BUILD DECK AWNING. BALL LAMP SHADES.
Midtown Manhattan, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
The Engineers’ Club was founded in 1888 at a time when professional engineering was becoming increasingly important to the industrial and economic development of the United States. While the city was well supplied with
professional and trade associations related to engineering, the Engineers’ Club was the first purely social organization founded in the United States for engineers or those connected to the field. Prominent members have included Andrew Carnegie, Herbert C. Hoover, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Cornelius Vanderbilt, H.H. Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla.
While the club originally leased space in Midtown Manhattan, it began to plan for a larger, purpose-built clubhouse around the turn of the century, acquiring land facing Bryant Park and the future home of the New York Public Library (both New York City Landmarks). Around the same time, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie offered the sum of $1 million for a separate project - the creation of a joint headquarters for New York City’s professional engineering clubs. In 1904, Carnegie increased the amount of his proffered gift to $1.5 million in order to incorporate the plans of the Engineers’ Club. Ultimately, the decision was reached to erect two separate but related structures, allowing for a direct flow between them.
The design of the Engineers’ Club building was determined by an architectural competition in which the young firm of Whitfield & King bested more established names such as Carrere & Hastings and Clinton & Russell. The 12-story Renaissance Revival style building, completed in 1907, featured a tripartite configuration consisting of a three-story base clad in white marble with
prominent Corinthian pilasters, a seven-story red brick shaft embellished with
marble quoins and molded window enframements, and a three-story capital capped by a deeply projecting modillioned cornice. An early example of the high-rise clubhouse building type, the Engineers’ Club building also featured 66 sleeping rooms in addition to its public and social spaces.
The Engineers’ Club occupied the West 40th Street building until 1979, at which point the structure was converted into residential apartments. Today, the building looks almost exactly as it did more than a century ago, standing as an architectural reminder of the emergence of New York State as the engineering center of the country and of the United States as an industrial and economic power. As the last remaining club building on the block, it is also a visual reminder of the prominence of the social club and of the bachelor apartment at the turn of the 20th century.
DESCRIPTION AND ANALYSIS
West 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
At the turn of the 20th century, West 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the future site of the Engineers’ Club building, was at the crossroads of several rapidly-evolving Midtown neighborhoods. In the late 1800s, Fifth Avenue between 34th and 59th Streets had been established as one of the most fashionable addresses in Manhattan, and residential rowhouses lined the blocks to the east and to the west. By 1900, however, various real estate forces were coalescing to permanently alter the character of this part of Manhattan. Construction of Grand Central Terminal (1903-13, a designated New York City Landmark) at East 42nd Street between Madison and Lexington Avenues and the deck
ing of the railroad tracks running north from the station accelerated the commercialization of eastern Midtown and spurred the development of an important hotel and business district. With respect to the blocks surrounding the future site of the Engineer’s Club building, considered the northwest periphery of the Murray Hill neighborhood, the construction of or conversion of private residences into exclusive retail shops, restaurants and office buildings, was already well underway by the close of the century.
Midtown Manhattan, west of Fifth Avenue, was being similarly transformed at the turn of the 20th century. A growing transportation hub at Herald Square (at the intersection of 34th Street, Broadway and Sixth Avenue), featured cross-town streetcars, the Sixth Avenue Elevated, and the Hudson Tubes to New Jersey, and helped secure this area’s continued commercial development. The successful openings of two department stores at Herald Square, Saks & Co. in 1900 followed by R.H. Macy’s in 1901-02, anchored a new shopping district that encouraged similar businesses to relocate northwards from Madison Square. The construction of restaurants and hotels to meet shoppers’ needs logically followed. The opening of Pennsylvania Station at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue in 1910 precipitated even higher demand for realty in the blocks surrounding the station, which had become known as the ‘Pennsylvania terminal loft zone’ due to the large number of plans filed for manufacturing and