Tag Archives: 1909

Plaza Hotel

The century-old Plaza Hotel has changed hands several times, but it remains an architectural – and hospitality – landmark. As such, the Plaza has accumulated a history that is both educational and entertaining.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report for the hotel’s interiors is a rich narrative about the hotel, its owners, architects, renovations and occupants. The Wikipedia entry adds more popular details, such as the movies and television shows in which the Plaza has appeared.

Trivia buffs, add this to your repertoire: The current property is the second Plaza Hotel on this site; the first hotel (also considered among the finest in New York) was demolished after 15 years to make way for an even grander property. Also: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts manages the Plaza – and also Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza – which was also designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh.

Hardenbergh also designed the Dakota Apartments, the Western Union Telegraph Company Building, and the Schermerhorn Building in New York. He designed the Waldorf and Astoria Hotels (then located at Fifth Avenue from 33rd to 34th Streets), among other prominent buildings now demolished.

Plaza Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: Central Park South at Grand Army Plaza
  • Year Completed: 1909; addition, 1921
  • Architect: Henry Janeway Hardenbergh; addition, Warren & Wetmore
  • Floors: 20
  • Style: Second Empire Baroque
  • New York City Landmark: 1969
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1978
Plaza Hotel Suggested Reading

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Masonic Hall

Masonic Hall and the associated Masonic Building owe their existence to a third building, the Masonic Temple, which was demolished in 1910. The Masonic Temple was designed by by Napoleon LeBrun (himself a Mason) and erected on W 23rd Street in 1870. The Masons built Masonic Hall on adjoining property on W 24th Street as an addition to the Temple, in 1909. Harry P. Knowles, head-draftsman of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons (and also a Mason), designed the addition. The Masons then decided to replace the Masonic Temple with a loft building, to generate income to finance the lodge’s activities. This building, too, was designed by Knowles and erected in 1913.

Both Masonic Hall and Masonic Building are designed on the three-part scheme that treats tall buildings as classical columns: base, shaft and capital. Masonic Hall was designed in Beaux Arts style, Masonic Building in neo-Renaissance style; both are built without setbacks, as they were erected before the 1916 zoning law change. The buildings are interconnected via a pedestrian passage with shops and a restaurant.

Masonic Hall and Masonic Building are included in the Ladies Mile Historic District, designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1989.

Harry P. Knowles also designed Mecca Temple on W 55th Street – now known as City Center.

Masonic Hall Vital Statistics
  • Location: 46 W 24th Street at Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1909
  • Architect: Harry P. Knowles
  • Floors: 18
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1989
Masonic Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 71 W 23rd Street at Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1913
  • Architect: Harry P. Knowles
  • Floors: 19
  • Style: neo-Renaissance
  • New York City Landmark: 1989
Masonic Hall & Building Suggested Reading

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Alwyn Court Apartments

Alwyn Court Apartments is undoubtedly the most decorated building in New York: Gray terra cotta covers every foot of the 12-story building. When the building opened in 1909 it was as opulent inside as it is outside. Each apartment (two to a floor) had 14 rooms and five baths – except for the 32-room apartment!

The building had a stroke of bad luck just months after opening, when only five apartments were occupied – a fire damaged some of the upper floors. The building was repaired and filled quickly, but dropped out of fashion in the late 1930s. And the Great Depression didn’t help. The bank foreclosed and reconfigured Alwyn Court as 75 much smaller apartments under direction of architect Louis H. Weeks. The main entrance on the corner was converted to retail space (now the Petrossian restaurant); the former service entrance on Seventh Avenue is now the main entrance.

As part of a co-op conversion, the building’s facade was cleaned and restored in 1980 by Beyer Blinder Belle, an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation.

The fire-breathing dragons at the corner entry (and elsewhere) are actually salamanders; a crowned salamander was the emblem of Francis I, King of France. (The same emblem graces Red House, another apartment building designed by Harde & Short.)

Alwyn Court Vital Statistics
Alwyn Court Recommended Reading

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Studio Building

Studio Building aka Studio Apartments (not to be confused with 140 W 57th Street Studio Building – The Beaufort) has just 32 apartments – but what apartments! At this writing, one of those three-bedroom cooperative apartments is on the market for $15.5 million. The mid-block building overlooks the Museum of Natural History on wide W 77th Street; the views more spectacular because living rooms (originally studios) are double height with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The building’s original facade was even more ornate – there was a massive oriel projecting from the top three floors, and an elaborate cornice that added a story to the building’s height. The New York Times notes that three quarters of the original ornament was stripped in the 1940s.

The architects – Herbert Spencer Harde and Richard Thomas Short – had a brief but showy partnership that resulted in four landmarked buildings: this and Red House, Alwyn Court, and 45 E 66th Street.

Studio Building Vital Statistics
Studio Building Recommended Reading

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Peter Stuyvesant

Peter Stuyvesant is a Beaux Arts apartment house, with a facade gently curved to follow scenic Riverside Drive. The colorful, textured two-story crown is missing its original massive cornice (see archive photo), but it’s still a beauty. Overall, many horizontal divisions minimize the building’s height.

The building has also been stripped of its balconies – traces are still visible on the facades.

The building’s entry is modest: One story – no portico, canopy or marquee – but the door itself is exquisitely detailed iron grillwork set in a deeply cut cast stone frame.

New York City “Boy Mayor” John Purroy Mitchel (he was 34 when elected) lived here – and accidentally shot ex-Senator William H. Reynolds in front of the building as the pair returned from target practice. Mitchel carried a revolver for protection – he had escaped an assassination attempt only two months earlier.

According to City Realty’s review, the Peter Stuyvesant went co-op in 1988.

Peter Stuyvesant Vital Statistics
Peter Stuyvesant Recommended Reading

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Schinasi Mansion

Schinasi Mansion, the last privately owned freestanding mansion in Manhattan, has history and quirks as rich as its French Renaissance architecture.

The mansion was commissioned by Morris (originally Mussa) Schinasi, a Turkish immigrant who became wealthy from his invention of a cigarette rolling machine – and use of strong Turkish tobacco. The architect was none other than William Tuthill, known for his design of Carnegie Hall (1891). Despite his wealth, Schinasi refused to pay Tuthill – who sued.

Why Schinasi wouldn’t pay is a mystery – as is the secret tunnel (now sealed) from the mansion’s basement to the Hudson River.

Morris Schinasi lived in the house until he died in 1928; his family sold the mansion in 1930 and it became the Semple School for Girls, a finishing school.

Rosa Semple, the school’s founder, herself died in the mansion in 1956. Columbia University bought the property in 1960 and established “Children’s Mansion Day Care Center.”

Columbia decided to sell in 1979 – to Hans Smit, one of its own law professors, who wanted to restore and resell the home.

After nearly three decades of slow interior restoration, Hans Smit (who never lived in the house) tried to sell – but he died in 2012. His son succeeded in selling Schinasi Mansion in late 2013.

Schinasi Mansion Vital Statistics
Schinasi Mansion Recommended Reading

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