Life in a Landmark Caring for Historic Residential Buildings

James Gulliver Hancock, an Australian illustrator who now lives in Brooklyn, is attempting to draw all the buildings in New York—all of them. From brownstones on Bank Street to the palatial condo buildings of Park Avenue, from the Flatiron building to Grace Church, Hancock is sketching them all. His website, www.allthebuild ingsinnewyork.com offers a guide through the city via storefronts you might recognize, iconic addresses of the five boroughs—maybe even the building you call home.

“This project stems from an interest in obsession and recording of places,” Hancock says. “New York holds a special place in everyone’s heart…this blog records an attempt to make the city personal by passing a pen over every structure, hopefully making up for the time not spent in New York.”

Land of Landmarks

It’s impossible not to love Hancock’s project—the buildings and structures of the city lure so many of us. From ambitious young college graduates who equate the city’s high rises with success and fortune, to the tourists who come to snap pictures of the Empire State building (both at the top and on the street level) – New York is an architectural wonder. And, ask any native or transplant: the city is proud of its impressive edifices. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)—the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation—reports that there are more than 31,000 landmark properties in New York City, “most of which are located in 109 historic districts and 20 historic district extensions in all five boroughs.” In those notable buildings people work, live and—perhaps more importantly—have unique concerns when it comes to maintenance and restoration projects.

How does a building attain the lofty status of 'landmark,' and when you live within the walls of history, what happens when you want to say, knock a big hole in one of those walls to install a bay window?

Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Heather McCracken explains that a lot goes into the designation of landmark property. “In order to be eligible for landmark status, a building must have special historical, cultural, or aesthetic significance to the city of New York, state or nation, and represent an important part of the city's heritage…a site or area must meet certain eligibility criteria to be designated by the Commission as an individual landmark, interior landmark, scenic landmark, or historic district.”

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