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The Old New York County Courthouse, more commonly known as the Tweed Courthouse, is a historic courthouse building at 52 Chambers Street in Manhattan, New York City. It was built in Italianate style with Romanesque Revival interiors, under the leadership of the corrupt William M. "Boss" Tweed, whose Tammany Hall political machine controlled the city and state governments at the time. The Tweed Courthouse served as a judicial building for New York County, a county of New York State that is coextensive with the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is the second-oldest city government building in Manhattan, after City Hall.[4]:28–29

Old New York County Courthouse
Tweed Court portico straight sun jeh.jpg
Tweed Courthouse entry portico (2010)
Tweed Courthouse is located in Manhattan
Tweed Courthouse
Tweed Courthouse is located in New York City
Tweed Courthouse
Tweed Courthouse is located in New York
Tweed Courthouse
Tweed Courthouse is located in the United States
Tweed Courthouse
Location52 Chambers Street, Manhattan, New York, United States
Coordinates40°42′48″N 74°0′20″W / 40.71333°N 74.00556°W / 40.71333; -74.00556Coordinates: 40°42′48″N 74°0′20″W / 40.71333°N 74.00556°W / 40.71333; -74.00556
Built1861–72 and 1877–81
ArchitectJohn Kellum,[2] Leopold Eidlitz
NRHP reference #74001277[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 25, 1974[1]
Designated NHLMay 11, 1976[3]
Designated NYCLOctober 16, 1984

The outer shell of the building was constructed from 1861–1872 by the architect John Kellum, with the political appointee Thomas Little. Construction was interrupted after Kellum died in 1871; the same year, the kickbacks and corruption involved in the construction of the building were disclosed to the public. The project was completed by architect Leopold Eidlitz who added the rear wing and completed the interior in 1877–1881.

The Tweed Courthouse was heavily criticized as wasteful and gaudy during its construction. Following its completion, numerous modifications were made to the courthouse, including removal of its front steps. Modern restoration and historic preservation of the courthouse were completed in 2001. Since the completion of the renovation, the Tweed Courthouse has contained the headquarters of the New York City Department of Education[2] on its upper floors, and schools on its ground level.

The Tweed Courthouse is a New York City Designated Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Tweed Courthouse building includes a central section, two wings on the western and eastern ends, and an annex on its southern portion.[5] The building contains four and a half floors, including an attic but excluding two mezzanine levels. The first floor is at ground level but was formerly known as the basement.[6] The structure measures 258 by 149 feet (79 by 45 m), with the longer side being located on the west-east axis.[5] The structure is located atop a low foundation made of granite.[7] The roof was replaced three times: first with an iron roof in the early 20th century, then with an asphalt roof in 1978 or 1979,[8] and finally with a stainless steel-over-rubber roof in 2001.[9] The Guide to New York City Landmarks characterizes the building as containing "some of the finest mid-19th century interiors in New York."[4]:28–29

The building is located in the northern portion of City Hall Park, just north of New York City Hall. The portion of the park outside the courthouse building contains shaded walkways and lawns.[10]

Main structureEdit

The center bay on the northern facade contains the main entrance

The two original wings were designed by John Kellum and were arranged in an I-shape.[5] The entry portico on the main Chambers Street facade rises three and a half stories from a low granite curb. Panels of granite and Tuckahoe marble[11] and Sheffield marbles[12] are anchored to the outside of the brick structure, with rusticated stone at the basement level. No documentation regarding the use of other quarries has been found.[7]

The main wing was designed by Kellum in the style of the Renaissance palazzo, described as the "Anglo-Italianate" style to reveal the influence of British Victorian architecture that was the foundation of the popular American Victorian style.[5] The original design was inspired by that of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.,[5] whose design was being used by numerous other sub-national government buildings at the time of the Tweed Courthouse's construction.[13]:69 The most prominent element from the Capitol that were used in the Tweed Courthouse was a large entry stairway that approached a triangular portico, supported by massive columns in the Corinthian order. Also, the Courthouse contained a basement with rustication, pediments above the ground floor's windows, pilasters between the columns of windows, and a balustrade running along the roof. Also included in the Courthouse's original design, but ultimately never built, was an iron dome with a high tholobate, inspired by the United States Capitol dome.[5][14]


