New York Architecture Images- Gone / Demolished / Destroyed



Rose & Stone


1 East 79th Street











A room preserved in the NY museum.
On the site today. Nice!
In 1965, the Brokaw Mansion, which stood at 1 East 79th Street, was destroyed to make room for this high-rise apartment building. The mansion was built during the years of 1887 and 1890 by Rose & Stone, for Isaac Vail Brokaw, who later built more houses nearby. To the east of the Brokaw Mansion, at 7 East 79th Street, was a building he designed as a wedding gift for his daughter Elvira. Later he built twin Gothic houses at 984 and 985 5th Avenue for his sons Howard and Irving.

According to this website, "the rooms of the Brokaw Mansion were huge and unusual for a house of that period, airy and well lit. The library had a seven-foot tall safe concealed behind a panel opened by pressing a hidden catch in the moldings." And that's not all, early on there was even a moat! It was enclosed with stone after a horse fell into it.

In 1946 the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) purchased the Brokaw Mansion (and later acquired two other related buildings)—it had been vacant for about 8 years at that point.

Demolition of the buildings—by new owners Campagna Construction Corporation—began in 1965, and was started on a weekend so that officials wouldn't be able to stop it. Their destruction (along with that of Penn Station) played a significant role in advancing landmarks legislation in New York City. In 1962 the Landmarks Preservation Commission had already recognized the structures as landmark buildings—but there was no legislation to back up the Commission's authority.

The New York Times ran a scathing editorial called "Rape of the Brokaw Mansion" which "decried the ‘weekend stealth...[of] the despoilers’ who demolished these buildings and noted that if the city did not pass pending landmarks legislation there would be no landmarks left to save." In 1965, TIME ran an article called "The Gargoyle Snatcher," which shared an anecdote about Ivan Karp, founder of the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society. He allegedly offered to buy two copper finials perched on the roof of the mansion, but "was told by the wreckers that removing them with care was too dangerous and would slow up the job of razing the building. Said the sympathetic foreman, 'Sure it's a shame, but something should have been done about it before we got the job.'"

Bonus link: Here's an interview with someone who worked inside the mansion during the IRE years. In it he discusses what it was like inside, and recalls, "My office ended up to be what had been [George Tuttle Brokaw's wife] Clare Booth Luce's dressing-room. It was probably four times the size of my current office. It had an Italian marble fireplace in it.
The safe that she kept her jewelry in became the petty cash safe."


79th Street and Fifth Avenue
1890-1965, 1905-1965, 1911-1965

Built by a clothier named Isaac Vail Brokaw, this cluster of mansions provided a grand architectural anchor for the important corner across from the Central Park Transverse. Unabashedly extravagant, the parent castle was modeled in part on a Loire Valley chateau, while the adjacent building to the north, one of a matching pair constructed by Brokaw for two sons, was flamboyantly Gothic. The mansion to the east was more restrained and classical.

The lamentations over the razing of the mansions strengthened the growing preservation movement that the loss of Pennsylvania Station had catalyzed. “The outcry was undoubtedly what at last induced the mayor to sign the law giving the Landmarks Commission legal powers,” the architect Nathan Silver wrote in “Lost New York,” his compendium of vanished city structures.