NYC: New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
The Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State, also known as the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, at 27 Madison Avenue was designed by James Brown Lord from 1900-02.
The Appellate Division, First Department of the New York State Supreme Court was established in 1894 as one of the last of a series of reforms of the judicial system in the later nineteenth century. The right of appeals was extended and this court was to handle them and relieve some of the work load of the State Supreme Court. It hosts over 3,000 appeals and more than 7,000 motions a year, making it one of the busiest appellate courts in the United States. The main work of the Court involves appeals from the Supreme Court, the Surrogate's Court, and the Family Court in New York and Bronx Counties.
The court was located in rented office space on Fifth Avenue and 19th Street in 1896 when plans were made for a new building to respond to the increasing number of appeals. The justices themselves selected the site for the building at Madison Square. Lord was given the then unheard of sum of $700,000 to construct the courthouse. Responding to the "City Beautiful" movement, one of the construction budget was reserved for decorative features.
The three-story, marble-faced, Beaux Arts-style courthouse most well known for the unique blending of art and architecture. On the outside, there are about 30 figures by 16 well known sculptors, the most sculptors to work on a single building in the United States. The front facade on 25th Street, is dominated by an imposing triangular pedimented entrance portico, fronted by Triumph of Law by Charles H. Niehaus, and supported by six Corinthian columns. The Madison Avenue facade, with its two-story flat cornice, is supported by four fluted Corinthian columns. Karl Bitter's Peace surmounts the Madison Avenue cornice; Daniel Chester French's Justice the 25th Street. Frederick Ruckstuhl's sculptures of Wisdom and Force flank the 25th Street entrance portal. On the third-floor level of the Madison Avenue front is a screen of female caryatids by Thomas Shields Clarke representing the seasons. Ten other sculptors designed a ring of 10 other larger than life-size figures at the roof level on the north and south ends of the Madison Avenue front, representing famous lawgivers like Confucius, Moses, and Justinian.
On the inside, ten famous artists created murals for the main hall and the courtroom. The main hall has an ornate coffered ceiling, a bronze and glass chandelier, Siena marble walls divided by Corinthian pilasters and massive, original, Herter Brothers furniture. The murals depict legal themes. The courtroom has a stained glass dome set into the gilded coffered ceiling. Like the main hall, there are spectacular marble walls, murals, and original furniture.
In 1952 the court retained the architectural firm of Rogers & Butler to design an annex on an adjacent lot on Madison Avenue. The architects developed a plain but clearly contextual design in Alabama marble, not quite as translucent as the original building's marble, which was described as having been quarried in North Adams, Mass. At the same time, the statue of Mohammed, originally at the western end of the 25th Street side was removed at the request of the governments of Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan -- Islam prohibits such human portraiture. The other statues on 25th Street were each moved one spot to the west, leaving an empty position at the easterly end.
In 1990, Harriet Fiegenbaum's Memorial to All Victims of the Holocaust was added to the annex. The memorial is a double column of Carrara marble 38 feet high, representing a "crematorium smokestack", carved with flames and the site plan of Auschwitz, modelled from a WWII reconnaissance photo. The inscription reads: "Indifference to Injustice is the Gate to Hell."
Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State was designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966. The interior was designated separately in 1981.
National Register #82003366 (1982)
Explore: June 11, 2007