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LIM College's Flagship Townhouse Designated as a New York City Landmark

7/28/2011

Landmarks Preservation Commission recognizes 12 East 53rd Street

LIM College’s flagship townhouse at 12 East 53rd Street, (known officially in Landmarks Preservation Commission records as the Fisk-Harkness House), has been officially designated as a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

LIM College is the nation’s only college exclusively devoted to the study of business and fashion and anticipates an enrollment of approximately 1,500 undergraduate and 60 graduate students for the Fall 2011 semester. Today “The Townhouse” is the vibrant centerpiece of LIM College’s urban campus, which includes three other locations in Midtown Manhattan and student housing on the Upper East Side. The Townhouse currently houses state-of-the-art classrooms, computer labs, offices, and faculty and student lounges.

Said Elizabeth S. Marcuse, president of LIM College, “For more than four decades, the Townhouse has held a special place in the hearts and minds of the thousands of dedicated students, alumni, faculty and staff who comprise the LIM College community. In an architectural sense, it is the jewel in our crown.”

The building was constructed in 1871. In 1906 noted architect Raleigh C. Gildersleeve transformed it into a grand, five-story American Basement-plan house with an asymmetrical neo-Tudor Gothic style limestone façade. Gildersleeve, who practiced architecture in New York City and New Jersey in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was best known for the Tudor-inspired buildings he designed for Princeton University’s campus. At the time of these alternations, the Townhouse was owned by Harvey E. Fisk, a prominent investment banker. The structure is a rare survivor of the period when the area around Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan was home to the borough’s wealthiest citizens.

In 1909 Fisk sold the building to Standard Oil heir William L. Harkness, whose widow then sold it to art dealers Proctor & Company in 1922. From 1924-1932 the Townhouse was the home of the Automobile Club of America, whose facilities included a restaurant, baths, locker rooms, and a library for members. In 1938 art and antiques dealers Symons Galleries leased the building, and around that time apartments were constructed on the top floors. An advertising agency took over the ground-floor commercial space in 1949. Then, in 1964, LIM College purchased the building.

In 2007 the LIM College Townhouse underwent a significant renovation. According to architect Larry Marner, who led that project, “The design of this building engages students in the respect and appreciation LIM College has for the visual world. It uses especially high ceilings, variation in color by floor, and location at the heart of the fashion world to convey to students the unique identity of their college – one closely tied to their education.”
Said Robert B. Tierney, chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, “The Commission’s decision to landmark the Fisk-Harkness House is a tribute to LIM College’s fine stewardship of this architecturally and historically significant building. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the College to preserve the building for future generations of students and New Yorkers.”



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