glass skylight.

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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.

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Each floor is lined with beautifully detailed cast iron railings:

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The ceilings are also cast iron, and covered in detail:

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And that upward view…I’ve never seen anything like it in New York.

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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The atrium is now fully up to code and is ready to be restored:

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The nearby Woolworth Building, visible through the skylight, opened 31 years later in 1913.

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In recent months, 5 Beekman has been a popular New York shooting location, appearing as the backdrop for numerous television productions and print ads.

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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.

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One of my favorite details are the wood-paneled arches lining the balcony offices, which once featured windows.

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So neat to imagine having an office on the other side of one of these windows.

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Another, with glass in tact:

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The fully-restored skylight roof, revealing the eastern tower and the new Frank Gehry building:

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Around the turn of the century, an annex was built onto the southern portion of 5 Beekman, enlarging it significantly.

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This resulted in a roof portion, offering views of the skylight from outside:

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Another of my favorite details…

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…Each of the balconies is held up by these fantastic cast-iron dragons:

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Seriously, how great is this?

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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).

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Much of the original tile work remains, which would be beautiful if brought back to its original luster:

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Another tile design:

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Even the door frames have character:

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If the building were to become a hotel, I’m told the two towers would potentially become three-story penthouse suites:

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The two conical roofs originally had windows, which have since been covered up. They would hopefully be restored during restoration:

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This is the lower level…

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…featuring great views of City Hall Park…

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…and the Woolworth Building.

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A set of stairs brings you into the next level of the tower…

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The second floor of the tower:

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A small fireplace which might one day function again:

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The connecting chimney rises up beside the tower:

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Finally, another flight of stairs takes you into the third level of the tower. You can see the outline of former windows:

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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.

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As for the rest of the building, countless rooms branch off from the atrium, all of which would become the primary hotel space:

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Another room:

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Another room:

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Finally, one last interesting space to mention. From the lobby…

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…head down a set of stairs…

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…and you find yourself in 5 Beekman’s fascinating basement, where you can see the iron support beams going into the foundation.

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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:

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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.

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An interesting arched doorway:

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More of the basement:

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As I was heading out, I noticed this small oven in one wall – I’d love to know what purpose it once served:

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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.

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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.

-SCOUT

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 nycscout@gmail.com.

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335 comments

  1. Caught you on CBS Sunday Morning ..
    Glad I found your site , these are some very impressive photos

  2. Wow! Wish you could somehow apply the “quality of space” to a code so all buildings had to be built with such soul and character today. Thank you for posting your work.

  3. Love your website! Well done:)

  4. Wondering if you know who owns the building and why they just let it sit there empty?

  5. kind of reminisent of the chelsea hotel

  6. Fabulous!! I love old buildings and this is amazing! So glad it is being saved.

  7. Excellent post!! I really like your site!!

  8. Did they use this building in Hangover II for the interior shots of the Bankok complex they wolk up in the next day?

  9. If i was the developer of this hotel (or had an absurd amount of money), I would try to acquire the small buildings that J&R uses that are directly in front of the hotel and just tear them down. In the remaining space, I would build some sort of public plaza or fountain exposing the view of this amazing building to all of city hall. This would greatly increase the hotel’s value and exposure, and create some sort of entry courtyard for cars to pull up in front of it.

    I hope this project will lead to a redevelopment of northern part of the financial district (fulton, john st, etc.) and replace the shitty retail there with something cool.

  10. Those pictures are so beautiful! Even though a lot of the bulding is construction, you can still imagine the beauty it must of been. If it was restored to it’s previous beauty and became a hotel, I’d find any excuse to stay there. I mean, everything almost has a look of mystery about it, like there are secrets hidden in the walls… I’m getting carried away..And thanks to the photagrapher, who captured all of this beauty. Such a beautiful view from the windows, too! I just love it!

  11. Arthur Rasmussen

    Totalloy amazing pics and story.

    To be continued…….

  12. Nice post!!! Thank you very much for sharing.

  13. Just saw this building in an episode of White Collar, beautiful!

  14. I too saw this place on the white collar show. I had to know what the abandoned palace was. Found your site. Great photos and tour, thanks!

  15. Looks like Kid Cudi’s latest video was shot here: http://vimeo.com/28758414

  16. Ever since I saw the chase in the White Collar episode, I wondered where it might have taken place as it seemed so untypical for NYC. Stumbling about your last entry cleared everything up – thanks!

    I guess people say that over and over again, but I kind of envy you for all the great stuff you get to see. Keep up your wonderful work, I’m always looking forward to your newest discoveries.

  17. just like a few of the previous comments, i saw this location on a white collar episode. it looks even more spectacular in your photos. thanks for linking to this again from your post today!

  18. I worked in this building in 1996. The court was mostly hidden, but the architecture firm I was with occupied a part the top floor and the towers. Our boss had a craftsman working full time to recreate the various plaster door, window and crown mouldings that the original spaces had remnants of. At our floor, the mosaic floors and the central court were partially exposed. As well, the view from our windows of the Woolworth building was awesome.

  19. Absolutely magnificent!!!! And remarkably wonderful that this building isn’t being torn down but, instead, restored. I’ve seen it from the park, always wondered about it, never dreamed it is this treasure. I’m curious about the nearby Potter Bldg., beautiful terra cotta construction now being sold as co-ops or condos. Imagining a gorgeous Beaux Arts lobby, I’ve searched the block for an entrance (there HAS to be one) but, amazingly, there doesn’t seem to be one. Nick, thanks SO much for this web-site and for sharing your photos and adventures with us New Yorkers who so revere this amazing New York. Good luck!!!

