Category Archives: Blog

Posh Portals cover

Posh Portals

Posh Portals cover
“Posh Portals,” published by Abbeville Press. Pictured is the 2211 Broadway entrance to Apthorp Apartments. The book is now available from Abbeville Press or (as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases).

I’ve been calling Posh Portals “my book” for years, though actually the author is noted architectural historian Andrew Alpern – who already had 10 other volumes published. But the cover and more than 350 inside photos are mine, and the watercolor illustrations are also based on my photos, so I really can’t be too objective, can I?

One of the reasons that I find architecture so fascinating is that buildings, like people, are so similar and at the same time infinitely diverse.

Take doors, for example. Every apartment building has to have a way in, obviously. It has to be substantial enough to keep out the elements, and large enough to permit occupants and their belongings to enter. So much for the similarities. The size, shape, material, style and embellishment, the scale, framing and placement of the front door are variables that together articulate the building’s character. A building’s portrait is never complete without an image of the front door.

In years of roaming cities with my camera, I’ve often shot doors and ignored the rest of the building. Some ancient, dilapidated dwellings – even crumbling tenements – were endowed with inviting portals. To the extent permitted by a developer’s budget, architects pride themselves on combining beauty with utility. One of the saddest parts of public housing is the cold steel front door, a mean, forbidding portal obviously designed more to keep people out than to invite people in.

In Andrew’s words, “The entrance to an apartment house is that important first impression, the opening sentence of the architectural story that sets the mood of the apartment building. A successful apartment house entrance must perform several functions, all of which must be kept in a delicate balance, consistent with the program that the developer has laid out for the architect to fulfill. The entrance is the dividing line between public and private space. It must make clear to the passer-by that he may approach and enter only if he has legitimate business within. Yet that entrance cannot be as forbidding as a fort, nor as evidently guarded as a prison, as it provides entrée to the homes of its residents, who may be the hosts of the approaching visitors.”

Here, then, is a collection of New York City’s most luxurious and distinctive apartment buildings, each endowed by their architect with entrances that speak volumes.

While these Posh Portals are no accident, my role this collection is definitely a case of serendipity. Your humble photographer was walking south along New York City’s Central Park West, an avenue lined with magnificent architecture. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a distinguished-looking gentleman sitting on a bench across from the famed Dakota; there was something familiar about him . . . A few steps later it clicked: “Andrew?” I asked, approaching the bench. “Ken?” he replied. Until this morning, we had only seen photos of each other, though we had conversed almost five months about photos for his book, “The Dakota – A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building.” He was waiting for a friend, and Andrew described a project he and Australian artist Simon Fieldhouse were discussing, an illustrated guide to the elaborate and ornate entrances to New York’s luxury apartment buildings. They’d need a good source of photos . . .

And so, from this chance meeting on a sunny January 13, 2014, my camera and I became part of Posh Portals. It’s been fun, educational, and sometimes challenging: Photographing buildings from street level in New York puts you at the mercy of the sun, traffic, parked trucks, and scaffolding that sometimes stays in place for years. The project took less than six minutes to describe, more than six years to complete, and was worth every second.

While obviously I’d LOVE for you to buy the book (shameless plug) from (as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases), photographs from Posh Portals are also available as framed or unframed prints on heavy paper, acrylic, or metal in a variety of sizes and styles. Just visit my Posh Portals photo gallery.

My gallery could not include the watercolor drawings by Simon Fieldhouse, but you can contact the artist at

Is your building here?

These are the notable apartment buildings we’ve selected as the Posh Portals of New York City. They’re listed by street address in dictionary order, so you’ll find 2 Sutton Place South after 1925 Seventh Avenue.

1 East End Avenue • 1 Fifth Avenue • 1 Sutton Place South • 1 West 30 Street – Wilbraham • 1 West 67 Street – Hotel des Artistes • 1 West 72 Street – Dakota • 10 Gracie Square • 1000 Park Avenue • 101 Central Park West • 1016 Fifth Avenue • 1067 Fifth Avenue • 1107 Fifth Avenue • 116 East 68 Street – Milan House • 1185 Park Avenue • 1198 Pacific Street – Imperial • 12 West 72 Street – Oliver Cromwell • 1215 Fifth Avenue • 1225 Park Avenue • 126 East 12 Street • 1261 Madison Avenue • 135 Central Park West – Langham • 135 East 79 Street • 135 West 70 Street – Pythian • 136 Waverly Place – Waverly • 140 Riverside Drive – Normandy • 141 East 3 Street – Ageloff Towers • 145 Central Park West – San Remo • 145 West 79 Street – Manchester House • 147 West 79 Street • 15 Central Park West • 15 West 67 Street – Central Park Studios • 151 Central Park West – Kenilworth • 171 West 71 Street – Dorilton • 180 West 58 Street – Alwyn Court • 19 East 72 Street • 1925 Seventh Avenue – Graham Court • 194 Riverside Drive