The main entrance of the Tweed Courthouse is located on Chambers Street, on the building's northern facade. It is composed of a portico with four Corthinian columns, which covers a three-window-wide central bay.[7][10] Large Italianate wooden doors are located on the second floor of the central bay, while the third floor contains three sash windows.[7][15] The portico is approached by a reproduction of the building's original large granite stairway. The stairway, which was removed to accommodate a widening of that street in the mid-20th century,[8][10][16] was restored in 2002.[4]:26–27

On each side of the northern facade, there is a flanking bay within the building's main section, as well as a wing that projects northward by approximately the depth of one window. Each bay and each wing is three windows wide, giving the northern facade a total of 15 window openings per story. Each of the windows on the northern facade contains their original pilasters, centered colonettes, and paneled blind railings, and are set within a marble surround. Each window opening contains a cornice above it and a window sill below it.[7] On the northern facade, the windows of each wing are more elaborately decorated.[17] The window openings on the second and third floors contain double-hung sash windows with sash bars made of wood. The ground-floor windows are simpler two-by-two windows with architrave trim.[7] An entablature in the Corinthian style surrounds the top of the Tweed Courthouse's northern, western, and eastern facades and remains mostly intact.[17]

Eastern facade

The western and eastern facades contain mirror-image designs, with three bays each containing three window openings on each floor, for a total width of each window openings on each story. The central bay on each side is topped by a simpler triangular pediment than that found on the northern side. The ground-floor wooden doors, set within the centermost opening on each facade, are more simply detailed than the second-floor main entry portico.[17] The southern facade is similar to the northern facade, except for the centermost wing, which was completed later.[17]

Southern wingEdit

The four-story southern wing of the courthouse was constructed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect and theoretician Leopold Eidlitz. The addition by Eidlitz projects 48 feet (15 m) to the south, toward the City Hall building.[5] A portico similar to that on the northern entrance, included in Kellum's original plans, was left out of Eidlitz's revision.[18]

The exterior of the southern wing measures three windows wide on the east-west axis and three windows deep on the north-south axis. The facade is made of ashlar, of a similar color to the rest of the building.[17] A doorway leads to a cellar on the wing's western facade. The ground floor contains three arched windows on the western and eastern facades, and two doorways on each side of the southern facade. The second and fourth floors contain compound arched windows, while the third floor contains foliated banding. Pilasters separate the window openings on the third and fourth floors. There are also foliate belt courses that run horizontally along the facade.[18]


Second floor of the rotunda

The interior of the Tweed Courthouse contains several opulent features, the most prominent of which is a central rotunda.[6][15] Many of the spaces contain cast-iron baseboards and elaborate steel lighting fixtures on the ceilings and walls.[15] The ceilings in many of the rooms are 28 feet (8.5 m) tall.[9]


The interior of the courthouse converges around an octagonal rotunda.[6][15] The space is surrounded by a brick wall with arcades, cast-iron and stone trim, and a brick cornice. Iron-balustraded balconies project into the rotunda from the second and third floors.[19] The rotunda was designed in a mixture of Kellum's and Eidlitz's styles. Kellum used classical cast iron and plaster elements such as palmettes, triangular pediments, and geometric banding; he also included large rectangular openings in the rotunda wall on the ground and second floors. On the other hand, Eidlitz used medieval-style brick and stone motifs including Norman arches and leaves, and he filled in Kellum's rectangular openings with brick arches topped by foliate capitals.[19] The rotunda contains mostly Eidlitz's designs, but a few vestiges remain of Kellum's original style.[15]

