The O’Neill Building – 655 Sixth Avenue

By Linecity, October 9, 2019

The storied O’Neill Building is inundated with history and is a classic tale of New York City resiliency and endurance. Over 130 years old and designed by Mortimer C. Merrit, this colossal building has humble origins. Beginning as a small store in the current lot, immigrant brothers, Hugh and Henry O’Neill, slowly built up their business and bought out the surrounding lots. Completed in 1887, it took the brothers 20 years to amass the property that now encompasses the O’Neill Building. 

Born in Belfast, Hugh O’Neill came to New York when he was only 14 years of age. By the time of his death in 1902, he had become one of New York’s pre-eminent merchants and encapsulated a quintessentially American entrepreneurial spirit. O’Neill’s death was impactful, and his loss was mourned by all facets of New York society, ranging from fellow entrepreneurs Isidor and Nathan Straus (Macy’s) to painter W.H. Cooper. 

Originally four stories tall, a fifth floor was added to the building in 1895. And although designated a landmark 1989, the building was all but abandoned and derelict for nearly a half century (even having its beautiful domes removed in the early 1900s) before it underwent a series of renovations and reclamations during the early 2000s. In 2004, Elad Properties, in partnership with Cetra/Ruddy Inc., was granted permission to convert the building into high end condominiums. They were even allowed to add two floors to the roof, so long as they were set back from street views.

Today, with its iconic golden domes, the O’Neill building is an important piece of the aesthetic that makes up the Ladies’ Mile Historic District on Sixth Avenue. With its stunning Corinthian columns and bold lines, the O’Neill Building is a magnificent piece of architecture that has stood the test of time. Its durable exterior coordinates with its plethora of windows, offering tons of natural light to the units within. The addition of the rooftop floors have made way for 4,000 SF of common rooftop space, complete with kitchen and dining area. 

This extraordinary building houses the story of New York City, the story of America. It not only endures, it thrives in the face of constant change and challenge. View full building details on