Tag Archives: french renaissance

Sherry Netherland

The Sherry Netherland must be bored by now with all of the superlatives lavished upon it. But if actions speak louder than words, consider this: a Sherry Netherland 18th floor apartment recently went on the market (September 2012) for $95 million. (To tell the whole truth, that’s the entire 18th floor – 7,000 square feet plus 2,000 square feet of terrace – seven bedrooms/seven baths – but still: $95 million!)

The Sherry Netherland is not, oddly enough, a New York City landmark unto itself (although the clock in front of the hotel is – go figure); it is part of the Upper East Side Historic District, along with the Hotel Pierre, Metropolitan Club, and other classics. The 40-story building was the tallest apartment-hotel in New York when built, in 1927.

The structure’s design was a collaboration of New York-based architects Shultze & Weaver and Buchman & Kahn. Shultze & Weaver specialized in luxury hotels such as the Pierre and Waldorf-Astoria. The French Gothic/French Renaissance tower is among New York’s most distinctive spires, hiding a water tank above the gargoyles. There is an observation platform at the very top – though you’d have to be brave and a climber to reach it!

While the Sherry Netherland’s public personna is a hotel, it has only 54 rooms and suites; 165 co-op apartments make up the bulk of the building.

Sherry Netherland Vital Statistics
  • Location: 751 Fifth Avenue at E 59th Street
  • Year completed: 1927
  • Architect: Shultze & Weaver and Buchman & Kahn
  • Floors: 48
  • Style: French Gothic/French Renaissance
Sherry Netherland Suggested Reading

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Hotel Martinique

Hotel Martinique is full of surprises. For starters, don’t let the French Renaissance style fool you: The name has nothing to do with the sunny French Caribbean island – it’s named for developer William R. H. Martin. And the showy Broadway and W 32nd Street facades are actually add-ons to the hotel – it started as a more modest property on W 33rd Street.

But if the style reminds you of the Plaza, that shouldn’t surprise: the two hotels have the same architect, Henry Janeway Hardenbergh.

Like the Plaza, Hotel Martinique has open space – Greeley Square – in front of it, to show off grand-scaled elements: A four-story mansard roof, tiers of balconies and gigantic ornaments.

Grandiose was appropriate for the time. Just down the block (where the Empire State Building now stands) were the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels (also designed by Hardenbergh).

Unfortunately, as the theater district moved north over the years, so did Martinique’s luxury clientele. By the late 1900s the property became run down; in the ’70s and ’80s it was a notorious homeless shelter and welfare hotel. At the time of its designation as a NYC landmark, the Hotel Martinique was being renovated as a Holiday Inn. Currently it is a Radisson property, popular with airline crews and tour groups. In keeping with W 32nd Street’s current identity – “Korea Way” – the property has a 24-hour Korean restaurant, Kum Gang San.

Hotel Martinique Vital Statistics
  • Location: 1260 Broadway at West 32nd Street
  • Year completed: 1898, 1903, 1911 (3 phases)
  • Architect: Henry Janeway Hardenbergh
  • Floors: 16
  • Style: French Renaissance
  • New York City Landmark: 1998
Hotel Martinique Suggested Reading

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Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building isn’t the only triangular building in New York, but it’s undoubtedly the best recognized – perhaps for its ornate decoration as well as for its quirky shape.

The 21-story steel-frame skyscraper is at the northern end of the Ladies Mile shopping district, considered “uptown” when built in 1902. Folk lore has it that those ladies were frequent victims of the Flatiron Building: It created unpredictable winds that sent skirts billowing. Police had to disperse oglers – coining the phrase “23 skidoo” in the process.

Like other early skyscrapers, Flatiron Building had a tripartite design – modeled after a classical column with a distinct base, shaft and capital. All three facades are ornamented from top to bottom – including statuary at the 21st floor.

The building’s owner, George A. Fuller, insisted on the glass-and-iron “cowcatcher” store – over the objections of the architect. And apparently the 21st floor penthouse was also a last-minute addition; the building’s elevators only go up to 20.

If you think the Flatiron Building is quirky on the outside, read The New York Times’ column about life on the inside.

Flatiron Building is just one of more than two dozen architectural landmarks within a few blocks radius. Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership conducts free walking tours every Sunday at 11 a.m. – meet at the SW corner of Madison Square Park, in front of the William Seward statue. (You may also enjoy our earlier gallery, “Flatiron Building and Vicinity.”)

Flatiron Building Vital Statistics
Flatiron Building Recommended Reading

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Alwyn Court Apartments

Alwyn Court Apartments is undoubtedly the most decorated building in New York: Gray terra cotta covers every foot of the 12-story building. When the building opened in 1909 it was as opulent inside as it is outside. Each apartment (two to a floor) had 14 rooms and five baths – except for the 32-room apartment!

The building had a stroke of bad luck just months after opening, when only five apartments were occupied – a fire damaged some of the upper floors. The building was repaired and filled quickly, but dropped out of fashion in the late 1930s. And the Great Depression didn’t help. The bank foreclosed and reconfigured Alwyn Court as 75 much smaller apartments under direction of architect Louis H. Weeks. The main entrance on the corner was converted to retail space (now the Petrossian restaurant); the former service entrance on Seventh Avenue is now the main entrance.

As part of a co-op conversion, the building’s facade was cleaned and restored in 1980 by Beyer Blinder Belle, an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation.

The fire-breathing dragons at the corner entry (and elsewhere) are actually salamanders; a crowned salamander was the emblem of Francis I, King of France. (The same emblem graces Red House, another apartment building designed by Harde & Short.)

Alwyn Court Vital Statistics
Alwyn Court Recommended Reading

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The Braender

The Braender is one of the more interesting apartment buildings of Central Park West’s far northern blocks – Manhattan Valley. The 10-story structure was restored in 2006. Among other repairs, huge terra cotta ornaments were replaced with lighter replicas. A couple of the originals are now displayed at ground level, in the building’s courtyard, where they can’t fall and hurt someone.

The building hasn’t had stunning architectural reviews – it’s a quirky mix of styles that’s hard to categorize – but it does get noticed. Originally the building had about 50 apartments (according to The New York Times Streetscapes column); those have been subdivided into the current 88.

Braender Vital Statistics
Braender Recommended Reading

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Schinasi Mansion

Schinasi Mansion, the last privately owned freestanding mansion in Manhattan, has history and quirks as rich as its French Renaissance architecture.

The mansion was commissioned by Morris (originally Mussa) Schinasi, a Turkish immigrant who became wealthy from his invention of a cigarette rolling machine – and use of strong Turkish tobacco. The architect was none other than William Tuthill, known for his design of Carnegie Hall (1891). Despite his wealth, Schinasi refused to pay Tuthill – who sued.

Why Schinasi wouldn’t pay is a mystery – as is the secret tunnel (now sealed) from the mansion’s basement to the Hudson River.

Morris Schinasi lived in the house until he died in 1928; his family sold the mansion in 1930 and it became the Semple School for Girls, a finishing school.

Rosa Semple, the school’s founder, herself died in the mansion in 1956. Columbia University bought the property in 1960 and established “Children’s Mansion Day Care Center.”

Columbia decided to sell in 1979 – to Hans Smit, one of its own law professors, who wanted to restore and resell the home.

After nearly three decades of slow interior restoration, Hans Smit (who never lived in the house) tried to sell – but he died in 2012. His son succeeded in selling Schinasi Mansion in late 2013.

Schinasi Mansion Vital Statistics
Schinasi Mansion Recommended Reading

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