The original neo-Georgian structure was built in 1929 to house Tammany Hall. Reading Tammany Owner LLC, an affiliate of Reading International, Inc. , commissioned architectural firm, BKSK, to restore the historic nature of the building, expand and transform it into a state-of-the-art iconic structure to take it into the next century.
In 2013, the building was designated a landmark for its historical and political significance. BKSK’s restoration and expansion of the building included sensitively preserving two historic façades, adding new bronze storefronts in the likeness of the original 1928 design, and a 3-story rooftop addition, composed of a self-supporting free form shell grid dome atop a reconstructed hipped roof of steel-and-glass with dappled gray terra cotta sunshades. BKSK restored the historic facades (using bricks from the same foundry as those from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home), recreated the bronze storefronts, and preserved an original fan window on the ground floor.
The Tammany organization is rooted in its namesake Lenape Chief Tamanend, a pacifist instrumental in the establishment of peaceful relations between the Native American tribes and 17th-century European settlers. Tradition holds that under an enormous elm tree in the village of Shackamaxon, William Penn met with Lenape Indian Chief Tamanend in 1682 and pledged a treaty of friendship. In that boldly conceived 17th century agreement, Tamenend, together William Penn, communicated that Europeans and Indians would live together in peace as long as the creeks and rivers run and while the sun, moon, and stars endure.
Legend has it that when asked about the origins of his people, the Lenape first drew a circle on the floor, then added four paws, a head, and a tail. “This,” he said, “is a tortoise lying in the water around it.” One day, the tortoise rose from the water to form what would become Turtle Island, or what we now call North America. Using symbolism from the Lenape creation story, a glass dome inspired by the form of a rising turtle shell has been added to our building bringing an additional 30,000 SF to the interior.
As we designed the building, we consulted with The Lenape Center, whose mission is to continue Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland through community, culture and the arts. Joe Baker of the Lenape Center said that “Our history is complex, one of the diasporic branches stemming from a trunk of many thousands of years of indigenous presence in the homeland, to resistance and survival through the centuries of colonization. The turtle dome of Tammany Hall is a beacon for the future, calling the grandchildren home to Manhattan.”