Why is this building significant?
This eight-story office building, built on speculation and named after one of its financiers, Austin Corbin, then president of the Long Island Rail Road, occupies a narrow trapezoid-shaped site in Lower Manhattan, with 160 feet along John Street and only 20 feet along Broadway. Despite towering above its neighbors when it was completed, the Corbin Building did not incorporate the steel-frame construction that would soon allow for even taller buildings. The Corbin Building’s brick-and-brownstone exterior walls, accented with decorative, polychromed terracotta, are attached to cast-iron beams, but are nonetheless load-bearing; in this way, the Corbin Building is a transitional and important step in the evolution from tall buildings to skyscrapers. The street-facing façades comprise both Romanesque Revival and French Gothic Revival elements. Inside, public spaces are distinguished by vaulted ceilings that incorporate the tiling pioneered by the Spanish-born building engineer Rafael Guastavino.
What did the New York Landmarks Conservancy do?
We helped lead a campaign to save the building from demolition during the construction of a new transit center, garnering support from elected officials and the New York Times editorial board. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ultimately performed a meticulous restoration of the building which allowed entry to the new transit center at street level.