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Guide to the James W. Rhodes Collection of Villard Houses/New York Palace Hotel Project Records
 PR 296

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Susan Kriete

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on April 26, 2013
Description is in English

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: James W. Rhodes Collection of Villard House/New York Palace Hotel Project Records
Dates: 1976-1981
Abstract: This collection includes documents, photographs and drawings relating to the restoration of McKim, Mead & White's Villard Houses, and their incorporation into the Palace Hotel tower constructed in 1981.
Quantity: 3.42 Linear feet (6 boxes, plus 2 oversize folders)
Call Phrase: PR 296

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Biographical/Historical note

The Villard Houses were commissioned in 1882 by railroad financier Henry Villard. Villard hired prominent architects McKim, Mead & White to design a unified complex of six mansions on Madison Avenue at 51st Street. Using Rome's Palazzo della Cancelleria as its inspiration, the firm created a U-shaped Italian Renaissance palace; four of the homes opened onto the courtyard while two had entrances on 51st Street. Within the restrained, uniform exterior, each homes was uniquely and elaborately decorated. All six homes were completed in 1884.

Soon after, Villard lost his fortune and was forced to sell his new mansion, but the Villard Houses were maintained as grand residences through the 1920's. Eventually, as the owners died off, the buildings passed into business and corporate hands. In 1943, the mansion originally occupied by Villard was turned into the Women's Military Services Club, and was rented to service women for 50 cents a night. By the late 1960's, Random House owned one of the original mansions, and the Archdiocese of New York owned the rest of the complex.

In 1968, without opposition from the owners, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the complex a landmark. The following year, Random House left and in 1971, the archbishopric purchased its former quarters. Having consolidated its own operations in a less valuable building, the archbishopric sought to raise money by leasing or developing the Villard Houses.

In 1974, the developer Harry Helmsley proposed a 51-story hotel, called the Palace, for the site. The plan called for the rear of the Villard Houses to be demolished and the interiors gutted. When preservationists protested, Helmsley revised his plans, agreeing to save most of the interiors and revising the facade of the new hotel to better integrate with the landmarked mansion.

After lengthy negotiations involving the City Landmarks Commission, The City Planning Commission, Community Planning Board #5, and other groups interested in preservation, an agreement was reached which allowed the project to move forward. Helmsley commissioned architects Emery Roth & Sons to design the modern structure and integrate the 1884 houses. James W. Rhodes, a young architect who had recently supervised the restoration and adaptation of Andrew Carnegie's Fifth Avenue mansion for the Cooper-Hewitt-Smithsonian Museum of Design for Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, was hired as project manager to oversee restoration of the Villard Houses. In accordance with the negotiated preservation agreements, Rhodes was also charged with measuring, recording and documenting the houses for the Historical American Building Survey.

The architects devised an adaptive re-use plan which incorporated the face of the Villard Houses into the new hotel, while the wings of the building were given over to non-profit organizations; original tenants included the Urban Center, the Landmarks Conservancy, and the Municipal Arts Society. The project was completed in 1980.

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Scope and Contents note

This collection consists of documents, photographs, and architectural drawings relating to the restoration and adaptive re-use of the landmark Villard Houses as part of the Palace Hotel (completed in 1981), and documentation of the project for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Series I, Documents, includes contracts, applications and other legal documents; field surveys of the Villard Houses; press releases; and a few pieces of correspondence and office ephemera. Also included are a few magazine articles describing the project.

Series II, Photographic prints, consists primarily of photographs documenting conditions at the Villard House prior to the commencement of restoration, including many taken by Steven Zane as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey. There are also a number of photographs by noted architectural photographer Cervin Robinson, and a series of stereopair photographs by Perry and Myra Borchers.

Series III, Negatives, includes film negatives of Steven Zane's photographs for the American Historic Buildings Survey, as well as a few Cervin Robinson negatives.

Series IV, Transparencies, includes plans and photographs illustrating Emory Roth & Sons' Adaptive Re-Use Plan & Tenant Layout that were apparently used for an overhead projection presentation.

Series V, Architectural drawings, includes two sets of the 34 plans of the Villard Houses produced for the Historical American Buildings Survey, housed at the Library of Congress, along with other drawings of the site and buildings.

