322 Central Park West is the only work of prolific New York architects George and Edward Blum to be located on Central Park West. The Blum brothers designed many Upper West Side apartment houses – why only one on CPW? Possibly because the avenue was slower to develop than other streets. The biggest park-side landmarks were erected at or after the end of the Blums’ practice.
The 15-story building rests on a three-story limestone-block base; its ornately carved, arched entrance is on W 92nd Street. As in many Blum apartment buildings, windows on the top three stories have elaborate terra cotta surrounds.
322 Central Park West has 49 apartments, and became a cooperative in 1962.
322 Central Park West Vital Statistics
Location: 322 Central Park West at W 92nd Street
Year completed: 1926
Architect: George and Edward Blum
New York City Landmark: 1990 (Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District)
Abraham E. Lefcourt is no longer a household name, but in his time – the 1920s – he rose from newspaper boy and bootblack to one of New York’s leading real estate developers. Lefcourt Buildings stood from 49th Street to Broad Street, from Seventh Avenue to Madison Avenue. Once dubbed “the Miracle Man of Realty,” from 1910 to 1932 Lefcourt developed 32 loft and office buildings – 20 in New York City – with an aggregate 5 million square feet of space on 477 floors, occupied by 200,000 people! The landmark Essex House on Central Park South was originally developed by Lefcourt as the Sevilla Towers – though it was foreclosed and auctioned off in 1931, before it was opened. He also launched a bank – and then, in the Great Depression, he lost his fortune, his son and his life.
At least 17 New York buildings remain [map and details below]. He built well, specializing in garment industry buildings that contained showrooms, factories and warehouses. However, only the Brill Building has NYC Landmark status; several have been drastically changed from their original appearance.
For more about Abraham E. Lefcourt and Garment District development, a few excellent resources are listed below. Also, the Skyscraper Museum‘s 2013 exhibit “Urban Fabric” was a fascinating view of Garment District development – the people and conditions as well as the brick and mortar. (The Skyscraper Museum is located in Battery Park City.)
ITT Building – 61 Broad Street Originally built as the Lefcourt Exchange Building, the 35-story structure was purchased almost immediately by ITT, which added to the building to dominate the entire block.
Brill Building (originally Alan E. Lefcourt Building) – 1619 Broadway at W 49th Street A Lefcourt building that bears the Lefcourt likeness instead of the Lefcourt name: A bust of Abraham Lefcourt’s son, Alan, is in a niche above the main entrance, and another bust is under the cornice. Leftcourt had announced an ambitious plan for a “world’s tallest” structure, but circumstances (and perhaps geometry – the site was too small to support a building of that height) prevailed. Lefcourt defaulted on the building’s lease, and the ground floor haberdasher, Brill Brothers, renamed the structure. The Brill Building went on to become a music industry landmark and, in 2010, a NYC Landmark.
There are plenty of more imposing buildings on Third Avenue – Trump Palace is on the next block – but 210 E 68th Street stands out at street level because of its colorful Art Deco accents and orange brickwork.
The 1929 apartment building was designed by George and Edward Blum, prolific architects who have more than 120 apartment buildings to their credit (not even counting their office and loft buildings). Alas, this was one of their last two buildings (the other is at 235 East 22nd Street).
The New York Times architecture critic Christopher Gray suggests a rationale for these apartments’ unusual color and decoration: “Perhaps because [the Blums] were fighting the hulking Third Avenue elevated train nearby, they used giant zigzag stripes of contrasting brick running across the front like World War I naval camouflage.” (The Third Avenue El was closed in 1955.)
Dallieu – what’s left of it – is a wonderful example of texture in architecture, designed by New York masters George and Edward Blum. The New York Times’ Christopher Gray called it, “one of the great apartment buildings of the West Side.”
Sadly, the building lost its balconies, parapet and original windows and entrance doors, which added to Dallieu’s character. And in places the owners replaced the original roman brick with common brick – mismatched in both color and shape. Still, the remaining terra cotta bands and roman brick are beautiful, often described as “woven” or “textile” in appearance.
