26 Broadway, also known as the Standard Oil Building or Socony–Vacuum Building, is an office building located at Bowling Green in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City. The 31-story, 520ft structure was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Thomas Hastings of Carrère and Hastings, in conjunction with Shreve, Lamb & Blake.
26 Broadway is located on a pentagonal site bounded by Broadway to the northwest, Bowling Green to the west, Beaver Street to the south, New Street to the east/southeast, and the axis of Morris Street to the north. It contains a tower topped by a stepped pyramid, as well as a curved facade along Broadway.
The original structure was built in 1884–1885 for Standard Oil on the former site of U.S. treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton's house. The Standard Oil Building was expanded in 1895 and again after World War I, when Walter C. Teagle bought four neighboring buildings to create a continuous lot. The building was greatly expanded to its current size in a multi-phase construction project that took place between 1921 and 1928. 26 Broadway was sold to another owner in 1956 but remained a prominent structure on Bowling Green. In 1995, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 26 Broadway as an official city landmark.
26 Broadway is bounded by Broadway to the northwest and west (along Bowling Green), Beaver Street to the south, and New Street to the east/southeast. It occupies the physical lots of 10-30 Broadway, 1-11 Beaver Street, and 73-81 New Street. Immediately to the south is 2 Broadway, while the Cunard Building (25 Broadway), 11 Broadway, and the Charging Bull sculpture are located directly to the west. The New York City Subway's BMT Broadway Line (now the ) and IRT Lexington Avenue Line cross each other under the western boundary of the building; the lines' respective Whitehall Street and Bowling Green stations are both located less than a block south.
The building was designed by Thomas Hastings of Carrère and Hastings in the Renaissance Revival style, in conjunction with Shreve, Lamb & Blake. Of the principal architects in the latter firm, Richmond Shreve oversaw the construction of the building's expansion and was tasked with solving logistical issues; however, not much is known about the tasks performed by William F. Lamb and Theodore Blake. The structure is 520ft tall, with 31 stories.
The top of 26 Broadway's tower section contains a finial and kerosene cauldron.
The building has a complex massing: its lower portion occupies the entire pentagonal lot, following the curving contour of Broadway at that point, while its tower is aligned with the grid to which Lower Manhattan's other skyscrapers conform. A deep light court cuts through the center of the Beaver Street facade, which was the last section to be constructed due to the presence of a holdout lot.
The original Standard Oil Building, a 15- or 16-story building initially faced in brick, still exists at the base of the modern skyscraper. The interior floors of the annex portions were designed so that they were at the same level as the floors in the original building. The newer floors are carried by trusses over the original structure, rather than resting on the older building's walls. In total, the base of the building is 16 stories.
The tower section of 26 Broadway contains an additional 13 stories above the northern edge of the expanded base. A colonnade is located outside the top three stories on each side. The tower is topped by a ziggurat-style pyramid that was inspired by the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The pyramid was added when the building was expanded in the 1920s, and its top finial is 480ft above ground level. The pyramid contains a cauldron that initially was lit by kerosene, the material with which Standard Oil's founders, the Rockefeller family, made their first profits. The cauldron's light was extinguished after 1956.
The modern building was constructed in several phases around the preexisting buildings on the site. The buildings were occupied by numerous tenants, who were allowed to temporarily stay in place due to the dearth of office space in Lower Manhattan in the 1920s. The structures included the Welles Building at 14-20 Broadway, at the modern building site's western boundary; the New York Produce Exchange at Broadway and Beaver Street, on the site's southwest corner; the Lisbon Building at Beaver and New Streets, at the site's southeast corner; and a five-story Childs Restaurants location in the middle of the block on Beaver Street, on the southern boundary. The original Standard Oil structure was located on the northern boundary of the site.
Further complicating work was the presence of quicksand some 15to below ground, underneath which was a hardpan of clay, gravel, and boulders. The Welles Building and the original Standard Oil Building contained thick footings that went into the quicksand, though only a few of the footings reached the hardpan. Thus, a cofferdam wall was built underneath part of the expanded site, extending down to the bedrock at the deepest level. A complex system of underpinning was then undertaken so that the existing buildings would not collapse while excavation and construction of the foundation was ongoing.
Main arched entrance
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The modern building's facade is primarily composed of buff-colored Indiana Limestone, covering the tower and much of the base. The limestone facade at the lower stories is rusticated. The original building's facade was made of red brick and granite, making it appear as though the original section was separate from the expanded structure. Part of this facade is visible from New Street, but the Broadway facade was totally replaced with limestone. A small portion of the original building's southern facade is still visible but was given a limestone overlay.
26 Broadway features numerous setbacks on its facade, as mandated by the 1916 Zoning Resolution. The lowest such setback is located at the 10th floor on the New and Beaver Streets sides. Further setbacks are located above the 16th floor, where the building's base transitions into the tower, and above the 18th and 22nd floors of the tower.
