GRP017-100.jpg (38870 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Gramercy Park

Con Edison Building


Henry J Hardenbergh; additions, Warren & Wetmore and Thomas 
E. Murray, Inc.


4 Irving Place


1910-14; additions, 1926-29




steel frame, limestone clad


Office Building




The Consolidated Gas Company was formed in 1884 with the merger of six 
of the city's independent gas companies. This merger took place, in 
part, as a response to the threat created by the formation of the 
Equitable Gas Light Company, backed by William Rockefeller, and in part 
in response to the "threat" posed by electricity. The new company 
established its headquarters at 4 Irving Place in the offices of the 
old Manhattan Gas Light Company. This was a handsome Italianate 
brownstone building erected for the companyÕs use in 1854. The 
Consolidated Gas Company continued to grow in the late 19th century, 
eventually allying itself with various electrical companies, notably 
the New York Edison Company. The firm outgrew its headquarters building 
and began an expansion project that lasted for almost 20 years. Major 
buildings were erected on virtually the entire block bounded by East 
14th and 15th streets, Irving Place, and Third Avenue.

The expansion began in 1910, when Consolidated Gas decided to build a 
new 12-story headquarters on Irving Place and 15th Street. The 
prominent architect Henry Hardenbergh, best-known for such buildings as 
the Dakota Apartments, Plaza Hotel, and Hotel Martinique, was 
commissioned to design the new structure. Since the company did not 
wish to disturb the ongoing work of the office, construction was 
planned in two sections. A 12-story building was erected at the rear of 
the lot, behind the old office. This was completed in 1911, the offices 
were moved, and the old headquarters building on the corner demolished. 
By this time, however, the firm had decided that a 12-story building 
would be inadequate. More land was purchased to the east, and 
Hardenbergh was requested to design and 18-story building for the 
entire site. There was no problem in constructing the structures for 
the east and west sides of the lot, but the original 12-story central 
section did not have a structural system that could support extra 
floors. The solution was to build the end wings and then construct 
girders between them and suspend the additional stories. As completed 
in 1914, the Consolidated Gas CompanyÕs building was a Renaissance 
Revival skyscraper clad in limestone with an Ionic entrance portico and 
enormous cornice crowned by acroteria.

With the increasing use of electricity, Consolidated grew rapidly and 
on 10 April 1926, announced plans for a tower to be erected on the site 
of the old Academy of Music on the corner of 14th Street and Irving 
Place. The architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore designed the new 
tower in conjunction with the engineering firm of Thomas E. Murray, 
Inc. Although Warren & Wetmore is best known for its work on Grand 
Central Terminal and other imposing early-20th-century Beaux-Arts 
monuments, during the 1920s the firm designed the Heckscher Building 
and Aeolian Building, both on Fifth Avenue, the New York Central 
Building on Park Avenue, and this prominent office tower on 14th 

Much of the 14th Street elevation of the new building was designed to 
copy Hardenbergh's original structure. However, for the corner, Warren 
& Wetmore designed a 26-story tower that would be a prominent landmark 
as it rose above the low buildings of its neighborhood and would be a 
visible symbol of the utility company. The tower is faced with 
limestone and has a three-story Doric colonnade at the base. the tall 
shaft is set back from the colonnade and rises uninterrupted 21 stories 
to a modest cornice, above which are four clockfaces and four corner 
urns. Near the top, the tower sets back slightly and takes the form of 
a temple capped by a pyramidal roof that is crowned by a 38-foot-high 
bronze lantern. This tower was planned to be dramatically lighted at 
night, advertising the wonders of the electricity that the company 
sold. Known as the "Tower of Light," this was memorial to the companyÕs 
employees who had died in World War I. The building was well-received 
upon completion; an editorial published in The Architect commented that 
"the new tower-building designed by Warren and, to our 
mind, a building of unusual merit and distinction." Since it was built 
for the country's leading utility company, the tower also had an 
influence on the design of electric-company buildings in other cities; 
for example, John Russell Pope's Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company 
Building (1930) is a light-colored stone building with a Doric base on 
which sits a setback tower crowned by a pyramidal roof. Lighted at 
night, the Con Edison tower is now a potent symbol of the corporation.

In 1928, Consolidated Gas again exploded, purchasing the Tammany Hall 
building on 14th Street. Warren & Wetmore's addition, built in 1928-29, 
simply extends the earlier 14th Street elevation.