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The Birth and Purpose of Rutherford Place

 Does your house or apartment building tell a story? Who was in it before you? Do you ever imagine the conversations, conflicts, and transformations that have happened in the place where you live? What conversations are happening now, and what has changed?

No two of the 127 upscale apartments at 305 Second Avenue are the same. There are 3 quadruplexes, 66 triplexes, 50 duplexes, and 8 simplexes, each with unique layouts, ceilings ranging from 7-19 feet tall, and stunning views of Stuyvesant Square. 305 2nd Avenue, also known as Rutherford Place, is one of the most expensive addresses in its area. But the several A-list celebrities that have called this building home are the least interesting aspect of its story.

The 10-story building was completed in 1901, a philanthropic gift to New York City from J.P. Morgan. Though the building’s purpose has changed several times in the past 118 years, its exterior architecture is original, designed by architect Robert H. Robertson. It was landmarked by the City in 1983, so we can expect it will look the same for the foreseeable future. When you go to 18th street and 2nd avenue to check out Rutherford Place, take note of the striking terracotta, brick, and limestone facade and the charged stone status of small children!

This building is significant in the history of maternity care in New York City. At one point between 1902 and 1934, 60% of all hospital births in Manhattan were happening at Rutherford Place. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 children were born there every year. If you know any New Yorkers who were born in Manhattan during the Great Depression, ask them if they were born at the Society of Lying-In.

In 1934, the Lying-In Hospital moved uptown to New York Hospital (which would become New-York Presbyterian) to become the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department. Rutherford Place remained a medical center. The building was taken over by Manhattan General Hospital for 25 years (they continued maternity care in the building) and then in 1960, it became a Beth Israel drug treatment center for the following two decades.

In 1981, the Beth Israel facility moved and Rutherford Place was sold to real estate developers. 3 years later, the project received a construction loan of almost $27 million from to banks, and the condominiums’ first permanent residents moved in 1987. Today, Rutherford Place remains condominiums, with doctors’ offices on the street-level floor.

How can we use a building’s architectural details to ask questions about its original purpose? Do you agree with the NYC Landmarks committee that this apartment building is worth preserving? If you gave birth in that hospital during the Depression and knew it was filled with wealthy residents today, would you be surprised?