A couple of weeks ago I had to go to a meeting on Layfayette Street in Lower Manhattan. I was a bit early so I looked for a place to have a cup of tea and found Le Pain Quotidian. Only when I was leaving and looked up did I realize that I was in a very special building disguised by huge scaffolding. I poked around a bit and found the entrance at 65 Bleecker Street and was I surprised!!

Out came my phone to record the extraordinary architecture and interior decoration. The receptionist was happy to tell me it was called the Bayard-Condict Building and the only building in New York designed by the famous Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan. It was built between 1897-1899 and despite its outstanding architectural characteristics it had little influence on other New York buildings because it was built in an industrial area. It was one of the first steel skeleton frame buildings in the city, an innovation, but what you see is incredible white terra cotta over masonry and an exuberant amount of decoration.

When the scaffolding finally comes down, what you will see is a building constructed in three sections. There is an ornamented base (which is what caught my eye first), a shaft of identical floors with a lighter style of embellishment and a heavily decorated crown. It is 13 stories high but seems taller because the windows are relatively undecorated, accentuating its height.

The restoration began in 2000. All of the 7,000 glazed architectural terra cotta pieces were inspected and, fortunately, only 30 were damaged beyond repair and had to be replicated. The building today looks very close to the original intent of the famous architect. Lost column capitals have been replicated and insensitive storefronts have been replaced. It is quite a sight and worth the trip to inspect the wonderful remnant of old New York.

This is a great example of my “you never know” theory. Something inspirational may be right in front of your eyes!!

Barbara Sallick

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