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Former ASCE Headquarters in New York City Print E-mail
ASCE Society House
The former ASCE Society House at 218-220 West 57th Street is a New York City Landmark and served as ASCE's national headquarters from 1897-1917.
The American Society of Civil Engineers was originally founded in New York City. A plaque in City Hall Park marks the former location of the Rotunda Building where the historic meeting among civil engineers took place in the offices of the Croton Aqueduct Department on November 5, 1852.

The national headquarters of ASCE remained in New York City for over a century until the Society moved to Reston, Virginia in 1996. The first ASCE headquarters were located in Lower Manhattan and the Society later moved to locations in the Flatiron District, Gramercy Park, and Midtown. Although only two of these structures remain, all of the sites are located near major attractions and can be easily visited today.

The locations of the six buildings and the years in which they served as ASCE's national headquarters in New York City are listed below:

  • 63 William Street (1852-1875): No longer standing, the former site of the Chamber of Commerce Building is located in Lower Manhattan (near Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange). Today it is occupied by the 60-story skyscraper at One Chase Manhattan Plaza.
  • 4 East 23rd Street (1875-1877): No longer standing, this building stood at the southeast corner of Broadway and 23rd Street (across from Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building). Today the site is occupied by the 30-story Madison Green Condominiums.
  • 104 East 20th Street (1877-1881): No longer standing, this building was located at the southeast corner of Park Avenue South and 20th Street (near Gramercy Park and Union Square Park). Today it is occupied by a six-story residential building.
  • 127 East 23rd Street (1881-1897): No longer standing, this building was located between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue South (one block east of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower). Today the site is occupied by the Blender Theater.
  • 218-220 West 57th Street (1897-1917): The former ASCE Society House is located on 57th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway (one block west of Carnegie Hall and two blocks south of Central Park and Columbus Circle). Today it is occupied by Lee's Art Shop.
  • 33 West 39th Street (1917-1961): The former Engineering Societies Building is located on 39th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (one block south of Bryant Park and the New York Public Library). Today it is occupied by offices.
  • 345 East 47th Street (1961-1996): No longer standing, the site of the United Engineering Center was located on First Avenue (opposite the United Nations Headquarters). Today it is occupied by the 72-story Trump World Tower, which was the world's tallest residential building when it opened.

ASCE Society House

Designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz (1853-1921), the former ASCE Society House is located at 218-220 West 57th Street. The four-story, French Renaissance building incorporates carved Indiana limestone and white glazed brick in its façade. Some of Eidlitz's other works include the former New York Times Building at One Times Square (the site of the ball drop on New Year's Eve) and Dearborn Station in Chicago. Construction on the Society House started in December of 1896 and the building opened to a gala welcoming reception on November 24, 1897.

Upon entering the ground floor of the Society House, members found a reception room, coat room (large enough to check over 200 coats and hats), Secretary's office, conference room for the Board of Direction and committees, and a serving room for catered meetings. A staircase to the second floor led to a 500-seat auditorium and a reading room overlooking 57th Street with all of the current engineering literature. Executive and clerical offices occupied the entire third floor while the top floor held book stacks for 150,000 volumes and was connected to the reading room by an electric book lift. Storage and publication rooms were located in the basement and sub-basement. Vaults below the sidewalk on 57th Street held coal bins for the boiler and two gas engines to generate electricity for lighting.

Engineering Societies Building
ASCE occupied the top floors of the Engineering Societies Building at 33 West 39th Street from 1917-1961.

As ASCE's membership increased and it began to outgrow the building, the Society commissioned Eidlitz & McKenzie to construct a matching addition on the west side of the Society House. The annex was built between June 1905 and January 1906 and permitted for the expansion of the library and auditorium. ASCE's headquarters remained in the Society House until 1917, when it joined the mechanical, mining, and electrical societies in the Engineering Societies Building on West 39th Street.

Following the move to the Engineering Societies Building, ASCE leased the Society House and retained ownership until 1966. Since then, the building has been used as offices and a showroom for the Ajax Rubber Company, a showroom for Stearns-Knight automobiles, a restaurant for the Schrafft's chain. Lee's Art Shop began leasing space in the building in 1975 and expanded to all four floors in 2002. The building was designated as a New York City landmark in 2008.

Engineering Societies Building

Built in 1907 with a $1.5 million gift from Andrew Carnegie, the Engineering Societies Building at 33 West 39th Street initially served as the home of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Institute of Mining Engineers, and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Carnegie's goal was to bring all of the societies together under one roof, including their respective libraries.

Having recently completed their own headquarters building on West 57th Street, ASCE members initially decided against becoming a tenant in the Engineering Societies Building by a vote of 1,139 to 662 on March 2, 1904. This was also a result of a large misunderstanding among members concerning the autonomy of the Society. ASCE eventually moved into the Engineering Societies Building on December 17, 1917, and two floors were later added to the top of the building to accommodate the new society. With is move into the building, ASCE became the fourth founding member of the United Engineering Society (now the United Engineering Foundation).

The Engineering Societies Building was designed by architects Hale & Rogers with Henry G. Morse and has a prominent limestone and brick façade. The societies shared an 1,000-seat auditorium on the third and fourth floors and a two-story library on the 12th and 13th floors. The founder societies remained in the Engineering Societies Building until September 5, 1961. Having outgrown the space, they moved into the United Engineering Center at 345 East 47th Street, across from the United Nations Headquarters. The Engineering Societies Building was converted into commercial office space and today is the headquarters of Thor Equities.

The Engineering Societies Building is located behind the former Engineers' Club at 32 West 40th Street. That building still stands today, is marked with a plaque, and is occupied by the Bryant Park Place co-op.