2 Sutton Place South • 20 East End Avenue • 200 Hicks Street -Casino Mansions Apartments • 201 West 79 Street – Lucerne • 210 East 68 Street • 2109 Broadway – Ansonia • 211 Central Park West – Beresford • 214 Riverside Drive – Chatillion • 215 West 98 Street – Gramont • 22 East 89 Street – Graham • 2207 Broadway – Apthorp • 222 Central Park South – Gainsborough • 225 Central Park West – Alden • 225 West 86 Street – Belnord • 235 East 22 Street – Gramercy House • 235 West End Avenue • 239 Central Park West • 240 East 79 Street • 241 Central Park West • 243 Riverside Drive – Cliff Dwelling • 243 West End Avenue • 246 East 4 Street • 25 Central Park West – Century • 25 East End Avenue • 251 West 71 Street • 25-35 Tennis Court – Chateau Frontenac • 258 Riverside Drive – Peter Stuyvesant • 27 West 67 Street – Sixty Seventh Street Studio • 285 Central Park West – St. Urban

3 East 84 Street • 30 East 76 Street • 300 Central Park West – Eldorado • 301 West 108 Street – Manhasset • 305 West 98 Street – Schuyler Arms • 310 Riverside Drive – Master Apartments • 32 St. Marks Place • 325 East 79 Street • 325 West End Avenue • 33 West 67 Street • 333 West End Avenue • 336 Central Park West • 34 Gramercy Park East – Gramercy • 344 West 72 Street – Chatsworth • 350 West 85 Street – Red House • 37 Washington Square West • 370 Central Park West • 380 Riverside Drive – Hendrik Hudson • 39 Fifth Avenue • 393 West End Avenue

40 East 62 Street • 400 Chambers Street – Tribeca Park • 401 Eighth Avenue Brooklyn – Roosevelt Arms • 410 Riverside Drive – Riverside Mansions • 418 Central Park West – Braender • 420 West End Avenue • 425 West 23 Street – London Terrace • 43 Fifth Avenue • 435 East 52 Street – River House • 439 East 551 Street – Beekman Mansion • 44 West 77 Street • 440 Riverside Drive – Paterno • 440 West End Avenue • 444 Central Park West • 446 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn • 45 East 66 Street • 450 East 52 Street – Campanile • 455 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn • 465 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn • 47 Plaza Street • 480 Park Avenue • 488 Nostrand Avenue – Renaissance • 49 East 96 Street • 490 West End Avenue • 495 West End Avenue • 498 West End Avenue

50 Central Park West – Prasada • 509 East 77 Street – Cherokee Apartments • 509 West 121 Street – Bancroft • 515 Park Avenue • 52 Riverside Drive • 520 Park Avenue • 521 Park Avenue • 522 West End Avenue • 527 Cathedral Parkway – Britannia • 540 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn – Cathedral Arms • 55 Central Park West • 57 West 75 Street – La Rochelle

625 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn – Arista • 666 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn – Cameo Court

7 Gracie Square • 70 Remsen Street • 70 Vestry Street • 711 Brightwater Court • 716 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn – Valence • 720 Park Avenue • 726 Ocean Avenue Brooklyn • 730 Park Avenue • 74 East 79 Street • 740 Park Avenue • 770 Park Avenue • 780 West End Avenue

800 Park Avenue • 820 Park Avenue • 834 Fifth Avenue • 838 West End Avenue • 850 Park Avenue • 898 Park Avenue

924 West End Avenue – Clebourne • 993 Fifth Avenue • 998 Fifth Avenue

Book Review: NY Skyscrapers

NY Skyscrapers

Dirk Stichweh, photos by Jörg Machirus and Scott Murphy | 192 pages | Prestel | 2016

This is a magnificent celebration of the buildings that make New York’s skyline so exciting. The large 9½ʺ x 12½ʺ format and brilliant color photography make “NY Skyscrapers” a joy to browse again and again. You’ll find the city’s classic icons, of course, but also less-photographed and under-appreciated structures such as the West Street Building, Crown Building, and Paramount Building. Half of the photos are high-angle shots – seemingly from a helicopter or nearby buildings – so even familiar landmarks seem fresh. Each of the book’s 82 buildings is described with concise architectural commentary.

