The Importance of Landmarks and Zoning

Left: 1986 proposal for addition above 520 West End Avenue. Right: contemporary photo of the building. Credit: Stux Gallery.

This 1986 Upper West Side building proposal reminds us of the importance of historic preservation and zoning regulations. The above image is not a joke and was even approved by the New York City Department of Buildings.

In 1986 the owner of the historic 520 West End Avenue at the corner of 85th Street proposed constructing a 10-story glass-and-steel apartment building above his four-story Romanesque Revival townhouse. The Department of Buildings approved the plans for the new building, which would sit on a platform supported by four columns erected around the existing building.

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Built-in 1892, the red brick and stone 520 West End Avenue was Designed by architect Clarence True, who started out as a draftsman in the office of Richard Upjohn for cotton broker John B. Leech. With steep gables and gothic detailing, the residence was Knicknamed "The Castle" by locals.

The New York Times covered the controversy, noting local opposition, calling it ''a desecration and a cannibalization of a true treasure."

"''He could restore this very handsome building, but what he is doing is coming in and installing truly an atrocity in terms of architecture. It's like putting this modern dunce cap on top of this very elegant, late-19th-century building.''

[The owner] Mr. Stux said, however, that ''I am a West Sider myself and I am interested in making the neighborhood look good.''

''I don't think this is a landmark-quality building,'' he said. ''Age doesn't make a building a landmark. This is just an old building.''"

Following protests from neighbors and local preservationists the building was landmarked in 1987, putting an end to the proposed addition.


Tower Proposal For West Side Roils Neighbors. New York Times, 1986,

Panel Declares Landmark Site at Townhouse. New York Times, 1987.

Judge Overturns Landmark Status of Town House on Upper West Side. New York Times, 1988.

520 West End Avenue Designation Report. Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1988.