Saving History: One NYC Landmark at a Time

Tue, Oct 10, 2017

Radio City Music Hall

When planning a trip to New York City, you’ve got to visit all of the city’s legendary landmarks. I mean would the New York be without classics like Radio City Music Hall and Grand Central Terminal? 

Well, did you know that both off those landmarks were actually supposed to be torn down?

Yup! And along with Radio City and Grand Central, many of New York’s landmarks were meant to be destroyed or replaced. Without the hard work of organizers, protesters, and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, these beloved buildings would no longer exist.

Here are some of the best stories of NYC landmarks that were saved or repurposed.



Grand Central Terminal

It’s true – they were really going to tear down one of the city’s most admired and adored buildings. Due to a decline in railroad use, which eventually led to bankruptcy, Grand Central was set to be abolished and replaced in 1968. Not surprisingly, New Yorkers were furious. With support from the iconic Jackie Onassis Kennedy, Grand Central Terminal was designated as the first official landmark of the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission and its beauty can still be admired today.



If you’ve ever read the classic children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, then this saved landmark will be familiar to you.  Constructed in 1889, the Little Red Lighthouse is exactly as described – it’s a small, bright red lighthouse located right under the George Washington Bridge. After it was decommissioned in 1948, the lighthouse was meant to be removed and auctioned off. Fans of the Little Red Lighthouse and its book rallied in response. As a result, the structure was given to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. You can show appreciation for this underrated landmark by visiting Fort Washington Park or by spotting it on Circle Line’s Bear Mountain Cruise! There’s even a Little Red Lighthouse festival!



The Domino Sugar Refinery and its iconic sign are staples of the Brooklyn skyline. Built in 1856, it was once the largest sugar refinery in the entire world, producing up to 3 million pounds of sugar each day. The Domino Sugar Refinery operated for years until it finally shut its doors in 2004. Today, the refinery is being redeveloped for residential use, including over 600 affordable housing units. Those in Brooklyn may have noticed that the famous Domino sign is missing. Don’t worry – the sign is only being restored, as is the main refinery building. We can’t wait for it to return to the skyline!



The famous Radio City Music Hall nearly shut down in 1978 as a result of low attendance. Thanks to Rosemary Novellino and the Radio City Ballet Company, the “Showpeople's Committee to Save Radio City Music Hall” was formed. Their efforts brought the issue to the public’s attention, and eventually Radio City was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. So next time you go see the Rockettes or a concert at Radio City, remember to thank the Showpeople's Committee to Save Radio City Music Hall!



Ever flown JetBlue out of JFK? If so, you might know this next landmark. The TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport was known for its eccentric, arched head house. When TWA shut down in 2001, the terminal was set to be totally redone, with a building being “wrapped around” the head house. The point of this was to keep the head house intact and visible, but that wasn’t good enough – many pointed out that this disposition would ruin the head house and its atmosphere.  JetBlue instead built its new terminal next to it and has plans to turn the old one into a hotel with the head house remaining (mostly) as is.



In its heyday, Loews’s Paradise Theatre was the complete opposite of today’s movie theatres. It featured elegant mezzanine seating, a ceiling painted like the night sky, chandeliers and detailed sculptures. Operating as a theatre for both movies and plays, the popular Loews Paradise opened in 1929. After the Great Depression, the theatre struggled to regain its initial success. Before it closed in 1994, it had been divided into four separate theatres, which sadly obscured most of the gorgeous interior. Thankfully, the theatre’s original design has since been restored. In 2005, Paradise Theatre reopened as an events venue; since 2012, it has been home to the World Changers Church New York.




Way back in the day, one of the major modes of public transportation the New York metro area was the steamboat. Everyday from the 1860s to the 1940s, the Hudson River Day Line steamboats would go up and down the river, picking people up and dropping them off in between NYC and Albany. The last of these steamboats stop sailing in 1971, but Circle Line’s Dayliner  boat made the daily trip until 1987.

Today, the only way to ride  the true Hudson Day Line experience is by riding the new Empire Class boats up to Bear Mountain in the fall.

Every Saturday and Sunday (plus Columbus Day) from September 23 – November 12, Circle Line not only sails up to the beautiful Bear Mountain State Park, but they also hosts an epic Oktoberfest celebration on the way. On the cruise, you can enjoy eating German food like Bavarian pretzels and pork schnitzels along with a giant mug of Warsteiner beer, and if you aren’t too full, you can dance along to awesome polka music. Oh, and don’t forget to check out about the prime views of New York’s beautiful fall foliage, plus other NYC landmarks like Riverside Church and Grant’s Tomb.

Once the boat arrives at Bear Mountain State Park, there’s even more to do, including hiking and biking in the park, brunch at The Bear Mountain Inn, and visiting the Bear Mountain zoo. You’ll get 3 hours in the park before you get to hop back on the boat and enjoy the cruise all over again!

Find out more information about Bear Mountain Cruises here!

Tags: Things To Do In NYC, New York History, Bear Mountain