Designed in 1906 and completed three years later, the Battery Maritime Building (BMB) at 10 South Street in Lower Manhattan was once a vital waterfront ferry hub for Brooklyn commuters who crisscrossed the East River on one of 17 lines. But the elegant and ornate beauty of the Beaux-Arts-Expressionist terminal faded fast, and it began to fall into a state of disrepair after ferry service between its slips and the outer borough ceased in 1938.

For better, and more often worse, efforts to revitalize the cast-iron creation designed by architects Richard Walker and Charles Morris ebbed and flowed through the decades. In 1957, one renovation destroyed architectural features of the building, which contains stamped zinc and copper, rolled steel plates, ceramic tiles, stucco-paneled walls, rosettes, rivets, glazed tiles, and nearly 10,000 other elements both decorative and structural.

BMB was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1967 and earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places nine years later — two vital acknowledgments that may have helped save it from a worse fate, like the one that its now-missing next-door twin, the original Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal, ultimately faced.

Despite its lofty protected status, the city-owned Battery Maritime Building continued to crumble over the subsequent years as it shed its past as one of New York’s transportation crown jewels and served as everything from a homeless shelter to municipal offices. A Diller Scofidio + Renfro plan that could have repurposed the BMB into a mixed commercial-artist space ultimately never came to fruition.

In 2001, however, the Battery Maritime Building received a major lifeline. The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) splashed out almost $60 million over the following five years to tend to the aging structure’s facades and roof, buying the venue time until the Cipriani family, led by fourth-generation member Maggio Cipriani, began eyeing the property in the Financial District as they looked to expand their impressive portfolio of New York City landmark venues. (Their portfolio already included the Cunard Building at 25 Broadway, the Merchant Exchange at 55 Wall Street, and Midtown’s The Bowery Savings Bank.)

Working with the EDC and development partners Midtown Equities and Centaur Properties, the Ciprianis spearheaded the project, bringing on Jonathan J. Marvel, the founding principal of Marvel Architects, to renovate and burnish the fading steel-and-slab gem.

“Marvel’s architectural transformation of this incredible structure into Casa Cipriani reimagined its possibilities, maintaining the stately and grand building while also creating intimate and elegant hospitality spaces,” Marvel explained to GRAZIA USA.

The private members club, which opened its doors last year, continues to appear from the front north-facing side as a two-story structure, stretching 263 feet across and featuring five bays for pedestrians and vehicles. One of two main lobby entrances ushers guests into the building’s events lobby and to a grand (and historically accurate) re-created steel staircase, bathed in plush maritime blue carpet. That leads up to the second floor’s soaring double-height concourse and an adjacent 9,000 square-foot Great Hall event space — originally the waiting room for ferry passengers. Adorning BMB’s front upper exterior, the loggia, with its Guastavino-tiled vault, peers down onto the street.

The south-facing harborside half of the 198-feet-deep Battery Maritime Building now features three updated ferry slips. Architects rebuilt the original pergola and cupolas topping the structure’s backside and added a fifth floor fronted by a glass curtain wall to house the club level.

Said Marvel, “The restoration and re-design embraces the one-of-a-kind harbor views and infuses them with luxury and beauty, assuring the property’s storied future into the next century and beyond.”

Thierry Despont of the New York-based firm Office of Thierry Despont was responsible for melding that unique architectural detail with an interior design that tied together Casa Cipriani’s 110,000 square feet of space spread across its five floors. Despont already was well versed in working with the city’s most treasured icons: The French architect took charge of restoring the nearby Statue of Liberty for the masterpiece’s 1986 centennial, and also worked on the renovation of the Gothic Revival-style Woolworth Building on lower Broadway in 2015.

Despont’s Cipriani challenge: Create a look and feel for the historic site’s interior that would be in line with the restaurant and hospitality brand’s focus on understated elegance. Despont, like Marvel, drew upon the property’s prime position for inspiration.

“The Battery Maritime Building was a wonderful opportunity to create a hotel club inspired by the great ocean liners of the 1930s — with a view directly over the water,” Despont explained of his concept.

