Starrett-Lehigh Building

Added by intern_test, last update: August 17, 2012, 1:48 pm

Starrett-Lehigh Building
Starrett-Lehigh Building facade, source: New York Public Library Digital Collection, date: July 14, 1936
601-625 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001
United States
40° 45' 2.0268" N, 74° 0' 15.4224" W
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Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

Individual Landmark, New York City Landmarks
Preservation Commission, 1986. DL 186. LP-1295

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The large warehouse that takes up an entire city block was built by the Starrett Investment Corporation and Lehigh Valley Railroad as a joint venture in 1930-31. Prior to the buildings construction, the land was used as an open-air railroad. When the building was constructed there was a railroad terminal on the bottom floor of the building, while commercial space took up the upper floors. The railway was used less in the 1950s because of the popularity of highways. The tracks were later taken out in 1966. The Landmark Commission Report claims that the above space was made up of rental, manufacturing, and warehouse space; as it still is today. It went though a major renovation in 2000.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission 1930; Completion 1931
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect: Russell G. Cory and Walter M. Cory; Yasuo Matsui, associated architect; Purdy & Henderson, consulting Engineers
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Removal of railroad tracks on first floor (1966, Renovation (2000).
Current Use: Continued use as commercial space, though now mostly office space. The bottom floor is no longer a railway.
Current Condition: Excellent Condition. The building was renovated in 2000. The large open floor plans were changed from large industrial spaces to smaller commercial office spaces.
General Description:

The 2.2 million square feet building is made up of a 19-story central tower, a 9-story west side, and 8-story east side. It is a commercial structure made up of mostly loft-like office and industrial spaces. The large interior spaces are open with the exception of large columns throughout. The columns allow for the modern exterior look of the building. The building has no exterior columns. It makes use of glass curtain walls broken up by horizontal layers of brick. This emphasizes the horizontal lines of the building.

Construction Period:


Original Physical Context:

The two lowest floors of the building were built using an open system of steel framing because of the irregular shape needed to allow for the railroad tracks. The rest of the building is constructed using mushroom columns that support reinforced concrete flat-slabs. The slabs cantilever out past the columns to connect with the building’s exterior. The exterior of the building is made up of curtain walls containing continuous glass with steel sashes. The glass walls are broken up with horizontal strips of brick.

Technical Evaluation:

The most notable technical advance used in the construction of the Starrett-Lehigh building is the use of flat-slab reinforced concrete slabs and vast glass curtain walls. The Landmarks Preservation Commission report states that “At the time of its completion, the Starrett-Lehigh Building was the largest multi-story structure in the United States having a flat-slab reinforced concrete frame. At the time it was also the largest building erected to lack exterior columns (New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Starrett-Lehigh building, 601-625 West 26th Street, Manhattan).
The building is also known for its unique use of railroad tracks at the bottom of the building and its large elevators that allow for trucks to be lifted to the desired floor.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The Starrett-Lehigh Building was at the forefront of modern design in the International Style at the time of its construction.
General Assessment:
The building is important because of its use of new technology, depiction of modern architecture in the 1930s in America, and its connection to commerce. The building once housed companies that benefited from being close to a railroad track. The renovations reworked the structure into office spaces that are more relevant to the current American industries.
Text references:

Dunlap, David W. “For 1930’s Behemoth, a New Upscale Life” New York Times Archives. (Feb. 20, 2000)

Holusha, John. “Commercial Real Estate; Industrial Center is Reborn as Offices” New York Times Archives (Oct. 11, 2000)

“Huge Freight Depot to be Started Soon; Central’s New Freight Terminal to Cover Four West Side Blocks” New York Times Archives (Nov. 27, 1931)

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Starrett-Lehigh building, 601-625 West 26th Street, Manhattan. Designed by Russell G. Cory and Walter M. Cory; Yasuo Matsui, associated architect; and Purdy & Henderson, consulting Engineers. Report prepared by Jay Shockley, Research Department

2 visual material attached:
New York Public Library, Digital Collection. (July 14, 1936)

Recorder/Date: Nikki Westfall/November 23, 2010
Additional Images
Starrett-Lehigh Building
Lower Level Floorplan, Source:, date: 2010
Starrett-Lehigh Building
Upper Level Floorplan, Source:, date: 2010
Starrett-Lehigh Building
Interior, Source:, date: 2010
Starrett-Lehigh Building
Detail of mushroom columns and cantilevered concrete slab, Source:
Starrett-Lehigh Building
Section of truck elevators, Source:
Starrett-Lehigh Building
Steel sash window detail, Source:
P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
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