Silent it may be, but like most buildings in New York, the Haier building has a story to tell. And a rich inner life, as it turns out: Hidden inside is a soaring interior that delivers on the promise of its grand exterior.
What’s known today as the Haier Building was built as the Greenwich Savings Bank in 1922 — an era when banks sought to project an air of stolidity through their architecture rather than one of convenience, like today’s fast-food-decor ATMs. Hence the Haier’s imposing, limestone-block exterior, soaring corinthian columns and massive pediment.
Message: Your money is safe here.
The interior is equally reassuring. A Roman-style glass and iron dome surmounts a cavernous oval sandstone room. Backlit columns at either end appear to support the dome. Globed brass sconces ring the room.
This once was a temple to Mammon, but now it’s a temple to good times, says Alan Greif, director of special events for Gotham Hall, which is what this room is now called. “Weddings, trade shows, fashion shows, concerts — we’ve had everything here,” says Greif. “We’ve even had a boxing matches.”
The events may vary, but the reaction of guests entering the building is always the same, says Grief: “Ooh, aah. Their gazes immediately turn up to the dome.”
Greif concurs. “It’s a privilege to work in a space like this.”
The Greenwhich Savings Bank folded after deregulation in 1981 –so much for safety in architecture. In 2000, appliance manufacturer Haier America bought the building for its headquarters. Gotham Hall leases the downstairs space from Haier for events.
This plush former banking room may now be known as the Grand Ballroom, but its legacy is apparent in some remaining fixtures. Parts of the brass cage that once enclosed workaday tellers remain, as do the brass-and-glass banking tables on which customers once wrote out deposit slips.
Even the pens still work.
Here’s a link to some other great New York City buildings: