Tag Archives: 1930

San Remo

San Remo is one of the high points – literally and figuratively – of the Central Park West skyline, and of the career of architect Emery Roth. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) gushed that the building “…epitomizes Roth’s ability to combine the traditional with the modern, an urbane amalgam of luxury and convenience, decorum and drama.”

Following closely after his triple-towered Beresford (1928), San Remo became the first twin-towered apartment building on the avenue. But where the 22-story Beresford’s stubby “towers” were mainly to hide water tanks, 27-story San Remo’s towers had 14 floors of deluxe apartments. This was possible because a new (1929) building code raised the height limit for residential buildings.

Roth also designed the Oliver Cromwell (1928) on W 72nd Street, was a consultant on the twin-towered El Dorado (1931), and designed the Normandy Apartments (1938) on Riverside Drive.

The San Remo was praised by architectural critics for its height, for the classical Greek-styled “temples” atop the towers, and for the “foyer plan” that minimized hallways.

“Despite its popular success,” said the LPC, the property “…fell prey to the pervasive economic mayhem of the 1930s. A full year after it had officially opened, nearly a third of its apartments remained vacant, and the Bank of the United States which held its $5 million mortgage had collapsed, its officers charged with recklessly ‘gambling’ on the San Remo.”

The building bounced from one owner to another via bankruptcy until 1940, when San Remo and Beresford were sold in a package for $25,000 over the mortgage. Now, individual apartments cost tens of millions of dollars.

San Remo Vital Statistics
San Remo Recommended Reading

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Chrysler Building

Volumes have already been written about the Chrysler Building, so I’ll keep this short.

The Chrysler Building is among the very few landmarks that define New York City’s skyline. It’s the unmistakable DNA marker that – like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty – proclaims “New York.”

Besides being unique, the Chrysler Building is beautiful. The silhouette, the crown, the setbacks, the gargoyles, the brickwork, the detailing are all beautiful. There is so much complexity and subtlety at work – such as the black brick accents at the corners that accentuate the building’s vertical lines.

Here are a few facts, with links to a wealth of fascinating articles, and my humble addition to the building’s ever-growing photographic record.

Chrysler Building Fast Facts
  • The Chrysler Building began life as the Reynolds Building – a project for real estate developer and former New York State senator William H. Reynolds.
  • The Chrysler Building was never owned or financed by the Chrysler Corporation – it was the personal project of Walter P. Chrysler.
  • The land under the Chrysler Building is owned by Cooper Union; the architect – William Van Alen – studied at Pratt.
  • The Chrysler Building and Manhattan Building (40 Wall Street, now the Trump Building) competed for “tallest” designation; their architects, William Van Alen and H. Craig Severance, had been partners before they became competitors.
  • Van Alen had to sue Walter Chrysler to collect his fee; he won, but the suit wrecked his career. After designing one of the most famous buildings of all time, Van Alen wound up teaching sculpture.
  • The Chrysler Building is now part of the “Chrysler Center,” managed by Tishman-Speyer, which also includes Chrysler East and Chrysler Trylons.
  • Chrysler Center is now 90% owned by Abu Dhabi Investment Council
Chrysler Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 405 Lexington Avenue between E 42nd and E 43rd Streets
  • Year completed: 1930
  • Architect: William Van Alen
  • Floors: 77
  • Style: Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1978
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1976
Chrysler Building 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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New Yorker Hotel

New Yorker Hotel was once an elegant celebrity-studded 2,500-room property – New York City’s largest when it opened in 1930. Convenient to Pennsylvania Station, it boasted five restaurants, a 42-chair barbershop, and platoons of snappily-uniformed bellboys.

Architecturally, the 43-floor Art Deco tower was (and is) quite plain; apart from size and shape, the building’s most prominent feature is the four-story, west-facing red “NEW YORKER” sign in the crown.

As the big-band era faded, so did New Yorker’s glitter; by the 1960s the hotel (then owned by Hilton) was in decline, financially, and closed in 1972. The World Unification Church (Rev. Sun Myung Moon) bought the hotel in 1975. By 1994 the church decided to re-open the building as a hotel – starting with 178 rooms and a $20 million renovation. Ramada granted a franchise in 2000. The hotel spent an additional $70 million on renovations 2007-2009; the property now has 900+ rooms on floors 19-40. In addition, Educational Housing Services uses five floors (9, 14, 16, 17, 18) for student housing.

New Yorker Hotel’s architects, the firm of Sugarman and Berger, have several other prominent New York City buildings, including: Gramercy Arms Apartments, Broadway Fashion Building, One Fifth Avenue, Millennium Towers North/Navarro Building, Paris Hotel/Paris Apartments.

