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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 6, no. 138: November 5, 1870

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AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. VoL.yL NEW YORK, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1870. No. 138. - ■ PublWied Weekly by THE REAL ESTATE RECORD ASSOCIATION. ___ TERMS. Ono year, in advance......................§6 00 All communications should be addressed to C. -V^. SVC^KTGT, .106 Broadway, con. of Pine Street. TIFFANY & CO.'S NEW BTJILDING. The large and conspicuous ncAV iron building now in. course of completion for Messrs. Tiffany & Co. at 550 and552 Broadway, on the western side of TJnion Square, forms of those dominant landmarks which call for especial at¬ tention. It is a five-story and basement build¬ ing, with a frontage of 77i feet on BroadAvay, and 142 fefet on Fifteenth street. It is built en¬ tirely, externally and internally, of iron, from the weil-knoAvn establishment of Cornell & Co., and is a fine specimen of Avorkmanship throughout. The first story is composed of the ordinary Corinthian columns, with large sheets of plate glass between; the other story fronts being of segmental and eUiptical-headed -win¬ dows, di-vided by squatty little detached Co¬ rinthian columns, reheved here and there by massive rusticated shafts running up the entire height of building, and crowned by that greatest of aU architectural novelties—a balustrade. We believe .be an exhaustive pen-and-ink sketch of the exterior. Were this building actually erected of stone, ; we should stall—as a work of art—^have to criti¬ cise it adversely ; but the fact of its being bmlt entirely of iron, of the forms, devices, and mas- siveness of construction belonging to stone, and painted, moreover,, to imitate that material, i only tends to make more manifest its utter pov¬ erty of design. Monotony and insipidity are stamped upon every squareinch of the surface, from the side-walk level to the insignificant and common balustrade which surmounts-the buUd. 1 ing. It is; like A. T. Stewart' s upper store, just ! one huge mass of architectural nothingness; -wi-th- out one single original thought to greet the be¬ holder, one.single feature, however significant, to show-that atrchitecture has advanced a step from-what it was among us twenty or thirty years agO; • There are the same caps, the same brackets, the same rusticatio^ns, cornices, and . mouldings.which we have seen repeated over P and over again, ad natiseam, and much better even in buildings of far less pretension and ex¬ pense than the one in question. The piers are all so massive, the ornaments so exceedingly simple and commonplace, the whole treatment so utterlyunlike that of iron, and so completely what could have been so much better executed in solid stone, .that the most un-tutored mind naturally inquires, why, in.a work of such con¬ sequence, go the round-about way of producing in iron, and then painting to imitate stone, "what could have been so much better done in the natural material at once ? Such devices can de¬ ceive nobody, even if the paint be laid on half an inch thick, for, even to the most unpractised eye, the plain surface of cast metal, however well executed^—especially when seen in sunlight and in a slanting direction—^wiU always present that metallic, wavy, and rmpleasant appearance that is never discernible in. the rubbed surface of stone or other sohd building material. The only feature we have been able to dis¬ cover in the whole exterior of this building, at all out of the most ordinary routine, is the fact that the stone fronts to the upper surface of the cornice are painted a deep black, -with certain ornaments and surfaces picked out and chased in gold; Avhile all the rest of the building is painted the color of Amherst Ohio stone. This painting of the first story is a somewhat pleas¬ ing innovation, as far as the attempt goes, al¬ though the deep black, even relieved as it is by golden lines, is somewhat too dreary and fune¬ real, and seems more suited to the hulk of an Enghsh merchantman than to the decoration of a first-class store in one of the most prominent spots of our gay metropolis. It is, however, a step in the right direction. But the questions naturally arise: Why paint only the first floor with these distinguishing colors ? Since the re¬ maining parts of the structure are.equally of iron, why paint them to look like stone ? This question of coloring is one not only ap¬ plicable to this building, but to aL. iron structures hitherto erected in our city, and is, we think, deserving of great consideration among our architects. Since we are bold enough innovat¬ ors to erect buildings -with fronts of iron (a material which imperatively requires the aid of paint to preserve it), why not go a step further, discard all imitations whatsoever of stone, not only in form but in color, and boldly polychro- mize our iron structures ? The eye is delighted -with a judicious diversity of colors in our in¬ teriors, why (siace we must paint) could we not also have that diversity externally, if done in subdued and weU-chosen colors under the hand of a master ? Greece, in her palmiest days, did not disdain the artistic aid of polychromy, even to her chaste marble creations, which really neededno pigments ; why, then, should we refrain from applying the same to our cast-iron fronts, of which paint is an indispensable adjunct ? In a recent issue Ave commended Lord & Taylor's new iron building as coming nearer than any¬ thing else we had yet seen here, in its richness of decoration and general treatment, to an honest expression of the material of which it is buHt. But that building, even in this respect, is very far from what the laws of truth and taste re¬ quire, and tlie model iron front for our stores has yet to be dedgned". ' Lord &-Taylob' s building, in,'contradiction oif the very featute which gave it its chief recommendation, has also been painted aU over in imitation'of .(we suppose) Cleveland Ohio stOne. Why not, in this case, have ventured upon the novel display of varied external colors, keeping all the large surfaces very subdued, and picking out the minuter surfaces and ornaments here and there, Avith brighter and pleasingly blending colors ? We are confident that an original and beautiful effect could be thus produced Avithout in the minutest degree bordering upon the gaudy or meretricious in art. But, to carry out such an experiment successfully, the building itself, con- stinictively, should be so completely icon in. ap¬ pearance as not to have the remotest affinity Avith stone or wooden construction ; and such a building, we repeat, does not yet exist among us. If our architects of taste would only give themselves to such a study, it is impossible to say to what an extent iron might yet (Avith the inexorable demand of commercial buildings for the largest amount of light and least of solid obstructions) be found available, even as an ar¬ tistic material, in the fronts of our stores and other commercial structures. But we may rest assured that so long as our architects content themselves with slavishly imitating stone models out of painted cast-iron plates, the result can only be ridiculous and offensive ; and that all such future buildings, if folloAving the prevail¬ ing fashion, -wiU only—^like the ones we have herein condemned—^prove eyesores and blem¬ ishes instead of ornaments to our city. THE NEW UNION DEPOT. The enormous btdlding now being constructed for a Union Depot of the Hudson, New Haven, and Harlem Bailroads, is one of those wonders of mechanical design and ingenuity well worthy of attention to all those interested in such mat¬ ters. The work is proceeding Avith such extra¬ ordinary speed that, to any one who allows the interval of only a week to elapse between his visits, the progress appears almost like the work of enchantment. Covering a spiace of ground aU the way from Forty-second to Forty- fifth street, making a total length of 694 feet on Fourth Avenue by a Avidth of 240 feet on Forty-second and Forty-fifth streets, the build¬ ing—even as far as it has gone—already looms up in gigantic proportions. The front on Forty-second street is of neatly executed pressed brickwork, with iron finishings to the openings ; and although the design is of no very novel character in its details, it is massive and commanding in effect, and very appropriately treated. Over each Aving is posted up, in solid prominent characters, the name of the railroad to which each, portion is dedicated; and in the centre of the building is a large ornamental niche, no doubt reserved for the effigy of the