The Broadway facade slopes slightly downward to the south: at the northern part of the building, the ground level is at the same elevation as the building's second floor. The main entrance is located near the middle of the curved Broadway facade; it consists of a recessed double-height arch, with elaborately carved spandrels at its top. Double-height arched windows are located on either side of the main entrance arch. There are also two secondary entrances at 24 and 28 Broadway, located respectively to the south and north of the main arch; these entrances are located within doorways topped by pediments and clocks. The former was historically an entrance to retail space, while the latter provides access to the original building. On Beaver Street to the south, the ground level is at the same elevation as the first floor, and contains storefronts. The Beaver Street facade is divided into three sections. The center section only reaches to the third floor and contains a cornice above projecting vertical pilasters, while the taller outer sections contain double-height arched windows between smaller window openings. On New Street, the facade is divided into two sections: the northern section is made of brick and granite, and the southern section is made of limestone.
The entrance contains an entrance hall 40ft high. The interior features 19 elevators; the elevators in the original building were removed when the expansion was built. The 23rd floor contained squash courts with adjoining locker and shower rooms. The 21st floor, which housed Standard Oil successor Socony's board room, covered 2000ft2 and contained a double-height ceiling with relief panels; a limestone fireplace; and oak wainscoting.
The building contains a basement 10ft deep, as well as a sub-basement 37ft deep. All of 26 Broadway's mechanical equipment is located in the sub-basement.
The site of the Standard Oil Building was occupied by Dutch houses after the colony of New Amsterdam was founded in the 17th century. In the late 18th century, 26 Broadway was the home address of Alexander Hamilton, his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and their family. Hamilton occupied the house after resigning his position as United States Secretary of the Treasury. According to a 1786 directory, rum was also sold from the address in the late 18th century.
Starting in the early 19th century, when New York City became a nationally prominent commercial hub, many firms chose to build their headquarters in Lower Manhattan, renting the unused space to subsidiaries or other companies. Corporations sought addresses in the Financial District as status symbols. Furthermore, many companies built their original headquarters in the 19th century and replaced these with larger structures in the early 20th century.
The brick facade of the original structure (right) can still be seen on New Street, next to the limestone facade of the expanded building (left).
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Standard Oil Trust moved its headquarters to New York City from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1870. By 1884, the company had acquired lots at 24-28 Broadway near Bowling Green, and had started erecting a headquarters building at the site. The Standard Oil Building, opened in 1885, was designed by architect Francis H. Kimball as a 9- or 10-story, 86ft building that extended between Broadway to the west and New Street to the east. It was designed by Ebenezer L. Roberts with a Renaissance Revival granite facade. In 1895, six stories were added and a 27ft annex was erected on 26 Broadway's north side; the extension was designed by Kimball & Thompson and continued the original Renaissance Revival design. A 1910 photograph showed that 26 Broadway was initially flanked by other buildings, and was 16 stories high.
Initially, all of Standard Oil's 40 operations were controlled from 26 Broadway. So important was the building's role, The New York Times said that "Twenty-six Broadway was once to oil what 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is to politics." By 1890, Standard Oil controlled 88 percent of the refined oil flows in the United States. In an attempt to avoid public scrutiny, in 1899 Standard Oil was reorganized as the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, a holding company based at 26 Broadway. This did not resolve the monopoly concerns: The New York Times in 1906 said that "every cent of [Standard Oil's subsidiaries] made found its way to 26 Broadway". When Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States was decided in May 1911, Standard Oil was required to be broken up into several smaller firms. As a result of the decision, several subdivisions were forced to move, including Tenant Corn Refining Products Company and U.S. Steel. By December 1911, half of the company's divisions were still housed at 26 Broadway. The building ultimately served as the headquarters of the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony, later Mobil) once the split was completed.
After World War I, Standard Oil president Walter C. Teagle decided to greatly expand the structure by buying the neighboring buildings on the block. At the time, the area around Bowling Green was quickly developing into a shipping center within Lower Manhattan. To the north of the original Standard Oil Building was the 17-story Hudson Building, followed by a 21-story office building at 36-42 Broadway. Socony was reported to have purchased the latter in February 1920, paying $6 million and beating out two other bidders for the property. The next month, the company acquired or leased all four structures that stood between the existing building and Beaver Street to the south. According to The New York Times, the brokers valued the $30 million transaction as "probably the largest real estate transaction ever closed in the city". After the acquisitions were complete, Socony had a total frontage of 500ft facing Broadway, not all of which were to be part of the headquarters' expansion. This frontage was truncated soon after, as Socony sold the Arcade at 44-50 Broadway in March 1920.
In August 1920, Carrère and Hastings filed plans with the New York City Department of Buildings for enlarging 26 Broadway to 24 stories. Thomas Hastings—the only living partner of Carrère and Hastings, who had helped design the Cunard Building across the street—was chosen as lead architect. Shreve, Lamb & Blake were named as the associated architects. Further details of 26 Broadway's major expansion were publicly announced in March 1921. The building was to cost $5 million and rise 480ft, covering a lot of 40,000ft2, with a total floor area of 500,000ft2, thus becoming one of Lower Manhattan's "largest structures". The project included replacement of the old building's Broadway facade.
