Tag Archives: 1886

The Evelyn Apartments

The Evelyn Apartments, West 78th Street at Columbus Avenue, was designed by Emile Gruwe and built in 1886. Described in the “AIA Guide to New York City” as “A big, bold symphony in reds….”, there was a brief battle over preservation of the building’s terra cotta angels. No doubt about it: This is architecture that makes even New Yorkers pause.

On the Columbus Avenue side, a couple of nightclubs have had illustrious runs here: P & G Bar, and Evelyn Lounge. Across the street, a more famous landmark: The American Museum of Natural History.

Evelyn Apartments Vital Statistics
  • Location: 380 Columbus Avenue at W78th Street
  • Year completed: 1886
  • Architect: Emile Gruwe
  • Floors: 6
  • Style: Renaissance Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1990 (Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District)
Evelyn Apartments Suggested Reading
  • The New York Times article
  • NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report (page 93) (This is part of the 4-volume report for the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District)

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Puck Building – NoLita

The Puck Building – named for the magazine that originally had offices and printing presses here – was built in two sections: the north (shorter, Houston Street) end in 1886 and the south end seven years later, in 1893.

The massive structure was among the largest built in what was then the printing/publishing district, designed in the German variation of Romanesque Revival. However, the building’s chief architectural distinction is two gilt-covered statues of Puck, Shakespeare’s character (from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”): The larger on the NE corner, a smaller version over the Lafayette Street entrance.

At this writing, the building’s cornice is being rebuilt to hide a penthouse recently (December 2011) approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Puck Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 293 Lafayette Street at E Houston Street
  • Year completed: 1886 and 1893
  • Architect: Albert and Herman Wagner
  • Floors: 9
  • Style: Romanesque Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1983
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1983
Puck Building Suggested Reading

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New York Cancer Hospital

The New York Cancer Hospital (aka Towers Nursing Home, aka 455 Central Park West) is one of the most striking buildings on Central Park West – if not in the entire city. What’s even more remarkable is that the Loire Valley chateau-style towers were medically prescribed – not simply decorative! Medical theory of the day was that round or octagonal wards promoted health by preventing air stagnation and the accumulation of dirt.

The hospital was privately financed, by donations from John Jacob Astor and others. The first, Astor-financed pavilion, was dedicated to treating women; later additions included a wing for men, a chapel, and an X-ray building. Public awareness of cancer was spurred by the death of President Ulysses S. Grant, from throat cancer. Until the 1880s, cancer was thought to be contagious, and limited to those living in poverty and filth.

In 1899 the hospital was renamed General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. In 1939 the hospital moved to the Upper East Side as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. From 1955 to 1974 the hospital served as the Towers Nursing Home, operated by Bernard Bergman until it closed in scandal.

The abandoned buildings then became a crumbling haven for drug addicts until developer MCL Companies bought the property and successfully redeveloped the hospital/nursing home into luxury condominiums, with the addition of a 27-story tower. Apartments in the original (but gutted and rebuilt) buildings sold for up to $8 million!

A big thank you to Tsehaye Tesfai, who noticed my interest in this building and invited me up into his apartment so that I could shoot the hospital from above!

New York Cancer Hospital Vital Statistics
New York Cancer Hospital Recommended Reading

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Engine 39 / Ladder 16

The Fire Engine 39 / Ladder 16 Station House originally served as the headquarters of the New York Fire Department. It’s the third of four late-1880s landmarks in a row on E 67th Street.*

Napoleon Lebrun & Son, which designed more than 40 buildings for the department, designed this one in Romanesque Revival style. While Lebrun’s design included space for the Fire Commissioners and staff, the headquarters outgrew its space and moved to the Municipal Building in 1914. The fire telegraph (communications system) moved out in 1922. A lookout tower once topped the building’s right-hand bay (the section with single windows) – but was removed in 1949. The building became a training center, but by 1970 the city had planned to demolish the building. In 1980 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building as one of four landmarks on the block – but the Board of Estimate overturned the designation (and that of the adjoining police station). In the end, compromise: The facades of the fire house and police station were preserved and restored (1992), but new structures were built behind the 1880s face. The police precinct now uses the upper floors of the fire station.

(Unconfirmed scuttlebutt has it that “some 3 letter agency” operates/operated out of the building, which is directly across the street from an Eastern-bloc mission. Keep that under your hat.)

You might also enjoy Napoleon LeBrun’s Engine Company 31 on Lafayette Street, in a different architectural style – considered his most flamboyant fire house design.

*The four E 67th Street landmarks are: Mount Sinai Dispensary (now Kennedy Child Study Center) at 149; 19th (originally 25th) Police Precinct at 153; Engine Company 39/Ladder Company 16 Station House at 157; and Park East Synagogue, 163.

Engine 39 / Ladder 16 Vital Statistics
Engine 39 / Ladder 16 Recommended Reading

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The Berkeley / The Grosvenor

The Berkeley / The Grosvenor are a pair of Queen Anne style apartment buildings on Montague Street, mirror-image twins cleverly joined to look like one massive structure.

The brownstone, brick and terra cotta building was restored in 2004.

The Berkeley / The Grosvenor Vital Statistics
The Berkeley / The Grosvenor Recommended Reading

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Potter Building

Orlando Potter set out to make a fireproof building. It became “one of New York’s most significant surviving tall office buildings of the period prior to the full development of the skyscraper,” according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “Its brickwork is among the handsomest in New York City.”

The 1886 Potter Building replaced the ill-fated headquarters of the New York World, which had the distinction of burning up in the shortest time on record. Potter, the building’s owner, set out to make the replacement fireproof.

Iron framing and terra cotta fireproofing were key elements in the plan designed by architect Norris G. Starkweather. The structure represents an early phase of metal framing: Iron columns and joists supported the floors and interior of the building; the exterior walls supported themselves. (To bear the weight, those brick walls are 40 inches thick at the base and 20 inches thick at the top.) Terra cotta tiles surround the iron columns and joists, to protect them from the heat of a fire.

Abundant brownstone-colored terra cotta also decorated the red brick exterior. Starkweather combined four different architectural styles in the 11-story building (which was more than double the height of the previous structure). He emphasized vertical lines – counter to then-current practice. One critic condemned the resulting architecture as “coarse, pretentious, overloaded and intensely vulgar” and in its verticality, “spindling.” Starkweather died before the building was finished.

Potter liked the terra cotta so much, he founded New York Architectural Terra Cotta Co. and became one of the country’s largest producers.

Fast forward to 1973: After eight sales and 87 years, the Potter Building wound up in the hands of Pace College. The school planned to demolish this (and neighboring buildings) to build a large office tower. That project fizzled, and Pace sold the Potter Building in 1979 to 38 Park Row Associates – which converted the building to co-op loft apartments.

Remarkably, the new owners preserved and restored the exterior at great expense – 17 years before the building was designated a NYC landmark.

Potter Building Vital Statistics
Potter Building Recommended Reading

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381-389 West End Avenue

381-389 West End Avenue and 303-307 W 78th Street are a row of eight Flemish Renaissance houses, Frederick B. White’s only known New York City works.

The little-known architect had a brief but incandescent career: He died at 24, but from 1883 to 1886 built more than 200 homes and cottages, and had another 50 under construction.

The original tile roofs have been replaced with asphalt, and many of the windows and doors have been replaced with modern aluminum units. One of the W 78th Street houses – 303 – was remodeled in the 1920s to a white stucco neo-Tudor design. Sadly, this breaks the harmony that was intended.

381-389 West End Avenue Vital Statistics
381-389 West End Avenue Recommended Reading

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