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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339 comments

  1. I got to see the entry before the photos were removed, and wow I was amazed! I live in the neighborhood and must have passed by that building a gazillion times and never gave it a thought. Now whenever I pass by it, I look at it completely differently.

    I really enjoy your blog! If you ever want to take on an intern or an assistant, let me know. I would love to learn the business!

  2. How sad they had to be taken down! Those pictures were magical.

  3. Sadness.

  4. I was just about to send a link to your Beekman Street photos, and was really saddened to see you had to remove them. What the heck are they afraid of? !@@+*&!$@# developers!

    Sorry! But you still rock …

  5. The Abandoned Palace On Beekman Street? Could you send me location photographs? As I’m pitching the location for a Music Video. Thanks Travis

  6. Someone might have already commented on this ( I wasn’t gonna read all 218 comments to find out but rather double-comment…) –
    about the small oven in the wall of the basement: Instead of an oven this looks to me like a door to clean the chimney out and shovel out the soot that falls to the bottom from all the stove pipes that connect to it above, after the chimney sweeper has scrubbed it with the brush-ball.

  7. Glad these pictures came back up. Oh my this is lovely. I hope those plans become reality – this is a place that just begs for restoration.

    What agency is funding the restoration? Is there a fund to take donations?

  8. Dude, I could so live here. Likewise I must have been past here a bunch of times. Didja know the Woolworth has an observation deck? What’s chances you will get up there one of these days? Might get a view down the atrium from there. Great post. What a gem. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  9. Just found you after reading today’s NYTimes piece on the building and I’m so glad I did. You are offering a glimpse into a slice of history of New York and it is fascinating. Hope you get a book deal someday.

  10. Nick, congrats on making the NY Times, once again! Just reading about 5 Beekman Street story in the November 19th edition of
    the Times and they gave you a most deserved recognition. You’re
    truly becoming a New Yorker!!!

  11. Nick, Just read the article in NY Times, and had to go to the web site to see the pictures. Very interesting, I’ve been there several time and never knew what I was looking at. How do you get in there to take pictures?

  12. That’s so comforting to see, after the sad demise of the Coney bank. Thank you *so* much for posting the photos. That building is magnificent beyond all things. I can’t wait to see how it looks after it’s all fixed up again. I wish more buildings like that were preserved. It’s a crime to let them go. I want to move into that one and live there forever.

  13. That may be the most fabulous thing you’ve ever stumbled across. Just fantastic!!

  14. Hey Scout,

    Just wondering what the policy was on visiting the interior of the building. I assume we can’t just walk right in. Did you make an appointment with the developers, and are there people working currently working in there that wouldn’t mind letting me see it (for research purposes), and is it gov’t or privately owned?

    Thanks for keeping up with this:)

  15. Those dragons are wonderful architectural elements!

  16. I’m so happy these pictures are back! This entry, when it was briefly up before, was my introduction to this blog and got me reading on a regular basis. It was sad when they disappeared, but I found lots of other things to enjoy here, so I’ve kept reading. Great work!

  17. This is breathtaking–my new favorite of your posts. Thank you so much!

    I have to say I think it should be an office building again. NYC has enough hotels that no actual people can afford to stay at, and how cool for whoever got to work here!

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

  19. Truly beautiful. I really love the building styles of the old days and this restoration looks like a monumental feat.

  20. This site is so interesting. Fair play.Did you ever do anything about the small islands off New York. A few of them had hospitals on them in the past.I read about them and couldnt stop thinking about them. As some one who lives on an island (Ireland)I gravitate towards any thing like that and I suppose as an outsider the idea that a whole island off NY could be all but abandoned is strangly eerie. Thanks.

  21. I think Laura is referring to North Brother Island.
    http://northbrotherislan.blogspot.com/

  22. Beautiful pictures, thanks.

    We were among the last of the office tenants there. We were on the 9th floor north side with beautiful views of the park and Woolworth Bldg. In it’s end years, the building was dirty, mouse infested and poorly maintained; it was CHEAP however. I think we were paying $10 a square foot between 1994 and 2000 when all the tenants were forced out.

    We found the door opening to the atrium and showed it to everybody who came by. It was spectacular even before it was cleaned up.

    I’m looking forward to walking through again once it is re-opened.

  23. I WANT TO BUY THIS PLACE. THIS PLACE IS SOOOOOOOOOOOO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. The “small oven in the wall” is probably a chimney base cleanout door.

  25. fantastic! I just stumbled upon this after noticing the backdrop in the Iman photoshoot in Bazaar. What a fantasy it must have been to re-discover all this.

  26. I’ve been looking at this beautiful building for a year now!
    My building is just aside of it but I never know it’s abandoned and left empty.
    So surprised!

  27. L&O: SVU that aired yesterday (2011/01/05) featured a chase scene inside this building. Did you have anything to do with it?

  28. interesting,I added this blog bookmark. mmorpg games very good mmorpg103

  29. I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information “;”

  30. a really old photographer

    those photos are beautiful beyond description. thank you for showing so many details of the building. some time ago, i read an article either on web or in a magazine about a marriage proposal that took place in the atrium area. the lady was a realtor, i believe and was able to gain access to building and her fiancé surprised her with the ring up there. i can’t, for the life of me, remember where or when i read that. there were a few pics with the article but they were crayon drawings compared to you beautiful stills. your site is such a great place for me to come with a snack and “vacation” for a few hours very often.

  31. Hi;

    What’s going on at 5 Beekman Street? I’m at work and from my window I see flashes of light. A photo shoot, I imagine. Does anybody know?

  32. WOW…NICE JOB…..HOW DID I MISS THIS?..I LIVED IN NYC FOR 6 YEARS, (AS AN ACTOR)…..THEN MOVED TO L.A TO WORK FOR FRANCIS COPPOLA & PARAMOUNT PICTURES, ETC..ETC…….& I WAS THE LOCATION MANAGER & SCOUT ON “GODFATHER, PART 2”, ..&.OTHER FILMS……ETC, ETC…..& DEAN TAVOULARIS, PRODUCTION DESIGNER WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS LOCATION………….THANKS FOR SHARING THIS GREAT PLACE………& IT KINDA REMINDS ME OF THE “BRADBURY” BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES….3RD & BROADWAY………..BEST, JACK R. ENGLISH…….75…………WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF……..

  33. What a wonderful find! This building is so beautiful that it should be a landmark. Buildings such as this are architectural marvels belonging to a bygone era. Thank you for sharing this beauty!

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

  35. 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.

  36. Love your website! Well done:)

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

  38. kind of reminisent of the chelsea hotel

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

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

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

  42. 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.

  43. 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!

  44. Arthur Rasmussen

    Totalloy amazing pics and story.

    To be continued…….

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

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

  47. 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!

  48. Looks like Kid Cudi’s latest video was shot here:

  49. 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.

  50. 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!

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

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

  56. 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?

  57. 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

  58. 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.

  59. On Time Recording

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

  60. 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.

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

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

  63. 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 : ))

  64. 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.

  65. 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.
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  66. 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.

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