A Look at the Art Deco Masterpiece That Is 70 Pine

Photos by Joel Barhamand

The landmarked Lower Manhattan building stands as a testament to the artistic movement that helped define the modern New York City skyline.

When it was completed in 1932, the Cities Service Building was the third-tallest building in the world, and the last skyscraper built in Lower Manhattan prior to World War II. The Art Deco masterpiece was designed for the Cities Service Company which provided gas and electricity to small public utilities from New York to as far west as Texas.

Built by the Cities Service Company for Henry Latham Doherty, the financier and oil baron who founded the company in 1905, the skyscraper was only eclipsed by the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. It was designed by the firm of Clinton & Russell, Holton & George during the last half of the fabled firm’s existence. During the building boom in the beginning of the 20th century, the firm dotted New York City with some of the largest and most iconic  Deco and Neo-Renaissance style office and apartment buildings, including the Beaver Building, the Broad Exchange Building, and Hotel Astor, as well as many other real estate commissions for the Astor family.

Designed by architecture firm Clinton & Russell, Holton & George, the building’s iconic limestone-clad tower is an interpretation of a snow-capped mountain. Illuminating the lobby from the ceiling are a series of hand-cut light fixtures with bronze decoration; gold, bronze, and copper-leaf detail on the ceiling connect them all together.

For this project, the architects designed a six-floor private residence for Doherty in the tower that topped the building. This limestone-encased snow-capped mountain-themed tower is one of the property’s most notable Deco elements. Featuring an open-air platform with an enclosed glass observatory on the 66th floor, the views of downtown remain virtually unparalleled.

Influences of Art Deco were often derived from classical Egyptian and Native American imagery, as seen in the reliefs on the elevator hatchway doors.

The great skyscraper race in the United States was the apex of the Art Deco style, producing the tallest and most recognizable building in the world – the Empire State Building, the General Electric Building, Chrysler Building, and 30 Rockefeller Center among them. The interiors were often a dynamic and colorful mix of geometrics, ornate design, marble, glass, stainless steel, and ceramics. Artists and designers borrowed from many different styles and cultures, and incorporated motifs from Greece, Rome, Asia, ancient Egypt, and Oceania, along with many others. Many of these elements can be seen at 70 Pine, which led the 67-story building, and its first-floor interior, to be designated a New York City Landmark in 2011.

Art Deco’s formative influences were rooted in Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, and Cubism which are represented in the metal reliefs above the windows on the building’s exterior.
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Lyric at 70 Pine
70 Pine St, New York, NY 10005