A skylight is located at the roof of the 85-foot (26 m) rotunda.[9] The original stained-glass skylight from Henry E. Sharpe Son & Co. had been removed in the 1940s,[20][21] and a replica was installed in 2001.[9]

The four floors leading from the rotunda are all designed with a similar layout,[6] with staircases or light wells on the inside and the offices (formerly courtrooms) extending outward.[6][16] The spaces to the west and east of the rotunda are symmetrical. The ground floor plan has had several modifications, including the addition or removal of staircases.[6]

Stairs and elevatorsEdit

Tweed Courthouse staircase

Directly adjacent to the western and eastern sides of the rotunda, there are two mirror-image cast iron staircases in open wells, connecting the first, second, and third floors. Each staircase is designed so that there is one wide stair leading upward to an intermediate mezzanine which then splits into two smaller stairs that lead back to the rotunda of the following floor above it.[15][19] The railings of these stairs contain ornately designed four-sided iron newels with lampposts atop them, as well as simpler four-sided balusters. Rectangular panels with circles at their centers are located on the underside of each flight of stairs, and are a Renaissance style design used by Kellum. The topmost flights were formerly illuminated by glass-in-cement skylights. The cast-iron handrails at the staircases were painted with a wood-grained finish.[19]

The third and fourth floors are connected by four staircases, one at each corner of the main structure. Three of the stairs contain fluted iron balusters and formerly also were illuminated by skylights, later covered by the asphalt roof. The ornate staircase at the southwest corner was replaced with a plain steel staircase upon the installation of elevators in 1913.[19]

In 1911 and 1913, a pair of elevators were added on the southwestern side of the building.[8] The elevator cabs were initially not enclosed and consisted merely of an open cage.[15][22] This meant that users could touch the walls of the elevator shaft while the cab was in motion. These elevators were the last manually operated elevators in a New York City government building. In 1992, the elevators were retrofitted with plate glass walls and automated operation systems.[23]


On the ground floor, several rooms have been rearranged, though the rotunda and stair halls are in their original layout. The rotunda floor is made of an iron frame set with marble and glass, cast-iron Corinthian columns support the balcony above it. The rest of the ground story contains a marble tile floor and plaster ceilings. There are multiple north-south secondary halls and a west-east main hall; the secondary halls' ceilings are shorter than that of the main hall. Numerous doors, made from walnut wood, lead to the various rooms on the ground floor.[22]

Detail of the stone fireplace in room 201-2
Mosaic floor pattern

The second floor contains the main entrance to the building from the Chambers Street staircase. Within the rotunda, there is a cast-iron ceiling, balustrade, and marble-and-glass floor. The stair halls are located behind archways just outside the rotunda; the stair halls contain marble floors and plaster walls and ceilings. Similar to the ground floor, there is a main hall leading to the west and east, as well as north-south secondary halls closed off by doorways. The second floor contains four primary rooms, of which three are entered from double doors leading off the main corridor.[22] The fourth room, 201-2 on the southern side of the building, contains a medievalist design with multicolored patterned tile floors; arcaded walls with stone arches; a stone-paneled ceiling; and a set of oak double-doors to the main hall, containing glass panels decorated with the seal of New York City. Room 201-2's other features include four round decorative granite columns, several brownstone columns, a stone fireplace, and iron radiators under each window.[15][24] There is also a mezzanine above the second floor with marble floors and plaster walls and ceilings.[24]

The third floor is similar to the ground and second floors, except that the rotunda floor is made of marble tile. The rotunda contains red, tan, and black brick patterns at the third floor, which were painted-over in 1908. The third floor serves as the top floor for the two main staircase halls from the rotunda. There are four additional stairs leading to the fourth floor from the secondary halls. Another mezzanine is located above the third floor and is similar to the mezzanine above the second floor.[24]

The fourth floor contains a similar T-shaped plan to the floors underneath it. Like the floors below, it contains marble floors, plaster walls and ceilings, and corner stairs leading from the third floor. Stairs extend upward to the attic.[20]

