New York City is a place where visitors tend to wander the streets looking skyward. It's an almost involuntary reflex, especially for those who do not frequent Manhattan on a regular basis. This is understandable though, as the skyline here is unlike anything else on earth, and exudes an almost physically force that pulls one's eyes upward, toward towers of glistening steel and grey stone. This feeling of awe is eventually dulled through time though... and the spectacle of New York architecture becomes but a distant memory to those who dwell or do business within it's boundaries. However, behind the closed and chained doors of the Temple Court building can be found a sight that would tear even a veteran urbanite's gaze away from their phone or $25 latte.
In the center of this otherwise plain lobby lies perhaps the most beautiful atrium in the whole of the city. The amazing design work found herein allows one standing in the ground-floor lobby a clear view of the sky through over nine floors of building. Just now being renovated, this atrium had been sealed away from view since the 1940's when it was deemed in violation of city fire code. Once hidden away behind walls of wood and concrete, recollections of its beauty slipped away from the collective consciousness of the city, and was eventually all but forgotten. Tenants moving into the office building after the entombment of the atrium would never even be aware of its existence. In place of an ornate open-air lobby, people working here saw only walls.
The Temple Court building itself has a long-standing history as a part of the New York skyline. Not only was it one of the original tall “fireproof” office buildings in New York City, it is now the earliest surviving one. It harkening back to the days of old New York, an era before the development of looming skyscrapers. Temple Court has remained essentially the same since it's construction well over a century ago. Aside from minor upgrades, it looks nearly identical today as it did upon opening. The building's trademark peaked towers are part of the original design, and hint at an architectural trend of pyramidal forms that later became popular in the modern skyscrapers that now loom high over the building.
We, along with a small group of like-minded photographers, was granted access to the property to document things before any heavy renovations begin to take place. Unlike most of our work, this building is not truly an “abandoned” place... simply a forgotten one. Being the third building in all of the city to have an elevator installed, we were quite excited to find it was still in operating condition on the day I was there filming. Running up and down nine flights of stairs, no matter how ornate and beautiful, was not an aspect of our trip which we were overly ecstatic about. The redevelopment plans for Temple Court will transform this old office building into a grand hotel of some 180 rooms. Along with its new purpose will come a new name - the “Beekman Palace”
Surely upon its reopening to the public, few will be able to avoid casting their gaze skyward when entering the restored central lobby... even if they haven't done so in many years.
View from the lobby.
This image from the New York Times shows the lobby sealed away in 1998.
The stairwells are all ornately detailed in metalwork.
This 1998 image, also from the New York Times, shows the atrium entombed behind plywood and sheet rock.
View of One World Trade Center, in mid-construction.
The iron supports that line the ceiling are highly detailed dragon sculptures.
This is an older video of ours. When watching, you may notice that it has a different "feel" to it than our current-day films. This is because the style of our cinematography has progressed over time, and our equipment has changed and improved throughout the years. We have chosen to leave our older videos available for viewing online to illustrate the evolution of our work.