Tag Archives: Clinton & Russell

Apthorp Apartments

Apthorp Apartments takes up the entire block from 78th to 79th Streets, Broadway to West End Avenue. It is divided into four sub-buildings around a central courtyard. Built in 1906-1908 by Viscount William Waldorf Astor, who later moved to a castle in England (“America is not a fit place for a gentleman to live”).

The building went condo in 2008 with apartments averaging $6.5 million. (A number of legal issues cropped up, but that’s another story.) The conversion modernized the building to include techy touches like Cat5E (computer network) and FiOS wiring.

Apthorp has New York City landmark status and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Apthorp Apartments Vital Statistics
  • Location: 2209 Broadway (whole block from Broadway to West End Avenue, W 78th to W 79th Streets)
  • Year completed: 1908
  • Architect: Clinton & Russell
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Renaissance Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1969
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1978
Apthorp Apartments Suggested Reading

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Whitehall Building

Whitehall Building is actually two buildings: the original 1904 20-story structure facing Battery Place, and a 1910 32-story annex directly behind that, facing West Street.

(A third building, added to the complex in 1972, is not included in this gallery. Now named One Western Union International Plaza, that 20-story office building was built in a completely different style and is now under different ownership.)

Whitehall Building was a little bit of a gamble – its location was two blocks off Broadway, the most desirable address. But the park across the street guaranteed unimpeded views; with lower-than-Broadway rents, the building was an immediate success. The owners, Robert and William Chesebrough, started buying up adjacent lots for an annex even before the first building was completed. (Robert Chesebrough was the inventor of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly.)

Henry J. Hardenbergh was the architect for the Whitehall Building. Among his prior commissions were the Dakota Apartments (1884), the original Waldorf (1895) and Astoria (1897) hotels, and the Western Union Telegraph Building (1884). His design for the Whitehall was quite colorful for the times and the location, including five different shades of brick and stone in the Battery Place facade.

The records don’t say why Hardenbergh wasn’t selected to design the annex – but it may have been because he was busy designing the Plaza Hotel. In any case, Clinton & Russell was selected for the job. Their annex, Greater Whitehall, was much larger than Whitehall Building; in fact, it was the largest office building in New York at the time.

The upper floors (14-31) of both buildings have now been converted to rental apartments – Ocean Luxury Residences.

Whitehall Building Vital Statistics
Whitehall Building Recommended Reading

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The Langham is an elegant bookmark separating the more famous Dakota (to the south) and San Remo. The building is a restrained Beaux Arts / French Second Empire; the lower 10 floors are dignified rusticated limestone and brick, with restrained decoration and Juliette balconies. The 11th floor is more heavily decorated, and the 12 and 13th floors – in the mansard roof – are the most elaborate.

Originally, the building had just four apartments per floor: Each a luxury home that included three or four bedrooms, two servant’s rooms, library, living room, and dining room. All were entered via an elegant foyer (or if you were a servant or tradesman, via a back service elevator). The Langham touted a central refrigeration system to provide ice to each apartment (before mechanical refrigerators), mail delivery via conveyor belt, and a central vacuum cleaning system. A carriageway on W 73rd Street provided access via a back lobby. More importantly, in the days before air conditioning, each apartment had windows facing in four directions, thanks to three light courts along the back (west) side.

The building now has 64 units. But the apartments now range from two to eight bedrooms (a combination of a five-bedroom and a three-bedroom), with rents ranging from $4,250 to $60,000 per month. In 2008, The Gawker listed The Langham as one of the 20 most expensive rentals in New York City.

The Langham has had more than its share of celebrity tenants: Irving Bloomingdale, vice president (and son of the founder) of Bloomingdale’s; Isadore Saks, with his son, Joseph. Isadore Saks founded Saks & Company; Martin Beck, head of the Orpheum theater chain, who built the Palace Theater; Edward F. Albee, head of the Keith and Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chains and grandfather of the playwright Edward Albee; Lee Strasberg, the actor and teacher. Last, but not least, actress Mia Farrow had an 11-room apartment in The Langham, which was used in the filming of Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

The Langham Vital Statistics
The Langham Recommended Reading

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Graham Court

Graham Court is sometimes called “Harlem’s Dakota,” but it’s actually much closer in style to the 1908 Apthorp Apartments, on Broadway at W 78th Street.

The building’s grandeur stems from its sponsor: Graham Court was commissioned by William Waldorf Astor, and designed by the firm of Clinton & Russell. Before joining the firm, Charles Clinton was the architect of the Park Avenue Armory, Manhattan Apartments and New York Athletic Club, among others. With William Russell, the firm went on to design the Apthorp Apartments, Langham Apartments, and Astor Apartments (and a score of important commercial buildings).

The last 50 years have been hard on Graham Court: Successive owners haven’t been as quality-conscious as the original builders. One commentator after another (see Recommended Reading list) has lamented the security problems, disrepair, and financial problems of the landmark.

But beyond the unfriendly iron front gates and crudely hand-painted “No Parking” sign at the service entrance, Graham Court is still mighty impressive. I hope I look as good when I’m 113!

Graham Court Vital Statistics
Graham Court Recommended Reading

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