    • @Bara: when Marty Raynes converted the Potter Building (38 Park Row/145 Nassau) and Morse Building (140 Nassau) to co-op apartments in 1979, he pretty much wiped out or covered over any of the lovely lobby details. Although a lot had been lost when the street was raised many, many years ago. Morse Bldg has since uncovered the mosaics, terrazzo floor, and some of the mouldings, and cleaned up/filled in some of the marble. BTW: neither of these two buildings is terra cotta; both are brick, and 145 has some cast-iron details at street level. And both have been landmarked.

  20. Wow. Sounds like Andre Balasz is going to turn it into a hotel after all. It’s a great idea, and those penthouse suites are gonna be some of the sickest in the city. Can’t wait.

  21. Do not rent/shoot at 5 Beekman, it’s a night mare. I rented the space for a shoot, Hillel confirmed me, then jerked me around by renting the space out from under me. It’s a production nightmare.

    Beware,

    Anna

    • Friend of 5 Beekman

      I find that hard to believe. I have shot a few times at Beekman often on a minutes notice and have nothing but good things to say about the management there.

  22. Is this location open for visitors? Is there anyone I can contact about taking photos there?

  23. Elder Tobias Doyle

    No one will read this – so I’ll never find out – but this looks a lot like the apartment building used in “In America” from nearly 10 years back. Anyone know what apartment that was – and whether this was the outside stand in?

  24. I finance real estate all over the US. I love history. What a great story and what a building.

    Rick Meyer
    Ocean View Capital Advisors

  25. These pictures bring back fond memories, since my law firm had its first offices in the building. We had to leave when the owner began taking steps to restore it.

    One important thing you should mention about this building design is the natural ventilation it provides. Even with the atrium sealed at the top, we never needed much air conditioning. If it can be partly opened, hot air would be drawn straight up the atrium, and a cooling breeze would come in the windows. My wife, who worked in the Middle East for years, tells me that this design is how buildings there have been cooled for centuries.

    It is an early “green” building.

  26. On Time Recording

    Great story. Beautiful building. I hope a hotel. Keep the building as original as possible.

  27. I have an 1883 mortgage document which was held by an early tenant of this building Paddock and Cannon Attorneys and Counselors 7 Beekman street Temple court NY. I guess in 1883 the address was 7 not 5.

  28. Increíble edificio y en ese estado después de tanto tiempo. Daría algo por visitarlo.

  29. Man, you have the coolest job in the whole world! Hope you’re still at it.

  30. hi id like to know the protocol to conduct a photo shoot at this amazing location with a couple before their wedding day. please feel free to send me an email : ))

  31. I happen to be commenting to let you know of the awesome encounter my girl had reading your web site. She picked up so many details, which include what it’s like to have an excellent coaching mindset to have folks without problems fully understand several impossible matters. You truly surpassed visitors’ expectations. Thanks for imparting these valuable, dependable, educational and easy guidance on the topic to Kate.

  32. Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely magnificent. I really like what you’ve acquired here,
    certainly like what you are saying and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it smart.
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  33. Hello! Had to look up your post because there was something uncannily familiar about the Esquire Style photoshoot from the August 2012 issue. Three of the shots are unmistakeably from this building, showing the wrought-iron railings and dragon-shaped braces! Really enjoy your blog and was excited to see something from it show up in a major print publication.

  34. What an amazing place! If that basement were made into a club it would be to die for.

  35. Hi,

    I had the amazing opportunity, working for H&M for over 14 years to attend to the launch party of the Designer Margiela collection for H&M which was held in the old Beeckman building, and yes every word you describe here is more then true, I was struck by the beauty of this building, amazing…..
    The atrium is breathtaking and I found myself thinking that nowadays we do not make beautifull buildings like this no more which means this building should be preserved and indeed restored to its original beauty….. Every details is magnificent and I will remember this location forever, dreaming that one day maybe if it becomes a hotel I might have the priviledge of staying there…. M

  36. This building is amazing and beautiful !!!
    Who do I have to contact to be able to use this place for a photoshoot ?

  37. I actually am interested in purchasing the property i wonder whom i need to contact to do so .Nycscout if you see this respond and i will talk to you more about it.

  38. LoL, this building looks amazing, I’ve never realized that there are buildings like this in our time too :)

  39. I just saw this building on the show Deception! I’m completely sure because you have pictures from so many angles and the camera panned up to the atrium and the iron work a few times. Thank you for the great blog!

  40. The interiors looks like the sets for Blade Runner…
    Nice place, why was it empty for so long, some one must have been paying taxes on the place all these years, right?

  41. I used to live right around the block—I recently re-visited my old neighborhood and stumbled upon this ghostly view as I peered through the keyhole into the gutted interior of 5 Beekman Street:
    http://brianspaeth-nyc.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-numeral-5-at-beekman.html#.UVCYwxmAf4Q

  42. This was the place where they shot the music video for “Survival Tactics” by Joey Bada$$.

  43. The “furnace” door looks like it was for an incinerator. Many apartment buildings of that era burned their trash. Today, environmental regulations would prohibit that type of waste treatment. They often had garbage chutes on each floor, that would allow for easy disposal from your apartment.

  44. Unfortunately, they no longer allow shoots there as the place started its renovation into a hotel. I found out during my call to book… The listing should be removed, I’m afraid.

  45. A poor but still lovely relation of the generation-older Peabody Library in Baltimore.

  46. Excellent blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with
    a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..
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