As part of the vision, Despont said, the property’s two floors containing 47 guest accommodations “have been designed as first-class ocean liner suites.” (Although the term “posh” is derived from an ocean liner’s “port out, starboard home” rooms, referring to the rooms’ location on the ship relative to less-desirable options, at Cipriani all rooms are top-class.) “Staying at Casa Cipriani, one can dream of sailing to Europe in sybaritic comfort,” the designer added.

On a sunny day, the vistas from the upper levels’ outward-facing guestrooms are vintage New York: the Brooklyn Bridge, Governor’s Island, and the Statue of Liberty. But when clouds or fog shroud this part of Manhattan, guests can easily imagine themselves sailing off Giudecca in the Venetian Lagoon or passing through Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor.

While the views and mood evolve with the weather, the hotel floors steadfastly hew to the hotel’s Art Deco ocean-liner feel. Glossy, gleaming mahogany-lined walls stretch along hallways that are carpeted in gold and lined with cylindrical light fixtures and oversized porthole-shaped mirrors.

The effect is seamlessly carried through to the accommodations, beginning with Casa Cipriani’s deluxe and premier guestrooms, which range from 370 to 470 square feet and come with city, patio, or river views and all the thoughtful details the Cipriani brand is known for: from custom 1930s-style mahogany furniture designed by Tedeschi and marbled walk-in rain showers with La Bottega amenities, down to fine Italian linen bedding by Rivolta Carmignani and in-room Lavazza coffeemakers.

For those who want the ultimate Casa Cipriani experience — and plenty of room to roam — the expansive one-bedroom corner Bartholdi Presidential Suite on the fourth floor boasts a 10-seat dining table, walk-in closet, full bathroom with freestanding soaking bathtub, and a 920-square-foot private terrace with views of Lady Liberty, the East River, and the city. The main suite, decorated in warm cream tones and featuring Loro Piana cashmere fabrics, can be combined with two additional rooms and closed off to make a nearly 3,000-square-foot haven.

Anyone staying at the hotel can enjoy the members-only property’s various spaces, including the fifth-floor club level’s Jazz Café, restaurants, living room with a fireplace focal point, and outdoor promenade. “The main club floor has been designed as a sequence of rooms, not unlike what you would have found on the first-class deck of the Normandie,” Despont pointed out.

Two floors below lies the 15,000-square-foot Casa Cipriani Wellness Center on a mezzanine that was added to the original building and features cast-iron architectural details. Hotel guests have access to the fitness area as well as personal trainers who can design bespoke plans that might include Pilates or yoga in the space’s private studio. The spa, a quiet bastion bathed in soothing white oak, offers massages, reiki, acupuncture, Thai stretching, body scrubs, oxygen facials, and a full menu of other treatments.

Completely overhauling a space such as the once-derelict Battery Maritime Building has simply been par for the course for the Ciprianis — a dynasty of good taste, starting with the family’s patriarch, Giuseppe Cipriani Sr.

In May 1931, almost exactly 90 years before Casa Cipriani opened its doors in New York City, Cipriani Sr. launched Harry’s Bar in what was then an abandoned rope warehouse near Piazza San Marco in Venice. At just 540 square meters, the first Harry’s Bar was miniscule in comparison to the 100,0000 square feet that the Manhattan Casa Cipriani now boasts. The Italian eatery, still unchanged almost a century later and now a landmarked property, became the standard for what has continued to be Cipriani’s goal when entertaining their well- heeled, eclectic clientele worldwide: a timeless focus on impeccable service, understated elegance, and a lack of imposition.

“It has been an exciting journey to bring back to life this extraordinary building, once at the center of the lively activity of the New York waterfront and nearly lost to time, and house, under one roof, my family’s ninety years of hospitality culture,” Maggio Cipriani told GRAZIA USA. The property joins other high-profile additions to the family’s growing list of properties around the world, including those in Mexico City, Mexico; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Ibiza, Spain; Punta del Este, Uruguay; and, most recently, the new Casa Cipriani in Milan, Italy.

Architect Marvel noted, “As one of the city’s greatest treasures, the Battery Maritime Building is a living testament to New York’s gilded age and its working waterfront history.”

And, now, Casa Cipriani will be, too.

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