Tag Archives: 1928

The Waverly, 136 Waverly Place


The Waverly is a beautifully maintained West Village landmark, erected in 1927-1928. The 16-story apartment building was designed by Walter S. Schneider.

The structure uses brickwork to achieve most of its texture – the spandrels and simulated quoins. The two-story entry is of stone and terra cotta; there are terra cotta decorations on the top two floors reminiscent of Herman Lee Meader’s Cliff Dwelling.

The cooperative includes street-level retail space along Sixth Avenue, and 76 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments.

If the building looks familiar, it may be because it’s the TV home of “Mad Men” character Don Draper.

Waverly Vital Statistics
Waverly Recommended Reading

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Our Lady of Pompeii

Our Lady of Pompeii

Our Lady of Pompeii Roman Catholic Church is prominently sited on Bleecker Street at Carmine Street. It replaces an earlier church that had been demolished during widening of Sixth Avenue.

Our Lady of Pompeii Vital Statistics
Our Lady of Pompeii Recommended Reading

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2 Park Avenue

2 Park Avenue is “one of [Ely Jacques] Kahn’s most dramatic and successful works and survives today as one of the most beautiful and distinctive office towers of the Art Deco period,” in the words of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

LPC continued, “Kahn was able to successfully integrate a new decorative type produced by the application of colorful terra-cotta panels in geometric designs to a tall, commercially successful office/loft structure. 2 Park Avenue was one of the important late 1920s buildings that helped create the visually lively and iconic city of the early 20th century.”

According to the commission, the building’s developers were not sure what they wanted to do with the structure. The neighborhood was in transition, and the dominant commercial tenant was unknown. The owners asked Kahn to design a building that could be used as offices and showrooms or for light manufacturing.

2 Park Avenue Vital Statistics
2 Park Avenue Recommended Reading

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Morgan Library

The Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue comprises three classical, landmark buildings and a fourth, modern addition that joins the three into a complex that’s doubled in size.

The original buildings are J. P. Morgan, Jr.’s House (1853, originally built for Isaac N. Phelps), on the SE corner of Madison Avenue and E 37th Street; J. Pierpont’s Private Library (1906, designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White), mid-block on E 36th Street between Madison and Park Avenues; and J. Pierpont’s Private Library Addition (1928, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris), on the NE corner of Madison Avenue and E 36th Street. The library addition was built on the site of J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr.’s mansion, after his death. (J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. opened the library to the public in 1924.)

In 2006, the museum built a further addition, planned by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The modern addition connected the three original buildings and also filled the lot east of the 1853 brownstone.

In 2010, the museum restored the original library – the McKim building – to its original splendor under guidance of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The interior restoration included new lighting and the re-installation of the original chandeliers, deep cleaning, and replacement of plexiglass exhibit covers with non-glare acrylic. You can see before and after photos of the interior here.

Incidentally, the lionesses guarding the Morgan Library entrance on E 36th Street – Prudence and Felicity – were carved by Edward Clark Potter, the same sculptor who created the New York Public Library lions Patience and Fortitude.

Morgan Library Vital Statistics
  • Location: Madison Avenue between E 36th and E 37th Streets
  • Year completed: 1853 (house), 1906 (private library), 1928 (addition), 2006 (second addition)
  • Architect: McKim, Mead & White (private library), Benjamin Wistar Morris (addition), Renzo Piano Building Workshop (second addition)
  • Style: Italian Renaissance (private library), Florentine Renaissance (addition)
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1966
Morgan Library Suggested Reading

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St. Bartholomew’s Church

St. Bartholomew’s Church was a legal, as well as architectural landmark; its status was contested all the way to the Supreme Court. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) had designated the church and its Community House landmarks in 1967 – over the objections of the church. In 1981 the church sought to replace the community house with a 59-story office building, in order to raise cash. The LPC rejected the plans, setting off a legal battle over whether churches could be subject to historic ordinances. LPC prevailed and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

The current church is St. Bart’s third site: The congregation was organized in 1835 at Lafayette Place and Great Jones Street; in 1872 it moved uptown to Madison Avenue and E 44th Street; in 1918 it moved to the Park Avenue location.

Though the church proper was designed by Bertram G. Goodhue, the three-door Romanesque porch was designed by McKim, Mead & White. The entryway, part of the Madison Avenue church, had been built as a memorial to Cornelius Vanderbilt II; it was moved to the new building.

The Community House was erected nine years later, designed by Goodhue’s associates Mayers, Murray & Phillip. (Goodhue died in 1924.) The Community House and adjoining terrace are the site of a restaurant, “Inside Park.”

Mayers, Murray & Phillip also designed the dome, erected in 1930 in place of the steeple that had been planned but never built.

St. Bartholomew’s Church Vital Statistics
  • Location: 109 E 50th Street at Park Avenue
  • Year completed: 1919 (church); 1928 (Community House); 1930 (dome)
  • Architect: Bertram G. Goodhue (church); Mayers, Murray & Phillip (Community House & dome)
  • Style: Byzantine & Romanesque
  • New York City Landmark: 1967
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1980
St. Bartholomew’s Church Suggested Reading

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Standard Oil Building

The Standard Oil Building began as a 10-story, 86-foot-wide structure in 1885 – just 21 years after the Civil War. But as Standard Oil grew, so did the building: In five stages, it extended north by 27 feet and south by almost 400 feet to Beaver Street and grew to 29 stories. The piece-by-piece construction was dictated by the pace of acquiring and demolishing adjoining properties. The building expanded again in 2011-2012 with the addition of a two-story gymnasium, which filled in a portion of the Beaver Street light court. The gymnasium was needed by one of the three NYC public schools that now occupy seven lower floors.