Construction was complicated by the Childs Restaurants location's decision to hold out until its lease expired; the difficulty of evicting the four buildings' occupants; and a dearth of available office space in the neighborhood. As a result, the expansion was to be undertaken in several phases, and the plans were changed in 1921 to allow for a lighted courtyard around the location of the restaurant. The existing buildings on the site were underpinned so that existing tenants could remain until construction started on these respective sections. Work started in 1921 at the southeastern corner of the site, at Beaver and New Streets, on the site of the Lisbon Building. The section at the southwestern corner, the former Produce Exchange at Broadway and Beaver Street, began two years later. The original building's brick facade on Broadway was replaced in 1924–1925, but the facade along New Street was kept in place. The last section of the site to be built was the lot occupied by Childs Restaurants, which was not developed until 1928, after the restaurant's lease had run out.
26 Broadway was known as the "Rockefeller address" because the offices of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and John Sr. were located in the building. After the construction of Rockefeller Center, the offices of both Rockefellers moved to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1933. The same year, Standard Oil of New Jersey (by that time, also known phonetically as Esso) announced its intention to move as well, in order to consolidate its operations at Rockefeller Center. Ultimately, Esso moved some of its operations in 1933, but retained other offices at 26 Broadway until 1946, when these offices moved to 75 Rockefeller Plaza. National Fuel Gas also moved to Rockefeller Center in 1936.
Socony, which had merged in 1931 with Vacuum Oil to form Socony-Vacuum, retained its headquarters in 26 Broadway. The structure thus was renamed the Socony-Vacuum Building in 1950. Socony-Vacuum moved to 150 East 42nd Street in 1954 and sold 26 Broadway two years later. Afterward, the Koeppel family purchased the building. Standard & Poor's leased spaces at 25 and 26 Broadway starting in the late 1970s. The Museum of American Finance (MOAF) was founded in the building in 1988, initially occupying 250ft2 of space on the ground floor. Alfred J. Koeppel's Independence Partners purchased the building for $16 million the following year.
In 1995, 26 Broadway and several other buildings on Bowling Green were formally designated as New York City landmarks. S&P started leasing space at nearby 55 Water Street in 1997, vacating its former quarters at 25 and 26 Broadway. Standard & Poor's moved out in late 1999, and the vacant space was completely filled by the following April. The ownership of the building and the underlying plots remained separate until 2007, when the Chetrit Group bought the building and two of the three lots underneath for $225 million. Chetrit bought the remaining leasehold for $34.93 million in 2010; the lease had been held by the estate of Elmer Ellsworth Smathers, who had signed a 99-year lease in 1920., 26 Broadway is owned by Broadway 26 Waterview, while Chetrit Group is landlord for many of the interior spaces, and Newmark Group is the landlord's broker.
The subsequent years also saw the departure or closure of several tenants. The MOAF opened a gallery at the building's 24 Broadway entrance in 1992, which was moved to the 28 Broadway entrance in 1996, and the entire museum finally relocated to 48 Wall Street in 2006. The Sports Museum of America was founded in the building in 2008. The Sports Museum closed in 2009 due to low patronage, since 95% of New York City residents were unaware of its existence. Starting in 2008, the PS 234 elementary school was supposed to have used 26 Broadway to alleviate classroom overcrowding at its main campus, but 26 Broadway was subsequently deemed "not appropriate for kindergartners" because the students would have to use elevators to reach the proposed classroom space. Additionally, Dowling College Manhattan was located in the Standard Oil Building until it closed in 2016.
Seen from Whitehall and Beaver Streets, to the southwest. 2 Broadway can be seen at right.
, tenants include Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Olo (Online Ordering), SecondMarket, SpeechCycle, and JDRF. The New York Film Academy, leased the entire 12th floor in 2014. Other tenants include the coworking company Primary, the law firm Schlam Stone & Dolan, and the design company Ustwo Studio.
The largest tenant of 26 Broadway is the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), and the building contains numerous schools and offices administered by the NYCDOE. The Lower Manhattan Community School, a middle school, serves grades 6 through 8. A second middle school, the New York City Charter School of the Arts, also serves grades 6-8 and moved into the building in 2018. A third, the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, is a high school serving grades 9-12, which had been founded in 2005. In addition, the New York City School Construction Authority leases the fourth through sixth floors.
A writer for The New York Times praised the building plans in 1922, saying that the expanded building would be a "landmark in the city skyline". As the building was completed, architectural critics praised the design of 26 Broadway as having more emphasis on its form instead of the articulation of windows and other details. The architect C.H. Blackall, for instance, stated that the building's specialty was in its massing, with the windows and other details as "incidents". The British architect Charles Herbert Reilly said that "the combination possible of stepped building and tower", as used in 26 Broadway, could contribute to a form "more interesting even than that of the Woolworth Building".