Somebody loves A.I.G.

June 9, 2009

A.I.G.’s headquarters, that is.  Preservatationists have written to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission asking that American International Group’s Art Deco tower on 70 Pine Street in lower Manhattan be designated a city landmark, the New York Post reports.   A.I.G. is trying to sell the tower, as well as a connecting building at 72 Wall Street, and the preservationists are worried that a new owner may ruin the period details that make the building so distinctive.

Crain’s New York Business has estimated that 70 Pine Street could reap between $78 million and $116 million in a sale.

The 66-story building was built in 1932 and was designed by the firm of Clinton & Russell, Holton & George. A.I.G. bought the building in 1976. One of the fascinating features of the building used to be its double-deck elevators.  As Christopher Gray explained in the New York Times in 1998:

As soon as the doors of both cabs closed, the double cab went up, stopping at, for instance, the 29/30th floors, the 31st/32d floors, and so on to the 59th/60th floors. Double-deck service was restricted to peak periods; at other times half the cabs were closed and the elevators stopped on all floors.

Unless the cab stopped without opening its door — a sign that the other cab was opening on another floor — passengers were not particularly aware of the double-deck operation. Perhaps they were still recovering from the lobby, an eye-burning Art Deco symphony of figured marble in high colors and sinuous metalwork.

In my one visit to 70 Pine Street, I thought its interiors looked a little drab and run down, at least compared with the bright modern spaces of most other big financial companies.  Then again, Art Deco doesn’t do much for me. It may also not do much for A.I.G.  To be surrounded by a style that harks back to the last great global financial crisis may be uncomfortable when you are trying to move past the current one.

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