The shape of the Standard Oil Building is as complex as its construction history – the 16-story base is five-sided, with a curved transition to follow the curve of Broadway as it joins Whitehall Street. The 13-story tower seems misaligned with the building when viewed from the southwest (the best view), but it is actually aligned with the original building’s northern edge.

Material and stylistic details also reveal the piece-by-piece construction. For example, the original brick and granite shows on the New Street (eastern) facade; newer sections are clad in limestone. Some limestone blocks have rounded edges, others are sharply angled; different styles of columns and pilasters are used in the upper stories.

Standard Oil Building Vital Statistics
Standard Oil Building Recommended Reading

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Barbizon Hotel for Women

Barbizon Hotel for Women, now known as the condominium apartments Barbizon 63, was built as a residential hotel catering to young professionals.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) added the building to its roster in April 2012, noting that the structure is “an excellent representative of the 1920s apartment hotel building, and is notable for the high quality of its design.”

The zoning law of 1916 required setbacks – indented upper floors – on tall buildings to permit more light to reach the street. Complex arcades and courtyards in Barbizon Hotel’s setback design add visual interest to the tower. The complex brickwork, with a mix of colors and corbelling, adds visual rich texture, even from a distance.

Hotels for women were the ladies’ answer to late-1800s “bachelor flats” for men (e.g., The Wilbraham), and completed the quaint (by today’s standards) segregation of residences: for families, for single men, and for single women. (See also Beekman Tower Hotel, the former Panhellenic Tower.) See the LPC designation report for a great synopsis of New York City’s housing variety: tenements, apartments, french flats, rooming houses, residence and club hotels.

The first owners lost the hotel through foreclosure, but a second group led by Lawrence Elliman was able to show a profit by 1938. Quite a few now-famous women lived at the Barbizon through the mid-70s – by which time the hotel was again losing money. Between 1980 and 2001 the hotel changed hands five times, and then in 2005 it was converted to condominium apartments.

Barbizon Hotel for Women Vital Statistics
Barbizon Hotel for Women Recommended Reading

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47 Plaza Street West

47 Plaza Street West is often described as Brooklyn’s own Flatiron Building – and the similarities are striking: Both have a triangular footprint, but 47 Plaza Street West is a little more complex – its eastern side gently curves to follow Grand Army Plaza’s perimeter. The 1928 Brooklyn apartment building and the 1902 Manhattan office building both overlook a pedestrian plaza and a park (though the Brooklyn Plaza and park are MUCH more impressive). Both buildings are in Renaissance style – though 16-story 47 Plaza Street West is Italian Renaissance to 21-story Flatiron’s French Renaissance.

Brooklyn’s Flatiron has something that the original lacks – a sibling on the same block. Berkeley Plaza, the 14-story apartment building at 39 Plaza Street West, was also designed by Rosario Candela, in the same style, at the same time.

47 Plaza Street West Vital Statistics
47 Plaza Street West Recommended Reading

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Medical Arts Building

The Medical Arts Building, now known as simply 57 West 57th Street, was designed by Warren & Wetmore. That’s the same firm that designed nearby Steinway Hall and the Crown (originally Heckscher) Building – and New York landmarks Grand Central Terminal, Helmsley (originally New York Central) Building, Biltmore Hotel, and Grand Hyatt New York (originally Commodore Hotel), among others.

As the name suggests, the building was conceived as a center for doctors, dentists and other medical practitioners. Several whole-floor clinics and sanitoriums took residence here. But as the Daytonian in Manhattan blog tells it, medicine was not all that was practiced here! Must read!

The building’s new owner specializes in pre-built office space. The building has been redesigned internally with movable walls on tracks. (See The New York Observer article.) Several companies have set up shop to offer office leases by the month, day – or hour.

While the building has traded commerce for medicine on the inside, the decorative arts are alive and well on the outside: A string of gilt-painted terra cotta adorns the white brick facades on Sixth Avenue and West 57th Street; a massive columned “temple” crowns the building. The gilt medallions are supposed to picture notable physicians; I haven’t located the names. Also, at this writing the building’s Sixth Avenue art deco entrance was covered in scaffolding, so I couldn’t photograph it.

Medical Arts Building Vital Statistics
Medical Arts Building Recommended Reading

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Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third-largest art museum in the United States – but may be better known for its steps, a backdrop for the movie “Rocky.” Probably not a good testament to American culture. But art imitates life imitates art: On any given day you’ll see scores of people running up those steps, and a monumental statue of “Rocky” now stands just east of the base of the steps.

The museum is constructed as three Greek temples atop Faire Mount, at the northwest end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway. While the center temple is the principal building, the north temple has the most elaborate pediment.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Vital Statistics
Philadelphia Museum of Art Recommended Reading

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