The attic is unlike the other floors, as its floor is made of concrete and wood. A lattice truss and other structures supporting the roof can be found in the attic. At the attic level, the rotunda contains the skylight.[20]


Interior view of the rotunda

John Kellum began his career as a house carpenter, later forming the firm King & Kellum in 1846 as the junior partner of Gamaliel King, who required an on-site partner while designing Brooklyn Borough Hall. The firm designed commercial buildings such as the Cary Building, one of the earliest cast-iron facades in New York City.[25][26][27] Kellum started his own practice in 1860, and designed several buildings for Alexander T. Stewart, including Stewart's department store at Broadway and 10th Street,[25][13] as well as the master plan for Garden City, Long Island.[25][28] Kellum was hired to the Tweed Courthouse project in August 1861.[25] He died in August 1871, around the same time the Tweed ring would lose its power.[28] At his death, reception of his work was mixed: while his obituary in Harper's Weekly praised him profusely,[13] an anonymous writer for the American Architect and Building News said that his involvement in the Tweed Courthouse negated anything else he had designed.[29]

Thomas Little, a political appointee of the New York City Board of Supervisors, was given ex officio credit along with Kellum.[30] His first design was the New England Congregational Church in Brooklyn, which he designed in 1852, and he had submitted plans for the Tweed Courthouse in 1859. Multiple documents and testimony indicate that Little was likely the first architect of the courthouse, and that Kellum had been hired later.[31]

Leopold Eidlitz was born in Prague and immigrated to the U.S. in 1843. Prior to working on the courthouse, Eidlitz worked with Richard Upjohn and with Otto Blesch, collaborating with both architects to design numerous churches such as St. George's Episcopal Church.[32][33]:138, 179 Eidlitz's other projects included the New York State Capitol, which he started in 1875.[32][33]:287–291 The following year, Eidlitz was hired to finish the courthouse.[34] He added the building's south wing and domed rotunda, in a similar design to the state capitol.[33]:373 Unlike other architects of his day, Eidlitz believed that the most important part of a building's design was its materials.[34] The Romanesque style and his extensive use of brick and stone transformed the appearance of the courthouse, in contrast to Kellum's intricate cast-iron design. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission stated that Eidlitz's style departs from Kellum's classicism with "an American version of organic architecture expressed through medieval forms".[35]



The Tweed Courthouse is located in City Hall Park directly north of New York City Hall, and its specific site had previously been occupied by the public commons and a poorhouse.[36][37] The Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam used the location as a grazing site for animals. In 1686 the courthouse site was acquired by the British as a prisoners' punishment location and an African burial ground.[36][38]:518 Eight graves from the American colonial era still exist beneath the courthouse.[9] Various other government buildings would be built at the courthouse's future site, including an almshouse, the Upper Barracks, the New Gaol, a military jail called the Bridewell, and a second almshouse.[36][38]:584, 973[39]:394 City Hall and the now-demolished Rotunda were built in 1871 just south of the courthouse site.[36][38]:947–955[39]:397

Due to the city's quick growth in the 1850s, new structures were built or planned around City Hall, including a brownstone built to the west of the Rotunda in 1852. A bill was passed in 1858 that provided for the construction of a new structure to the north, or rear, of City Hall. The structure would contain various New York County courts as well as the grand and petit juries and the county sheriff's office. Two commissioners were named for that task in November 1858. By early 1859, the two commissioners had proposed a new budget of $1 million, saying that the existing budget of $250,000 was not enough. However, an amendment to the budget was declined, and the construction of the courthouse building was authorized by a resolution passed on May 3, 1859.[36] The same year, Thomas Little submitted the first plans for what would become the courthouse building.[31] The first explicit reference to the new building as a courthouse was in a resolution passed by the New York City Board of Supervisors in March 1860.[40] A law called "An Act to Enable the Supervisors of the County of New York to Acquire and Take Land for the Building of a Court House in Said County," was passed on April 10 of the same year.[40][41] Late in 1861, the land was appraised as being worth $450,000.[40]