Arrangement note

This collection is organized by format into the following five series:

Series I: Documents
Series II: Photographic prints
Series III: Negatives
Series IV: Transparencies, Adaptive Re-Use Plan & Tenant Layout
Series V: Architectural drawings

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Rhodes, James W.

Subject Organizations

  • Emery Roth & Sons
  • McKim, Mead & White

Subject Topics

  • Dwellings--New York (State)--New York
  • Eclecticism in architecture--New York (State)--New York.
  • Historic buildings--Remodeling for other use--New York (State)--New York.
  • Hotels -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Villard, Henry, 1835-1900--Homes and haunts--New York (State)--New York.

Subject Places

  • Eclecticism in architecture--New York (State)--New York.

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

Available by advance appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact the Print Room Librarian at printroom@nyhistory.org. Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Conditions Governing Use note

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to:

Department of Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194
rightsandrepro@nyhistory.org
212-485-9228

Permission to reproduce or quote text from this collection in a publication must be requested from and granted in writing by the Library Director, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194.

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation note

This collection should be cited as: James W. Rhodes Collection of Villard House/Palace Hotel Project Records, PR 296, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Materials at the New-York Historical Society

Additional materials relating to the Villard Houses will be found in the McKim, Mead & White Architectural Records Collection, PR 42.

Provenance

Gift of James W. Rhodes, 2013.

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Container List

Series I: Documents

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Declaration made by Archbishopric of new York and New York Palace, Inc. (Preservation agreement)
1976 September 21
Box: 1 Folder : 2-4 Villard Houses, Historic Structures Report (draft)
1977 November 15
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Villard Houses, Historic Structures Report -- portions with comments from William Shopsin
1976 September 4
Box: 1 Folder : 6-8 Villard Houses, Tax Abatement Application
1978 June 26
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Villard Houses, Tax Abatement Application -- Emory Roth copy (incomplete)
1978 June 26
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Palace Hotel Press Releases
1978 January
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Correspondence relating to Historic American Building Survey photography
1977 May 26
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Correspondence relating to Palace Hotel book and pamphlet proposals
1979 November
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Villard Houses field surveys
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Villard Houses field surveys (exterior)
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Villard Houses field surveys (Capital City)
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Villard Houses field surveys (451 Madison Avenue)
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Villard Houses field surveys (453 Madison Avenue)
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Villard Houses field surveys (455 Madison Avenue)
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Villard Houses field surveys (457 Madison Avenue, Random House)
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Application for New York State Association of Architects Award
1981, 1982
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Office ephemera
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Photocopies, source projects
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Publications with articles about project
1980, 1981
Volume: 1 Emory, Roth & Sons project book
undated (circa 1976)

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Series II: Photographic Prints

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Engineers' site photographs (exteriors and interior details)
1978 March, April
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Progress photographs
1978 June 15
Box: 3 Folder : 1-2 Cervin Robinson photographs, Villard Houses interiors and details
1977 July 1
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Cervin Robinson photographs (photocopies)
Box: 3 Folder : 4-8 Steven Zane photographs, Villard Houses interiors and details
1977, 1978 May 31-June 5
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Photographs, Villard Houses interior details
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Site photographs
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 11 Site photographs (color)
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Renderings, Palace Hotel
1978, 1979
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Photographs of Palace Hotel marquee (color)
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Large photographs
undated
Box: 4 Stereopair photographs of Villard Houses by Perry and Myra Borchers (interiors and exteriors)
1977 May 14-22
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Stereopair photographs of Villard Houses by Perry and Myra Borchers (interiors and exteriors) -- large format
1977
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Index to stereopair photographs of Villard Houses
1977

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Series III: Negatives

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Cervin Robinson images
Box: 5 Stephen Zane images

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Series IV: Transparencies, Adaptive Re-Use Plan & Tenant Layout

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Index and photocopies
1979
Box: 6 Folder : 4-5 Transparencies, floor plans and renderings
undated
Box: 6 Folder : 6 Transparencies, photographs
undated

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Series V: Architectural drawings

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 7 Villard Houses/Palace Hotel (21 drawings)
1976 June 1-2
Box: 6 Folder : 8 Villard Houses, Historic American Building Survey (34 drawings)
undated
Box: Flat files Folder : FF1 Villard Houses, Historic American Building Survey, large format (34 drawings)
Box: Flat files Folder : FF2 Archdiocese of New York (2 plans)

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