The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will hold a public hearing on the proposal to landmark the entire Westbeth complex in the Far West Village on Tuesday, January 12th.
In 2005, following the effort to extend landmark protections to the Far West Village led by GVSHP, the LPC promised to consider landmark designation for the Westbeth complex, along with eight other individual sites and two historic districts. While the two districts were designated in 2006, progress on the individual sites has been slower, with only half designated. Late last year, however, GVSHP successfully nominated Westbeth for listing on the State and National Register of Historic Places, after an exhausting three-year research project funded by the J.M. Kaplan Fund. After providing the LPC with the research report, they moved ahead with considering landmark designation for Westbeth.
Westbeth was for many years the home of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, where the transistor, the transatlantic telephone, and the first “talkie” (movie with sound) were created. After Bell moved their labs to New Jersey, it was converted to the country’s first subsidized housing for artists and the first large-scale adaptive re-use of an industrial building for residential purposes, to the designs of a then-unknown Richard Meier. Westbeth’s rebirth as artists’ housing not only changed the Far West Village forever, but changed the possibilities for post-industrial neighborhoods and cities throughout the world.
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Westbeth photo courtesy of Barry Munger.