“NY Skyscrapers” provides context three ways: The volume begins with a history of skyscrapers in New York City; downtown and midtown skyscrapers are grouped, with maps; and numerous aerial group photos show the buildings’ relationship to their neighborhoods.

While any book on this subject is soon out of date, “NY Skyscrapers” includes renderings and descriptions of eight under-construction buildings scheduled to be completed by 2020.

More reviews at NYC Architecture: Books

NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Thank You, Landmarks Preservation Commission!

Landmarks Preservation Commission
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has outdone itself with the new “Discover NYC Landmarks” web site. This interactive map is the fastest way to find and explore the city’s architectural heritage.

Since its creation in 1965, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has granted landmark status to more than 35,000 buildings and sites, including 1364 individual landmarks, 117 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks and 139 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. LPC shields this cultural history against defacement or destruction.

Equally if not more importantly, LPC has researched and written volumes of reports that examine and interpret those landmarks in the context of New York City and neighborhood history. The commission’s researchers also reveal the architects, builders and owners of the buildings.

Last but not least, LPC has made its work accessible in many ways. It published the “Guide to New York City Landmarks” (Fourth Edition – Wiley, 2009), and made individual report .PDFs available from its website.

Since 2011, I’ve relied on the LPC reports for details about the buildings I’ve photographed for Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Best Yet From Landmarks Preservation Commission

The new “Discover NYC Landmarks” site is LPC’s best-yet platform for browsing our architectural heritage. It’s an interactive map of the city, showing the locations of all landmarks and historic districts. Click on a landmark or district, a popup shows you the landmark name and designation date. Click on the popup image, and a .PDF report opens up. While the map itself is a major accomplishment, LPC has also upgraded its pre-computer reports. Old typewritten documents that had been scanned into .PDFs were often difficult to read and could not be searched electronically. The upgraded documents have been cleaned up dramatically and sometimes reformatted to make them easier to search and navigate.

The 433-page Greenwich Village Historic District report, for example, was originally published in two volumes. Here are the “before” and “after” versions of the original 1969 title page: The updated version combines both volumes and includes navigable bookmarks.


I’ve been using the improved report to document my new photos of Greenwich Village – it is so much easier to work with. Thank you, LPC!

Discover NYC Landmarks

Las Vegas

When my son won a trip to Las Vegas for a national billiards competition, my wife and I went along to cheer him on. Architectural snob that I am, I left my camera at home: What happens in Vegas, I thought, is not architecture.

But I succumbed to the bright lights and the ersatz geography of The Strip: New York, Paris, Rome, Luxor, Venice… I borrowed my wife’s Canon SX50 and shot about a thousand frames, cursing myself for not bringing a tripod.

Lesson learned: Architecture is everywhere, and doesn’t have to be classic to be arresting.

P.S. – What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas….with your money to keep it company.

Las Vegas Highlights

Google Map

The Dakota – A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building

The Dakota – and indeed NYC apartment life – is beautifully illuminated by Andrew Alpern’s new “History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building.” The noted architectural historian presents the most comprehensive history of The Dakota imaginable! Mr. Alpern documents the building, its builder (and family!), the architect, the neighborhood, the architectural and historical context, and even the Dakota’s residents. Fascinating reading that illuminates not only The Dakota, but also the world of apartment living in New York City.

I’m deeply honored by Mr. Alpern’s use of my photography (from the Dakota Apartments gallery) in this volume.

Where Do I Get Inspiration?

With a million buildings in the New York Metropolitan Area, how does one decide what to photograph and research?

Books are one source of inspiration. Initially, the “AIA Guide to New York City” was my main guide. But after the architecture bug has taken hold, inspiration comes from everywhere.

This morning, I’m off to Brighton Beach because I saw (and subsequently tracked down with Google Street View) 711 Brightwater Court in a “Person of Interest” episode. Gorgeous Art Deco, seems to be in good shape – I just hope it’s not time for the building’s Local Law 11 maintenance and attendant scaffolding.

My Plan B is to shoot five other buildings in the seven adjoining blocks. Stay tuned.

