Tag Archives: 1931

21 West Street

21 West Street (aka Le Rivage), a slender 31-story Art Deco landmark, was converted from offices to apartments in 1998. The building complements the adjoining Downtown Athletic Club, designed by the same architects but built five years earlier.

When built in 1931 (at the same time as the Empire State Building), 21 West Street was across the street from the waterfront. Upper-story tenants then had an unobstructed view of the Hudson. Battery Park City was built on landfill placed in 1980 from excavation for the World Trade Center.

The exposed corners of the building are cantilevered, allowing corner windows. The building was promoted as “An office building with glass corners.” The original red window frames have been replaced by a more neutral tan matching the brick surrounds.

Starrett & Van Vleck used different-colored bricks to create a “woven” texture and to accentuate the building’s vertical lines. The Washington Street facade has setbacks at the 10th and 16th floors; all three facades have setbacks above the 21st, 26th, 29th and 30th floors.

21 West Street Vital Statistics
21 West Street Recommended Reading

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Millan House

Millan House (two Ls, please) is a pair of buildings spanning E 67th to E 68th Street, built around a private garden and adorned with a private zoo. If they were built on an avenue – Park or Lexington – this New York architecture would be well known; in their mid-block location they’re a pleasant surprise to passers-by.

The whimsical animals are carved stone, not terra cotta – the building was owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., after all. The building is now a cooperative.

Millan House Vital Statistics
Millan House Recommended Reading

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The Ardsley is one of a handful of Art Deco apartment buildings on Central Park West – and considered by some to be Emery Roth’s finest Art Deco building, even surpassing his Eldorado, one block south. It’s a sharp departure from the styles Roth used in his other famous Central Park West apartment towers: Alden, Beresford, and San Remo.

The Ardsley Vital Statistics
The Ardsley Recommended Reading

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El Dorado

El Dorado (aka The Eldorado*) is among New York’s most fabled apartment buildings – for its celebrity residents as much as for its stunning twin-tower Art Deco architecture.

Despite (or because of?) the building’s impressive design, El Dorado (The Golden One) got off to a rocky start – foreclosure following the stock market crash. Though the apartments were luxe enough to include maid’s quarters, the building was economy-minded enough to use cast stone instead of the real thing in the three-story base. And original notations of gold leaf for the towers’ pinnacles were never executed.

After reorganization, the building successfully attracted luxury-minded tenants; in 1982 El Dorado turned co-op. Unlike other pricey New York cooperatives, El Dorado welcomes celebrities. Famous tenants and former tenants include (in no particular order) Bruce Willis, Tuesday Weld, Barney’s founder Barney Pressman, Faye Dunaway, Garrison Keillor, Michael J. Fox, U2’s Moby, Sinclair Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, Groucho Marx, and Alec Baldwin.

One celebrity the apartments could have done without was the resident of apartment 9B – you can read the gruesome details in The New York Times and New York Daily News stories!

*El Dorado is Spanish for “The Golden One,” so THE El Dorado is redundant; the official name is Americanized as The Eldorado – but the canopy on Central Park West has it El Dorado. The name is inherited from an earlier (1902) eight-story luxury apartment house on the same site, El Dorado.

El Dorado Vital Statistics
El Dorado Recommended Reading

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241 Central Park West

241 Central Park West is easily confused with 55 Central Park West – they were both designed by Schwartz & Gross; what’s more, the developer of record is 55 Central Park West Corp. (according to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission).

The brick and cast stone facade takes up the entire blockfront between W 84th and W 85th Street. Protruding decorative elements – flowering stalks of some kind – decorate the building’s base and crown; otherwise the structure is quite plain.

The building is not without fans – you can even order a pewter model! (see below)

241 Central Park West Vital Statistics
241 Central Park West Recommended Reading

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London Terrace

London Terrace shows that “timing is everything” can trump “location, location, location.” This whole-block residential development of Henry Mandel (“the Donald Trump of the 1920s”) had the bad luck of being built just as the country fell into the Great Depression. The 14-building, 1,670-unit project bankrupted Mandel and slipped into foreclosure. Just across Ninth Avenue – but built three decades later – the 10-building, 2,820-unit Penn South complex had a considerably easier life.

To be fair, the Penn South co-op had the backing of the then-giant International Ladies Garment Workers Union and a 25-year New York City tax abatement, advantages unavailable to London Terrace.

Mandel’s ambitious Chelsea complex – the city’s then-largest – included a central courtyard closed at the ends by a large indoor pool on Tenth Avenue and a restaurant on Ninth Avenue. In addition, there were separate rooftop exercise and recreation areas for children and adults, a telephone message center, page boys to run errands and other amenities that the rich were accustomed to. Yet the buildings were not for the rich: Most apartments were studio or one-bedroom units – no servants rooms here!

After the financial dust settled, London Terrace split into two developments with somewhat scaled-back amenities. The four corner buildings, dubbed London Terrace Towers, were converted to co-ops in 1986. The 10 mid-block buildings are known as London Terrace Gardens, and are still rental apartments. The pool and rooftop facilities are still in use.

The Tuscan architectural style, detailed and multi-colored, breaks up what could otherwise be a bleak and monolithic monster.

Some online accounts claim that Mandel jumped from the roof of London Terrace in 1934 after declaring bankruptcy. Good drama, but not true. His 1942 New York Times obituary reports that he died at Lenox Hill Hospital on October 10, 1942 after a short illness.

If you’re looking for drama, look no further than the story of Tillie Hart: She refused to move for the bulldozers, claiming her house’s sublease had another year to run. Even after losing court battles, Ms. Hart reportedly barricaded herself until sheriffs forcibly removed her belongings to the sidewalk.

The most recent drama was a battle over rights to use the swimming pool.

London Terrace Vital Statistics
London Terrace Recommended Reading

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Traffic Building

Traffic Building is standout architecture for its elaborate brown brick and terra cotta facade. The six-story loft building on Chelsea’s West 23rd Street was designed for the now-defunct Traffic Cafeteria. A diner has taken its place.

According to the Daytonian in Manhattan blog, the ground floor brick and terra cotta has been replaced with stone tiles, but the top five floors – except for modern windows – have kept their original design.

Traffic Building Vital Statistics
Traffic Building Recommended Reading

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