Tweed leadershipEdit

Northeast corner of the building

From 1861 to 1871, William M. Tweed, also known by his nickname "Boss", was among the most powerful politicians in Manhattan.[42][43] The son of a chair manufacturer, he was elected to the New York City Board of Aldermen in 1851 and became part of the New York County Board of Supervisors in 1857. It was in this capacity that he was able to oversee the construction of the New York County Courthouse and earn millions through embezzlement related to the construction process.[35] Tweed, considered one of the most corrupt politicians in United States history, was able to steal at least $75 million from New York City public funds with the help of a ring of political allies,[44] which as a whole embezzled up to $300 million.[45] The chief portion of this theft came from the extremely slow rate of construction on the new courthouse.[44] The historian Alexander Callow later called the courthouse corruption "a classic in the annals of American graft."[45][46]:202

Construction started on the courthouse in on September 16, 1861, though the cornerstone was laid on December 26.[30] Tweed bought a marble quarry in Sheffield, Massachusetts, to provide much of the marble for the courthouse at great profit to himself.[44][47] Tweed was able to engage in many other acts of corruption, though not necessarily related to the courthouse's construction.[46]:17–32 Separate from Tweed's corruption was the slowdown of work on the courthouse due to the American Civil War.[40] In December 1865, The New York Times wrote that much of the exterior was built, but the interior except for the basement had yet to be constructed.[48] The New York County Court of Appeals moved to the building in March 1867, despite being largely incomplete. The cupola was not yet installed, the main iron staircase only reached to the second floor, and stucco had been placed only in a few rooms. At that point, The New York Times said that "many holes both in the floor and roof are visible in which to bury the money of the tax-payers."[49][50]

In the first four years of construction, the supervisors were able to take $3 million from the project by taking 65% of the commission on each of the contracts.[10] Supervisor Smith Ely Jr. made the first allegation of corruption in the courthouse's construction in 1866.[49] Ely claimed that "grossly extravagant and improper expenditures have been made [...] in reference to the purchase of iron, marble and brick, and in the payment of various persons for services".[51] One particularly egregious example of these expenditures was a $350,000 bill for carpeting in the new courthouse: despite the high price of the contract, some offices remained without carpets several years later.[10] In another case, a contractor was paid $133,180 for two days' work on the window frames, and to justify the per-pound cost of the material, he included excessively thick screws within the frames.[9] To solve Ely's complaint, the Board of Supervisors created the "Special Committee on the New Court House", which found no wrongdoing in its own actions.[49][52]

After the Tweed Charter to reorganize the city's government was passed in 1870, four commissioners for the construction of the New York County Courthouse were appointed. The commission never held a meeting, though each commissioner received a 20% kickback from the bills for the supplies.[53][54] Few media outlets, except for The New York Times and Thomas Nast, the cartoonist from Harper's Weekly, pointed out Tweed's corruption. Nevertheless, once local media learned of the bribes, the ring would be disbanded in 1871 upon the arrest of Boss Tweed.[54] This, coupled with the death of John Kellum that August, would halt construction for five years.[25]


1893 depiction of the Tweed Courthouse

Eidlitz was commissioned to complete an expanded design in 1876. By this point, much of the courthouse was already occupied and in use by several courts and departments of New York City's government. Eidlitz was told to finish the north porch facing Chambers Street; finish the interior main hall, skylight, and rotunda; and build a replacement south porch, Eidlitz was also commissioned to build a southern wing, which in Kellum's original plan was to measure 50 by 70 feet (15 by 21 m).[55]

