Pioneering example of concrete construction in the United States
The building was designed by William Field and Son in 1872 to showcase Beton Coignet, a type of concrete patented in France by Francois Coignet in the 1850s and produced at this location. Using molds instead of chisels and cutting tools, pieces could be fabricated cheaper than natural stone. In 1882, the building housed the offices of Edwin Clark Litchfields Improvement Company.
It is two stories tall and is set on a raised basement with small rectangular windows. The building is faced with red faux brick, called jersey brick. Most of the details, columns and keystones are made of concrete and are painted with a cement wash. The original concrete surface is visible from the first story.
The owner of the property has asked to be granted a special dispensation from the New York landmark law that governs the NYC landmarked Coignet Building. Whole Foods has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to annex part of the Coignet Building site so that they can build the big box store on it without consideration given to how that new structure will impose itself on the landmarked building. The Coignet Building must be given proper protection under the current landmark laws and developers should not be allowed to manipulate and avoid the law in this manner. The LPC has already voted to annex part of the landmarked lot that the Coignet Building sits on. (March 2012)