Where Is My Cornice?

Unsure if anything like this already exists but wanted to highlight what is one of my pet peeves, which I had mentioned in a different thread.

The goal here is to document and bring awareness to all the missing cornices around the city (and other, mostly Northeastern/Midwestern, cities).

I dream of some sort of tax abatement program or some government action to incentivize owners to rebuild their cornices. These gorgeous buildings look stunted without them.

I’ll get it started with some photos I took today.


Good one!
I hate that most modern buildings don’t have them.
Cornices not only look great but also provide provide a function of keeping walls cleaner, without too many water stains

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The decorative element that sticks out at the top of buildings (actual architects are welcome to correct my probably-inaccurate definition).

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Some from Greenpoint. Is there a universe where these are rebuilt?


This is caused by two related issues: cost and liability. Cornices must be maintained, which costs money, or they’ll crumble and hurt someone below, which is a huge liability for the building owner. Clearly, most landlords have decided that cornices are not worth the cost/risk. They want to avoid being financially liable for something like this:

This old NYT article explicitly states that a law designed to prevent injury from falling debris was resulting in the widespread removal of cornices and other ornamentation. This quote sums it up:

‘‘Issues of esthetics, the long-range value of a well-maintained building and the quality of the street are not foremost considerations for an owner seeking short-term returns on an investment.’’


That is great insight, thank you for sharing. I always imagined they were removed as they deteriorated, not as a preemptive measure for liability reasons.

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Not the same exactly, but a similar issue regarding removal of Architectural ornament for ‘practical/safety’ reasons.

This would be: Where is my architectural symmetry, where is my ornamentation?

The occupant of the apartment would reply: Where is my sunlight, where is my view - with that silly sliver of a WINDOW. With that sentiment I agree; as I am a strict ‘functionalist’ regarding Architectural Design.

I think the occupant, who I do not know, well deserves the right to having thier early morning sunlight rising from the EAST - but this may have been a violation of the Landmarks Preservation Laws.

Not telling where it is - but SOME will know… :wink:


Little window at top right is probably a bathroom.


That may be true for that building in the photo that I took from the identical building next door.

Here is a bedroom window from the inside; it is the same small 'slit" window as shown in the photo. These narrow windows seem to show up in every type room: bathroom, bedroom, living room, and stair wells.

Most of these windows look great from the OUTSIDE: but do not ‘function’ well for those who live on the INSIDE. Thus, the ugly bashing out the original window opening to make larger for better light & views.

The Architectural firm was Mckim, Mead & White. All beautiful classical architectural design.

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You see a lot of this around 1910.

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Morse Building

huge balcony went missing in 1960

135 William Street

Cornice lost in the 40s

Jones Building on Duane St

Cornice disappeared before the 60s

ITT Building

This one hurts. Very recent butchering

Another angle


These are so jarring. Was there no historic protection for the ITT Building?

For some reason no. The version of it pre-remodeling is my favorite art deco building of all time, it was so perfect


100 Wall Street - average box + missing crown cladding = very below average box

Old Healy Building (1891) before demolition, missing a cornice

Manhattan Life Insurance Building - dome and rooftop demolished and replaced with brutalist penthouse/executive spaces, c. 1940

Metlife Tower - devoid of practically all ornament since 1962, aside from the clock and cupola


What they did to the clock tower is a crime.



I don’t know why I thought Flatiron was limestone(?) -

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The first 3 floors of the Flatiron are limestone, but everything above that is terracotta.