|photo NYPL Collection|
As the 19th Century came to a close, Chicago architect Louis Sullivan balked at the then-current trend of borrowing architectural styles from bygone eras. In a time when acclaimed buildings were styled in Beaux Arts, Classical Revival, Medieval Revival or Romanesque, Sullivan looked instead to the present – or the future.
A guru of fledgling Frank Lloyd Wright, Sullivan worked in Chicago and designed buildings that left New York architecture in the dust of the past. He felt that the building should reflect the structure, and not pretend to be something it was not – leading to his famous credo “form ever follows function.”
In August 1897 the United Loan and Investment Company purchased the Bank of Savings at 65-69 Bleecker Street with the intention of razing the brick structure and erecting an office building. In a surprising announcement The New York Tribune reported that the new building, to be called the Bayard Building as a nod to one of New York’s oldest and most prestigious families, would be designed by Louis H. Sullivan.
Sullivan’s practice when designing a building away from Chicago was to work with a local architect; in this case Lyndon P. Smith. Just three days after the title to the property was transferred, plans were submitted to the Manhattan Building Department. Because of New York City building policies, however, Sullivan had to rework his plans several times.
Finally in December 1897 ground was broken; despite all the design kinks still not having been worked out with the Department of Buildings. Because of all the ongoing complications, the Bank for Savings recalled the mortgage in June of 1899, and the unfinished building and property was taken over by Emmeline and Silas Condict. When the 13-story building was completed in December of that year, the Condicts renamed it The Condict Building. It was a short-lived renaming.
The structure’s builder, Charles T. Wills, purchased it from the Condicts in May 1900 and it became known as the Bayard Building once again.
Photo by Hubert Steed