One of my favorite parts about walking down 7th Avenue in Greenwich Village is gazing up at the white mid-century modernist building on 12th Street. It is, shockingly, a hospital - the Lenox Hill HealthPlex - but I had a growing suspicion that it was built as something else. After taking this photo at dusk last fall, I decided to find out.
Well, I was right. Before it was a hospital, Lenox Hill HealthPlex used to be the landmarked National Maritime Union Building, built in 1964. The nautical-inspired building is most widely recognized by its porthole-shaped windows and a rooftop bulkhead resembling a steamship smokestack.
The building was designed by architect Albert C. Ledner and was one of three buildings commissioned by the National Maritime Union. It was to be the headquarters of the union and was Completed in 1964, the six-story structure rests on two glass block cylinders — the hiring halls — with the walls above rendered as scalloped overhangs, with porthole symbolism.
Two years later, Ledner decided to build another annex at 346 West 17th Street, which was his most prominent work. You might recognize this building as the Maritime Hotel!
The obvious similarity is the porthole dotted white facades. This building is undergoing another change - the hotel's restaurant La Bottega (which I've drank many a glass of rose in the summer) will become Batali, another ridiculously expensive restaurant by Mr. Batali. Hopefully they'll have a happy hour.