Though Eidlitz's initial design for the southern wing was supposed to be similar to that of the main building, the real plans turned out to be much different.[5] He redesigned the neoclassical interiors of Kellum with rich polychrome effects in Romanesque Revival style, as well as added ornamental and architectural detailing (such as arches and foliate detail) to integrate the new wing's design with the rest of the courthouse. The expanded design provided thirty monumental courtrooms around the central three-story octagonal rotunda.[7] The New York Times criticized the new wing's design, calling it "cheap and tawdry in comparison with the elaborate finishing and classic exterior of the present structure."[56] The American Architect and Building News described how the addition was "grafted" onto the original building: "Of course no attention was paid to the design of the existing building and within and without a rank Romanesque runs cheek by jowl with the old Italian, one bald, the other florid; cream-colored brick and buff sandstone come in juxtaposition to white marble."[55] According to one biography of Eidlitz, he could not understand the reason behind the controversy surrounding his design:

Standing in the rotunda of the courthouse one day, when his own vari-colored brick arches and columns had been inserted between the cast-iron panels of the older work, he said, "Is it possible for anybody to fail to see that this," pointing to the new work, "performs a function and that that," pointing to the old, "does not?"[33]:374–375

The Tweed Courthouse was officially finished in 1881, more than 20 years after work began.[21] Much of the construction was financed through the sale of stocks issued at various periods throughout the construction process. Stock with a combined cost of $4.55 million was issued six times,[40] with the first stock issue being in 1862,[57] and the last being in 1871.[58] The total cost of construction was estimated in 1914 at $11 million to $12 million. Of this, $8 million was a direct cost "on the books" and the remainder was adjusted claims and county liabilities.[40] Other estimates placed the construction cost at $13 million.[10][59]

Court use and declineEdit

In the years following its completion, the Tweed Courthouse was associated with the crimes of William Tweed.[17] For instance, reformer George C. Barrett said that "You look up at its ceilings and find gaudy decorations; you wonder which is the greatest, the vulgarity or the corruptness of the place."[46]:206 Such was the reputation of the courthouse that in 1871, a poem entitled "The House That Tweed Built" was published,[60] describing the courthouse's corruption "in an amusing satirical tone".[61] The following year, the guidebook Miller's New York As It Is described the courthouse in an unbiased perspective:[61] "The court-rooms are large, airy, unobstructed by columns, made with reference to the principles of acoustics, and finished in an agreeable and pleasing manner."[62] The perception of the Tweed Courthouse as a symbol of wasteful spending persisted until the late 20th century.[16] It was not until the 1950s, when Henry Hope Reed Jr. wrote about the building, that writers started to argue in favor of the Tweed Courthouse for historical reasons.[63]

There were several attempts to destroy the courthouse, one of the first being an 1890s plan by mayor Hugh J. Grant.[63] In 1938, mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia studied the feasibility of destroying the Tweed Courthouse after a suggestion from New York City parks commissioner Robert Moses. Under La Guardia's plan, the City Court would move into the new New York County Courthouse, but the New York Supreme Court refused to cede any space within the new courthouse.[64] Yet another plan in 1955 called for the demolition of the courthouse[65] as part of the restoration of City Hall Park.[66]

The condition of the main facade in 1979, showing absence of the main steps

Numerous modifications were made to the Tweed Courthouse following its completion.[8] By 1908, Montgomery Schuyler had written that Eidlitz's original rotunda colors had "been shorn of much of it pristine force, which was much promoted by the tri-colored brickwork" following the addition of gray paint.[33]:374 Shortly afterward, in 1911 and 1913, elevators were added to the building, and steel-and-iron elevator machinery rooms were built atop the roof. The roof itself was replaced with an iron roof in the early 20th century.[8] Around World War II, the original skylight was removed.[8][21] The grand steps leading to Chambers Street on the north side were removed to accommodate a widening of that street sometime in the mid-20th century, forcing workers and visitors to enter through the ground floor.[16] Sources disagree on whether this removal happened in 1940,[67] 1942,[21][8] or 1955.[10][68]

