Photographer: © Michael Freeman/Courtesy of The Monacelli Press
Photographer: © Michael Freeman/Courtesy of The Monacelli Press

The 10 Stunning New York Interiors You’ve Probably Never Seen

New York is (arguably) more famous for its skyline than its interiors, but the publication of the book, Interior Landmarks: Treasures of New York, might begin to change this. Behind some of the most innocuous facades in some of the most anonymous sections of the city's five boroughs is a dazzling array of over-the-top, lavishly ornate interiors. The best news of all: Most of the interiors are public.

 

 

United States Customs House, Manhattan
United States Customs House, Manhattan

Completed in 1907 by Cass Gilbert, the Customs House collected tariffs on all imports. New York was then the U.S.’s leading port, and the Customs House is correspondingly grand: The coffered ceiling of the Collector’s Office is gilded, the cavernous entry hall is covered in murals, and the massive rotunda features original paintings by Reginald Marsh. (Interior Landmarks: Treasures of New York, can be purchased at amazon.com)

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

Cunard Building, Manhattan
Cunard Building, Manhattan

No, this is not a Renaissance cathedral. It wasn't even built during the American Renaissance. The Cunard Building lobby, encrusted with sculpture, murals, ornament, coffers and gilding galore, was built in 1921, when cars had already begun to clog New York's streets and the ocean liners that created Cunard Steamship’s fortune were about to begin sinking into obsolescence.

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn
Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn

The original, 28,500-square-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building was built in 1875. A second dome was added in 1908 for “women depositors,” who had recently become a major portion of the bank’s clientele, and for whom the original dome was apparently too masculine. After falling into disrepair during the second half of the 20th century, the building was turned into an event venue in 2014.

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

City Hall Station, Manhattan
City Hall Station, Manhattan

Once the southern terminus of the “Manhattan Main Line” (precursor to today’s 4, 5, and 6 subway lines), this station was closed in 1945. Following talk of returning it to public use in the 1990s, security and logistical concerns blocked the project. The only people allowed to gaze through the station’s gorgeous, leaded-glass skylights are participants in occasional Transit Museum tours.

Photographer: © Michael Freeman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

Surrogate’s Court, Manhattan
Surrogate’s Court, Manhattan

Originally intended to replace City Hall (the idea was scrapped after a public outcry), the building was constructed on a monumental scale. The lobby is all marble— Siena for the walls, pink and beige for the floor— as is the arcaded, colonnaded lobby a floor above.

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press
Dime Savings Bank, Brooklyn
Dime Savings Bank, Brooklyn

This striking 1908 interior (revised in 1918 and again in 1932) was used as a bank for over 100 years. While the design was supposed to convey stability and trustworthiness, more than anything it looks like a Liberace-inspired fever dream. In May 2015, the building was sold. Its next purpose remains to be seen.

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn
Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn

Built explicitly as a “monument to finance,” the building was completed in 1929, just before Wall Street crashed. Still, the renaissance-revival style structure, complete with a stunning mosaic in the entrance and a 63-foot-high ceiling in the main hall, continues to inspire. The building remained a bank for most of the 20th century and briefly became the site of an indoor flea market. In the grand tradition of other Brooklyn “temples of finance,” it has become an event space.

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

Gould Memorial Library, Bronx
Gould Memorial Library, Bronx

Designed by the famed architecture firm, McKim, Mead & White, Gould Memorial Library was donated by the daughter of railroad baron Jay Gould to become the centerpiece of New York University’s Bronx campus. The years were not kind. In the 1960s the library was relocated, and the building fell into disuse. In 1969, a nearby explosion blew out the then-deserted building’s Tiffany window. It wasn't until 2004 that the library, now owned by Bronx Community College, was restored.

Photographer: © Francis Dzikowski/OTTO

Bartow Pell Mansion, Bronx
Bartow Pell Mansion, Bronx

Once one of dozens of sprawling 19th century mansions dotting the shore of the Long Island Sound in the Bronx, the Bartow Pell mansion is the last one standing. Admittedly more austere than the other interiors we've shown, this federal-style mansion, filled with Greek-revival interior touches, was built in 1842. Following a rather brief run as a private home—the Bartow family gave it to the city in 1888—the mansion became headquarters of the International Garden Club. In 1946, it became a museum.

Source: © Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum/Courtesy of Monacelli Press

Ford Foundation Building, Manhattan
Ford Foundation Building, Manhattan

And now for something completely different. The Ford Foundation Building, built in 1967 on Manhattan's East 42nd Street, proves that modern office buildings need not be austere. All you need is a 170-foot-tall indoor garden and presto, you’ve got a lush, luxurious interior. The only hiccup: Many of the original tropical plants perished over time and were replaced by subtropical flora.

Photographer: © Larry Lederman/Courtesy of Monacelli Press