780 West End Avenue was ahead of its time, New York apartment house architecture that emphasized its height by omitting the horizontal banding common among “classical” buildings. Also, the perforated cornice seems to add a 14th floor.
The building is also notable for its mix of granite, white brick, and terra cotta, and for the curved balconies at the second, third, 12th, and 13th floors.
The architects, George & Edward Blum, were prolific designers. They have more than 120 apartment houses to their credit, plus many office and loft buildings; many of their structures are New York City landmarks.
“The New York City architectural firm of George & Edward Blum, specialists in apartment house design, was established around 1909 by two brothers of French ancestry. Their father had immigrated around 1851, moved to New York the following year, and was naturalized in 1874. George M. Blum (1870-1928) was born in New York City, but where he received his education is unknown. The family moved to France before Edward (Edouard) Isaac Blum (1876-1944) was born in St. Germain-en-Laye, a suburb of Paris, and then permanently returned to New York in 1888. Edward attended public schools in France (as well as the Lycée Carnot) and New York City, and the College of the City of New York in 1891-94, entered Columbia College in 1895, and graduated with a degree in architecture in 1899. He attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris c.1901-05. George followed his brother to the Ecole in 1904, though neither received a degree, and may have stayed in France until 1908. Edward returned to New York by 1906 and was employed in the firm of architect William L. Rouse. He may have been the lead designer for the Hendrick Hudson Apartments and Annex (1906-08), Riverside Drive and West 110th Street. Among George & Edward Blum’s first commissions in 1909-10 were five Morningside Heights apartment buildings, the Phaeton, Forest Chambers, Rockfall, Evanston, and Admaston, all designed for developers who had been associated with the Hendrick Hudson.
“The firm of George & Edward Blum received more than 170 commissions in Manhattan alone between 1909 and 1930, with the majority for apartment buildings and tenements. Andrew S. Dolkart and Susan Tunick, who produced a monograph on the firm, George & Edward Blum: Texture and Design in New York Apartment House Architecture (1993), identified the years 1910 to 1917 as the core period of the Blums’ most creative experimentation, when they produced a distinctive group of designs (among some 45 multiple dwelling projects) with unique ornament, usually executed with patterned brickwork and specially-commissioned geometric terra cotta and art tiles, many influenced by progressive Parisian design. This phase of the Blums’ work is exuberantly represented by the Dallieu (1912-13), 838 West End Avenue; the Beaumont (1912), 730 Riverside Drive at 150th Street; and the Vauxhall (1914), 780 Riverside Drive at West 155th Street, a ‘masterpiece of textile-like design.’ According to Albert Mayer, Edward Blum was the firm’s designer while George Blum was the business partner. The firm of George & Edward Blum was also responsible for the design of a number of loft, office, and manufacturing buildings, a few hotels, such as the Hotel Theresa (1912-13) at 2082-2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, a few synagogues, a club, and a bank.”
– from BEAUMONT APARTMENTS designation report, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, by Theresa C. Noonan
12 East 87th Street, aka The Capitol, is a stunning example of George & Edward Blum’s textured designs. The eight-story luxury building is hidden mid-block between Fifth and Madison Avenues.
The Capitol is clad in glazed white terra cotta and Roman brick, with deep-set windows and remnants of a prominent terra cotta cornice (the upper part of the cornice was removed, but the supporting brackets remain). A dry moat in front includes stairs to the basement level. The black railing in front was originally all brass, matching the entrance, but pieces were stolen over the years, and replaced with galvanized steel.
The original whole-floor apartments boasted 14 rooms and four baths. Each apartment’s four main “public” rooms – the living room, dining room, reception room and salon – were interconnected to provide a 40-foot by 50-foot space for entertaining. In 1935 and 1943, the owners subdivided the eight apartments into 32 units. (See the Street Easy listing for current floor plans.)
The building became a cooperative in 1985.
12 East 87th Street Vital Statistics
Location: 12 E 87th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues