Tag Archives: 1923

Pershing Square Building

The Pershing Square Building’s days may be numbered. Unless the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission intercedes, this tawny brick and terra cotta structure is in the path of the midtown rezoning proposal designed to encourage development of new office towers.

Although the building was completed in 1923, its foundations were laid in 1914 – thus escaping the 1916 zoning law that required setbacks on tall buildings. The polychrome brick and terra cotta was novel at the time.

The large terra cotta figures at the fifth floor level are Roman caduceators, or peace commissioners; one version holds his caduceus, the other holds a cornucopia of peace. Nice touch, for a building named for a World War I general.

The Pershing Square Building stands on the site of the original Pershing Square – the former site of the Grand Union Hotel, which was demolished in 1914 for construction of the Lexington Avenue subway. The city sold the land instead of developing the park and memorial to General John J. Pershing. Pershing Square moved across the street to the site now occupied by the Pershing Square (aka Park Avenue) Viaduct ramp and Pershing Square Cafe.

You may note that the Pershing Square Building blends in very well with the neighboring Bowery Savings Bank. It’s no accident. The same firm designed the bank in a complementary style.

Pershing Square Building Vital Statistics
Pershing Square Building Recommended Reading

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Fraternity Clubs Building

Fraternity Clubs Building, aka Jolly Madison Towers Hotel, was built in 1923 by the Allerton Hotel Group, which specialized in club-like residence hotels. Allerton had six hotels in New York City. Now under its fifth name, the hotel still honors its past.

The Fraternity Clubs Building became Midston House in the 1930s, then Hotel Lancaster in the 1960s, then Madison Towers, and currently Jolly Madison Towers. The building is scantly covered in traditional architectural sources – but detailed on page 4 of the Delta Chi Quarterly 1994-95 Winter.

At street level the Renaissance Revival-style building is distinctive but not remarkable – the Madison Avenue facade looks a bit run down. A series of nine fraternal crests adorn the second story along both the Madison Avenue and E 38th Street facades; an unidentified bas relief ship (the Mayflower?) decorates the corner. The best views are the building’s east side, seen from Park Avenue. The tower’s tapestry brickwork, arches, arcades, octagonal cupolas, and red-tiled roofs are glorious.

Fraternity Clubs Building Vital Statistics
Fraternity Clubs Building Recommended Reading

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898 Park Avenue

Golden-hued 898 Park Avenue is a wonderful 14-story Romanesque building by the same architect who designed the 19-story Art Deco building across the street: both 1920s structures are luxury cooperative apartments.

(John Sloan also designed the Pershing Square Building, similar in color and style to 898 Park Avenue.)

The facade was restored in 2009; the building lost some of its original terra cotta decoration over the years, but what remains is still impressive and beautiful.

When built, 898 Park Avenue had just eight units according to Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan: Six full-floor duplex apartments on the upper floors, a one-floor apartment on the second floor, and a doctor’s suite on the ground floor. According to City Realty’s listing, the building is still limited to only 10 apartments.

At this writing (February 6, 2014), two of those apartments are available: A two-bedroom unit for $6 million and a four-bedroom apartment for $9 million.

898 Park Avenue Vital Statistics
898 Park Avenue Recommended Reading

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