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The art deco lobby of the McGraw-Hill building has been demolished. New York State Senator Brad Hoylman reported last night: “Today, I learned that the historic art deco lobby at the McGraw Hill Building on 42nd Street was demolished under the cover of darkness.”

The loading bay at the McGraw-Hill building this morning — workers refused to let Senator Hoylman enter. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

The senator went on to condemn the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for failing to protect the lobby from demolition, calling them “feckless”.

Last week, we got the final look at the lobby of the historic Art Deco Tower at 330 W42nd Street. By the weekend, all the windows onto the street had been taped over with blue tape and brown paper. The demolition was confirmed last night in a call to the Senator from a representative of the building owners, Deco Tower Associates LLC.

Our city has been robbed of another historic and architecturally-significant interior landmark

The McGraw-Hill Building had one of the city’s most extraordinary remaining examples of the Art Deco style that defined art and architecture in the early 20th Century. The building’s lobby was both a work of art and a historical representation of an important period in American architecture and design.

Senator Brad Hoylman at the McGraw-Hill building this morning. Video: Phil O’Brien.

Hoylman said: “Simply put, the feckless Landmarks and Preservation Commission (LPC) has failed future generations of New Yorkers who could have enjoyed this emblematic Art Deco design. The historic lobby of the McGraw-Hill building was demolished, apparently under the cover of darkness, with no public notice — and our city has been robbed of another historic and architecturally-significant interior landmark.”

The Senator was one of the last people to record the interior, when he made a video appeal via Twitter at the end of last month. The Art Deco Society of New York had created a petition that had been signed by over 3,800 people from around the world.

Last week, those concerned were reassured by Jean-Daniel Noland at Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4) that the owners were engaging with local elected officials. “I can report that there will be a meeting with Senator Holman, Corey Johnson and State Assembly member Dick Gottfried, with the owners of the building, and some members of the community board, to discuss the lobby going forward.” MCB4 had previously said that gutting the McGraw-Hill lobby could be “a monumental loss for one of New York City’s architectural treasures”.

The lobby before demolition. Photo: Lynn Farrell/Art Deco Society of New York.

Hoylman had requested that the owners meet with community stakeholders and other elected officials, to make a case for preserving the lobby.

“The owners seemingly intentionally postponed any meeting, and instead demolished the interior without notice to the community,” he said. “I’m deeply disappointed in the blatant failure of the government and private sector to protect this important piece of New York City architectural history from the wrecking ball.”

In 1978, Fred Papert, who was also President of the Municipal Art Society, described the lobby to New York Magazine as “flashy and gorgeous, bright gold and silver and green. If Fred Astaire had worked in an office building, this would have been the one.” Now that lobby has gone…

UPDATE: The building owners confirmed the lobby has gone to The Architect’s Newspaper. Their representative offered the following rationale:

“Following a meticulous $40 million restoration of the historic McGraw-Hill Building’s exterior, we have conducted thorough assessment to preserve as many materials from the original Raymond Hood lobby as possible, some of which were obscured and damaged by the 1980s alterations and additions. These historic items have been carefully stored as we explore how some of them can be reintegrated into a new lobby design that strikes a thoughtful balance between Hood’s intent and color scheme with the modernization needed to ensure that this New York City gem remains a viable office building long into the future. We look forward to sharing our new lobby design once it’s finalized in the coming months.”

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24 Comments

    1. How sad. I used to work at McGraw Hill College Dept. as a secretary in the editing department (1963-67). We used to call the building the “Jolly Green Giant!”. Many fond & happy memories.

  1. Thanks for the update, Phil. Deplorable act of vandalism. Recalls Trump’s destruction of the beautiful Bonwit Teller building.

  2. Terrible! That lobby was more beautiful than all of Hudson Yards. Just proves once again that money and influence can never guarantee class. Shame on the owners I hope bad Karma is on its way. KLBazur

    1. It was an iconic space. These mirrored glass monstrosities like Hudson Yards are a dime a dozen and look like they could be anywhere. There’s nothing special.

  3. This sadly is typical of a lot of landlords. They say they’ll meet to discuss something and they delay meetings knowing they have no intention of keeping their promise to meet or even considering the idea that preservation is for the best. The Landmarks & Preservation Commission needs more teeth in order to prevent this all too common occurrence of architectural gems being preserved. Several lovely Art Deco lobbies in the Garment District were destroyed. The LPC also needs to do more about saving interior spaces. I remember when Trump Tower was constructed and the Bonwit Teller dept store was being razed to make room for it. The terra cotta sculpture & metal work was destroyed despite assurances by the builder they’d be preserved. This has got to stop. Heritage needs to be saved in a world class city.

  4. A sad and ugly commentary of wanton destruction of a storied landmark. As another commenter said, Shame, shame!

  5. Are members of the landmark group elected? Should someone be challenging their continuing membership in a group meant to protect what little remains of our heritage?

  6. What a shame…brought tears to my eyes. I always admire the great examples of Art Deco when I visit NYC. This one I will never see . There has to be a way to work around existing architecture and design if improvements are necessary.

  7. Under the cover of darkness. So underhanded. Like thieves and robbers. They’ve stolen history, art, class and beauty from all of us.

  8. This is devastating. It’s always the unimaginative and greed mongers that take over.

    Pretty soon there won’t be anything to see in New York but cheap hotels on every corner and chain stores.

  9. Shameful! It is heartbreaking to learn that this art deco jewel has been destroyed! Shame, shame, shame!

  10. The new lobby will look like a dead shopping Mall. NYC has plenty
    of spaces like that all over the city.
    Who would want to rent in that ruined space.

  11. One hopes they keep their promise of having salvaged the architectural details and respect the original design …

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