Fabulous Forest Hills Fantasy

From time to time I like to hop into my personal helicopter, aka Google Earth, to roam new (for me) neighborhoods.

A recent “discovery” was the Tudor fantasyland of Forest Hills Gardens, Queens. Architecturally, it’s a residential enclave that makes Manhattan’s Tudor City look like public housing. Take a quick look for yourself in Google Earth view. I’ll wait.

Caution: It’s easy to get to Forest Hills Gardens by public transport,* and it’s just as easy to get hopelessly lost in the neighborhood’s maze of winding narrow lanes.

If you need a guide, let me recommend Adrienne Onofri – my former co-worker, a licensed guide, and more importantly the author of “Walking Queens: 30 Tours for Discovering the Diverse Communities, Historic Places, and Natural Treasures of New York City’s Largest Borough.” By happy coincidence I had just purchased the book. When I spotted Forest Hills in Google Earth, I checked “Walking Queens” and sure enough, Walk 9 was titled, “Forest Hills: Better Homes and Gardens.” I learned that the neighborhood’s history was as fascinating as its architecture, and my wife and I hopped on the subway to scout the area, book in hand.

Alas, Adrienne is a better guide than I am a follower. I didn’t pay attention, and more than once I turned left when I should have turned right or vice versa. But I wasn’t disappointed, and I went back with camera in hand to capture and share photos of Forest Hills’ architecture. See Forest Hills Gardens and Forest Hills Inn.

And to think: There are 29 more tours in the book to enjoy! The routes are about two to five miles each, clearly mapped and accompanied by a turn-by-turn summary. Each route begins and ends at or near a subway, so you can leave your GPS and car at home.

Adrienne also wrote the earlier guide, “Walking Brooklyn: 30 tours exploring historical legacies, neighborhood culture, side streets and waterways.” The book store shelves are filled with Manhattan tour books; it’s nice to see the outer boroughs get some play. (Yes, I’ll admit that even my own work is Manhattan-centric, though I’ve lived in Brooklyn or Queens for about 55 years.)

Like “Walking Queens,” “Walking Brooklyn” is rich in architectural and historical context. Each of the 30 two- to five-mile tours is accompanied by clear two-color maps and turn-by-turn instructions.

I really have to be kept on a short leash in a book store. My mother took me to the library a year before she took me to school, and I’ve been a bookworm ever since.

The same day that I picked up “Walking Queens” and “Walking Brooklyn,” I got Janko Puls’ “Point of View New York City: A Visual Game of the City You Think You Know.” This is a wonderful little book for lovers of New York, architecture and photography. It’s a puzzle book: 144 closely-cropped photos of well-known New York City places. Your challenge: identify the places. Some are easy, some are difficult; all demonstrate the power of seeing something familiar from a different point of view. Beautifully done, Janko!

Last, but not least, I got Tom Miller’s “Seeking New York: The Stories Behind the Historic Architecture of Manhattan–One Building at a Time.” Tom is one of my favorite writers – he’s the author of the Daytonian in Manhattan blog that I often refer to in my galleries. In “Seeking New York,” Tom has uncovered the stories of the people who lived, worked, and sometimes died in 54 landmarks across the length and breadth of Manhattan. Wonderful illustrations by Jenny Seddon, and color photography throughout.

See NYC Architecture: Books for more good reading about New York City and architecture.

* Forest Hills Gardens is just two blocks south of the Forest Hills/71st Avenue station on the E/F/M/R lines, or right at the exit of the LIRR Forest Hills station.

A Few Words

This post marks the relaunch of The web host I’ve been using (Bluehost) is unwilling or unable to keep my server running reliably, so I decided to move rather than renew the service.

While moving, I decided to make some changes. The most obvious changes are cosmetic, but I’ve tried to make the site easier to use. You can now search the site: There’s a search tool at the top and bottom of every page. You can browse a comprehensive contents/index on the home page, or browse visual indexes for the site’s major categories. You can follow tags at the bottom of each post to find similar galleries – browse by year, by architectural style, by neighborhood, by architect, etc.

While rebuilding I’ve (finally!) standardized the slideshows. The old site used three different styles, one of which wasn’t working very well. The new style is also easier to maintain, so I’ll be able to start reloading galleries with better photos. Which brings me to the last point: Rebuilding the site has been a humbling experience. In reviewing my galleries I’m embarrassed at the quality of my earliest work. If I didn’t have to move the site right away, I would replace the galleries before relaunching.