New Yorker Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 481 Eighth Avenue between W 34th and W 35th Streets
  • Year completed: 1930
  • Architect: Sugarman and Berger
  • Floors: 43
  • Style: Art Deco
New Yorker Hotel Suggested Reading

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Towne House

Towne House stands out in the Murray Hill Historic District. Amid blocks of low rise brownstones, Towne House towers 25 floors in Art Deco brick. It replaced five mid-1800s row houses, and touched off a lawsuit by neighbors who tried to block construction.

Despite its height and architectural style, at street level the building does blend in with the block; the most remarkable aspect is Towne House’s colorfully detailed tower, which catches the eye from blocks around.

Towne House Vital Statistics
Towne House Recommended Reading

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Riverside Church

Riverside Church is the tallest church in the U.S., visible for miles along Riverside Drive and Riverside Park (as is the neighboring General Grant National Memorial). Interestingly, the 392-foot tower isn’t just for the bells – it’s the equivalent of an office building. As The New York Times reported, “The tower was not simply symbolic; it held offices, social rooms, classrooms, a bowling alley, a theater and similar spaces.”

Although Riverside Church is designed in the Gothic style, it is structurally modern: A steel frame, not the too-shallow buttresses, supports the weight of the tower.

Riverside Church Vital Statistics
Riverside Church Recommended Reading

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Lefcourt Colonial Building

Lefcourt Colonial Building was among the last buildings developed by Abraham Lefcourt, one of New York’s “rags to riches to rags” stories.

Now known as 295 Madison Avenue, the 45-story Neo-Gothic tower is an architectural landmark without the official title. The distinctive blue terra cotta medallions and gilded finials are visible from most of midtown. The street level retail space and lobby have been thoroughly modernized, but above that, the six-story base is richly decorated with terra cotta, false balustrades and layered brickwork.

Lefcourt Colonial was auctioned off in foreclosure just two years after it was completed, as the Great Depression demolished Abraham Lefcourt’s real estate and banking empire. And the day after the Lefcourt Colonial was sold – for $3.5 million – the Sevilla Towers faced the same fate. Sevilla Towers was the Lefcourt-built apartment hotel, completed but not yet opened, now known as the Essex House.

Lefcourt Colonial has something in common with the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and Statue of Liberty: You can buy a cast replica of the structure!

Lefcourt Colonial Building Vital Statistics
Lefcourt Colonial Building Recommended Reading

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336 Central Park West

336 Central Park West is a modest Art Deco apartment building that you might pass without thought – unless you looked up. The undulating, gently flared cornices on the building and its tower enclosures are embossed in an Egyptian reed pattern that is both simple and stunning.

You might also notice the thoughtful polychrome brickwork, with its projecting piers and segmented spandrels, which emphasize the building’s height.

Alas, over the years the cooperative has spoiled the design and created a stew of replacement windows – casements, double-hung, sliders in a variety of single and multi-pane configurations. Through-wall air conditioning vents are also done in different styles. Even the ground floor doors are mismatched.

336 Central Park West Vital Statistics
336 Central Park West Recommended Reading

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55 Central Park West

55 Central Park West, among the first Art Deco apartment houses on the avenue, has become known as the “Ghostbusters Building.” In the 1984 movie, the building is attributed to insane architect Ivo Shandor.

Schwartz & Gross, the real architects, must be spinning in their graves. They designed an innovative brick, stone and terra cotta structure that changes color as it rises, from dark red to white. Massive fluted projections in the base and as finials at the setbacks emphasize the building’s vertical lines.

Inside, 55 CPW was fairly modest: apartments ranged from three to six rooms on lower floors. But all apartments had the innovation of a sunken living room.

Upper floors have larger apartments – including a massive 12-room duplex penthouse that sold for $35 million in 2013.

55 Central Park West Vital Statistics
55 Central Park West Recommended Reading

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Gramercy House

Gramercy House is one of New York’s most colorful apartment houses, designed by George and Edward Blum. The prolific architects designed at least 70 apartment buildings and 60 commercial structures in New York, but only three in the Art Deco style.*

Like most of the Blums’ apartment houses, Gramercy House is distinctive for its unusual brickwork and ample terra cotta – notably the bold geometric band above the first story. Even the rear light courts (viewed from E 23rd Street) have broad blue terra cotta bands. The corners of the E 22nd Street facade have bricks set at an angle, and setbacks in the upper floors have unusual inset chamfers. Contrasting brick bands break up the facades on E 22nd Street and Second Avenue.

* The other two are 210 E 68th Street (1929) and 315 E 68th Street (1930).

Gramercy House Vital Statistics
Gramercy House Recommended Reading

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