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That Abandoned Rooftop Greenhouse on 60th? It's Being Torn Down

09/23/2010 10:08 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

From the ground, you'd never know there was anything special about the building at 409 East 60th Street...

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...but, as anyone who's ever walked across the Queensboro Bridge knows, it has a pretty great rooftop secret...

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An abandoned rooftop greenhouse! And sadly, it won't be around for much longer...

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The now-ruined skeleton covers the entire top of the building...

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...a whopping 5,000 square feet, as seen in this satellite picture:

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What was the greenhouse for? There's a clue in the ghost ad on the tower...

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Terrestris was a plant store that opened around May, 1969, as announced in this issue of New York Magazine. Customers could walk through the rooftop greenhouse, which was once filled with indoor tropical plants, and even rent them (for parties and events) at 10-20 cents a day (1969 prices, of course).

From the 1973 issue of Cue Magazine: "There's a large greenhouse on the rooftop of 409 East 60th Street which belongs to Terrestris and which is a joy to visit - guaranteed to turn even the most black-thumbed into a plant maniac. The greenhouse is filled to the rafters with Terrestris' specialty - "plants that survive" - in all shapes, sizes, and varieties."

The last mention of it I can find is from 1990 - anyone know when it finally went out of business? Really too bad it's not around anymore...

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I was hoping to get on the roof to take a few pictures. Unfortunately, the building was recently sold to Rockefeller University, who is planning to tear it down and put up a new facility. It's not a major loss, as the building itself isn't particularly special - though I do like the one bit of random brick design near the street level:

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I was just always hoping someone would find a use for the greenhouses.

Two quick bits while I'm on East 60th. One, I really love the beautiful, totally classic NY apartment building that has managed to survive next door...

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...made all the prettier with that black-windowed megalith in the background:

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Two, I'm a big fan of old school NY parking garages like the one on the opposite side of Terrestris.

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Not the most interesting in the city, but I dig the random turret (probably necessary for the elevator shaft)...

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...the completely black-sooted windows...

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...and best of all, the old sign (complete with ladder, though lighting long since removed), which advertises "transient" parking (short term).

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Bonus: the reverse gives you an ascending look at a bunch of New York architecture styles.

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-SCOUT

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