Tag Archives: chelsea

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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245 Tenth Avenue

Hovering over New York’s High Line in Chelsea, 245 Tenth Avenue is a shining example of metallic architecture. Or is it?

The stamped-steel and glass luxury condo (apartments at $5 million) presents complex facades: Stark stainless walls overlooking the corner gas station, random glass and steel patterns on the Tenth Avenue and High Line facades. The effect, according to the architects, is meant to evoke images of smoke puffing from the steam locomotives that once chugged along the High Line’s rails.

Real estate blog The Real Deal sniped, “To say that 245 10th Avenue is Manhattan’s latest contribution to the cult of ugliness is not necessarily as disrespectful as it sounds. Like the rebarbative High Line 519 one block south on 23rd Street, 245 10th Avenue is a particularly eccentric example of Mod-meets-deconstruction, with retro-glances to the aesthetics of the 1960s and forward glances to what we must pray is not the future of architecture.”

But the Empire Guides blog said, “245 10th Avenue is a stunning building overlooking the High Line Park and is one of the most impressive architectural spectacles along the length of the green space.”

Metal panels are becoming more common as architectural skin, but they invite comparison to elegant Deco-era classics like the Socony-Mobil Building and the Chrysler Building.

What’s your take?

245 Tenth Avenue Vital Statistics
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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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