Preservation Magazine, Summer 2016

Inspiration: An Apple (Store) a Day

Exterior of Upper East Side location of Apple store

photo by: Courtesy Apple

The Apple store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

As glass-and-steel structures continue to dominate the New York City skyline, one of the world’s most innovative companies has realized that newer isn’t always better. For 14 years, Apple Inc. has served as a respectful steward of some of Manhattan’s most storied structures.

While many associate Apple’s New York presence with its distinctive 5th Avenue glass cube flagship, today four of the tech giant’s six retail locations in Manhattan are housed in landmark buildings or districts. To honor its efforts, The New York Landmarks Conservancy presented Apple with its 2016 Chairman’s Award, established in 1988 to recognize companies and organizations that have proven their commitment to securing the city’s architectural heritage.

“We wanted to recognize and honor [Apple] for good stewardship of historic buildings,” says The New York Landmarks Conservancy President Peg Breen. “We thought that it was important to highlight how they can marry high tech with distinguished architecture.”

Though Apple’s location choices have faced community opposition, the company’s adaptive reuse of historic structures, such as a circa 1920s former U.S. Mortgage & Trust bank on the Upper East Side, has helped maintain New York’s neighborhood fabric. In 2012 Apple completed an expansion of its SoHo store into a former U.S. Post Office, also dating from the ’20s. The West 14th Street store is part of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, known for commercial and industrial entities that contributed significantly to the local economy from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.

Apple’s most iconic historic location in New York, however, is undoubtedly the one overlooking the main concourse in Grand Central Terminal. Since 2011, visitors to the 103-year-old Beaux-Arts station have been able to test out the latest gadgets in the balcony-level store.

“Apple recognizes—and I think its employees recognize—that distinctive architecture is a much more creative environment,” says Breen.

Katharine Keane is a former editorial assistant at Preservation Magazine. She enjoys getting lost in new cities, reading the plaques at museums, and discovering the next great restaurant.

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