The court building also changed uses several times. In 1927, the County Court moved from the Tweed Courthouse to the new New York County Courthouse a few blocks north on Centre Street.[69] Afterward the City Court used the space.[21] By 1961, the City Court had moved out of the Tweed Courthouse.[21][8] The space was then occupied by numerous county offices and the New York Family Court in the 1960s, and then by municipal offices by the 1980s.[8] However, the deterioration of the Tweed Courthouse made it an unfavorable workplace for many municipal employees, and by 1981, only fifty people worked in the building.[16]

By 1974, mayor Abraham Beame had created a special task force focused on improving Manhattan's Civic Center.[70] At the time, the Tweed Courthouse was already slated for demolition as part of a restoration of the nearby Manhattan Municipal Building.[71] The task force's draft report published in June 1974 recommended destroying the courthouse, which aligned with Beame's past comments that the courthouse should be "replaced with a more functional structure".[70] The report stated that the projected $12 million cost of a brand-new structure was $5 million more than a basic renovation of the Tweed Courthouse and $1.2 million more than a full renovation.[70] The plan drew opposition from architectural preservationists.[72] The Tweed Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in October 1974, which made it eligible for federal funds but did not yet protect the structure from demolition.[73] The proposed destruction of the courthouse was later canceled because of the 1975 New York City fiscal crisis, which depleted the city's funds so much that it could not afford to demolish the courthouse, much less construct a new structure.[68]


Second floor court chambers before restoration

In 1978, the administration of mayor Ed Koch commissioned another report, which found that the courthouse would need to be renovated at a cost of between $3 million for minimal repairs and $9 million for a complete restoration.[68] Under the Koch administration, each room of the courthouse was restored individually and then retrofitted with modern furnishings.[16] The New York Landmarks Conservancy repaired the roof in the late 1970s,[63] at which point an asphalt roof replaced the Tweed Courthouse's iron roof, and the skylight's wood supports were replaced with cast-iron supports.[8] The conservancy also repainted the interior, though the dilapidated exterior remained untouched, sporting a yellow paint job with black-and-orange stains on the marble.[63] By 1986, after some repairs had been completed, there were 250–300 people working in the courthouse.[16]

A long-term $6.3 million[74] renovation began in 1990, with expected completion in 1994. At the time, the city was planning a $21 million project to completely restore the remainder of the Tweed Courthouse.[63] During the project, New York City Department of General Services architects found severe deterioration in the Chambers Street portico and at five places in the cornice, necessitating the temporary closure of the Chambers Street entrance.[74] The elevator cabs, which were unenclosed and posed a fire hazard, were retrofitted with plate glass walls and automated operation systems.[23] Afterward, the city began planning for the full renovation of the Tweed Courthouse. The initial cost projection was $39 million, but following the discovery of additional damage, the construction cost rose to $59 million, then to $89 million.[59]

In May 1999, John G. Waite Associates began a complete restoration of the building.[9] The firm carefully removed as much as 18 layers of paint to reveal the original brick walls and cast iron in order to recreate the original paint colors. The skylights and structure of the roof over the rotunda were replaced, marble and glass tiled floors were restored and additional detail was carved into the capitals of the exterior columns at the portico, where the sheared-away entrance steps were replaced. The original ventilation shafts embedded within the Tweed Courthouse's walls were refitted with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to maintain the appearance of the interior spaces. In addition, the front steps to Chambers Street were restored.[59][9][2] The restoration was completed in December 2001.[75] Following the September 11 attacks, which occurred near the courthouse toward the completion of the restoration, the portion of City Hall Park around the building was closed due to security concerns. That section of the park reopened in 2007.[76]

The New York Daily News, investigating the causes behind the high cost of the renovation, found that much of the cost was due to the opulence of the original design. For instance, the facade cost $13 million to restore, and the reproduction of the skylights, masonry, and doors cost another $3.2 million. Officials sought to restore the initial design as much as possible by requesting materials from the original manufacturers, which further increased costs.[59] The New York Times reported that marble for the restoration came from Tweed's quarry in Massachusetts. Old stone already on the building was reused for other elements of the facade.[9]

