275 Madison Avenue (originally known as 22 E 40th Street) is an Art Deco landmark in midtown Manhattan. Its polished black granite and silver base continues to be a striking presence more than three quarters of a century after construction. (If only mere mortals had such staying power!)
In contrast to other commercial buildings of the day, 275 Madison had almost no decoration above the base. The tower was promoted as a “shadowless” skyscraper (because there were no projecting cornices, sculptures or other features to cast shadows), though some critics say the lack of ornament was simply a cost-saving measure dictated by the stock market crash. The building’s vertical lines are accentuated by dark columns of windows against a white-brick background.
Architect Kenneth Franzheim is best known for his work in Houston, for Houston-based developer Jesse Jones. It was Jones’ New York-based firm, Houston Properties Corporation, that developed 275 Madison Avenue with New York Trust as the prime tenant. (The bank owned two of the five lots used to build the tower.) In 1933, Johns-Manville Corporation leased 14 floors, so the structure is sometimes called the Johns-Manville Building. However, Johns-Manville already had its own building a block away, on Madison Avenue at E 41st Street.
Despite 275 Madison Avenue’s address, the tower’s main entrance is actually on E 40th Street – and the building was originally known as 22 E 40th Street.
At this writing, 275 Madison Ave. is owned by RFR Realty.
275 Madison Avenue Vital Statistics
- Location: 275 Madison Avenue at E 40th Street
- Year completed: 1931
- Architect: Kenneth Franzheim
- Floors: 43
- Style: Art Deco
- New York City Landmark: 2009
275 Madison Avenue Recommended Reading
- NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report
- The City Review commentary
- The New York Times Streetscapes column (February 6, 2009)
- RFR Realty (owner) website
- Emporis database
- Art Deco Landmarks Reports (a blog)