"Element E", a sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein, was installed in the rotunda in 2003 as part of an exhibition in City Hall Park.[77][78] The sculpture remained in the building after the exhibition had finished.[21]

NYCDOE useEdit

Kellum's front facade following restoration

The building's restoration and redecoration was performed in preparation for its proposed new role as the new home of the Museum of the City of New York, a move for which the administration of mayor Rudy Giuliani was criticized.[79] His successor, Michael Bloomberg, canceled these plans, instead choosing to move the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) into the building as a way to highlight his administration's focus on education. At the time, the building was unused and was accumulating $20,000 per month in utility bills.[80] Most of the building would contain the NYCDOE's offices in an open floor plan, but the ground floor would contain classrooms occupied by various schools. Under Bloomberg's plan, a cafeteria in the building's basement would serve both NYCDOE employees and students.[80][81] Among NYCDOE employees, reception of the plan was mixed: some employees interviewed by The New York Times in March 2002 preferred to stay in their existing headquarters in Brooklyn, while others stated that they would rather move to the newly renovated courthouse.[82] Then, in June 2002, Bloomberg stated that he wanted school officials to move into the building by that fall, at the beginning of the next academic year.[83] This cost the city government another $6.5 million.[84] By late 2002, the NYCDOE offices had been set up, but there were still discussions about whether to convert the ground floor for school use.[85] The building still serves as the NYCDOE's headquarters.[2]

The ground floor served as an "incubator" for new schools.[86] The first of these was City Hall Academy in 2003, which gave two-week "residencies" to third- and seventh-grade students.[81][87] City Hall Academy moved out of the space in 2006.[88][89] It was then used by Ross Global Academy (RGA), a charter school,[90] though RGA had moved out of the space by 2009.[91] The Spruce Street School next used Tweed Courthouse's ground floor as a temporary location until it moved to nearby 8 Spruce Street at the end of the 2010–2011 school year.[86] Another school, the Kunskapsskolan-sponsored Innovate Manhattan Charter School, occupied the space for the 2011–2012 school year.[92] After Innovate moved out, an elementary school called PS 343 (Peck Slip School) moved into the space.[93] The Peck Slip School used the ground floor for three years until it moved to a new location in 2015.[94][95]

Landmark designationsEdit

The Tweed Courthouse was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1974.[73][3][96] The building was made a New York City Designated Landmark ten years later, and its interior was also separately designated as a city landmark. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission called the Tweed Courthouse "one of the city's grandest and most important civic monuments".[97] It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986 for its association with William Tweed.[3][96][98]

See alsoEdit



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  2. ^ a b c d "DCAS – About DCAS – The Tweed Courthouse". Welcome to Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Old New York County Courthouse". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. September 19, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009), Postal, Matthew A. (ed.), Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Landmarks Preservation Commission 1984, p. 13.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Landmarks Preservation Commission Interior 1984, p. 15.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Landmarks Preservation Commission 1984, p. 14.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Landmarks Preservation Commission 1984, p. 18.
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  64. ^ "Demolition Begun at Old Post Office; La Guardla and McGoldrick Wield Crowbars at Ceremony Attended by 1,000". The New York Times. August 16, 1938. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
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  72. ^ "City Seeks to Buy an Office Building". The New York Times. October 3, 1974. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
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  88. ^ Medina, Jennifer (October 6, 2007). "Academy That Symbolized Innovation in Schools Is Closed". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
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  90. ^ Otterman, Sharon (December 7, 2010). "Ross Global Is Among New York Schools Chosen to Close". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
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  94. ^ Plagianos, Irene (September 9, 2015). "New Peck Slip School is 'Amazing', Parents and Students Say". DNAinfo New York. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
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External linksEdit