Tag Archives: italian renaissance

Morgan Library

The Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue comprises three classical, landmark buildings and a fourth, modern addition that joins the three into a complex that’s doubled in size.

The original buildings are J. P. Morgan, Jr.’s House (1853, originally built for Isaac N. Phelps), on the SE corner of Madison Avenue and E 37th Street; J. Pierpont’s Private Library (1906, designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White), mid-block on E 36th Street between Madison and Park Avenues; and J. Pierpont’s Private Library Addition (1928, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris), on the NE corner of Madison Avenue and E 36th Street. The library addition was built on the site of J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr.’s mansion, after his death. (J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. opened the library to the public in 1924.)

In 2006, the museum built a further addition, planned by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The modern addition connected the three original buildings and also filled the lot east of the 1853 brownstone.

In 2010, the museum restored the original library – the McKim building – to its original splendor under guidance of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The interior restoration included new lighting and the re-installation of the original chandeliers, deep cleaning, and replacement of plexiglass exhibit covers with non-glare acrylic. You can see before and after photos of the interior here.

Incidentally, the lionesses guarding the Morgan Library entrance on E 36th Street – Prudence and Felicity – were carved by Edward Clark Potter, the same sculptor who created the New York Public Library lions Patience and Fortitude.

Morgan Library Vital Statistics
  • Location: Madison Avenue between E 36th and E 37th Streets
  • Year completed: 1853 (house), 1906 (private library), 1928 (addition), 2006 (second addition)
  • Architect: McKim, Mead & White (private library), Benjamin Wistar Morris (addition), Renzo Piano Building Workshop (second addition)
  • Style: Italian Renaissance (private library), Florentine Renaissance (addition)
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1966
Morgan Library Suggested Reading

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47 Plaza Street West

47 Plaza Street West is often described as Brooklyn’s own Flatiron Building – and the similarities are striking: Both have a triangular footprint, but 47 Plaza Street West is a little more complex – its eastern side gently curves to follow Grand Army Plaza’s perimeter. The 1928 Brooklyn apartment building and the 1902 Manhattan office building both overlook a pedestrian plaza and a park (though the Brooklyn Plaza and park are MUCH more impressive). Both buildings are in Renaissance style – though 16-story 47 Plaza Street West is Italian Renaissance to 21-story Flatiron’s French Renaissance.

Brooklyn’s Flatiron has something that the original lacks – a sibling on the same block. Berkeley Plaza, the 14-story apartment building at 39 Plaza Street West, was also designed by Rosario Candela, in the same style, at the same time.

47 Plaza Street West Vital Statistics
47 Plaza Street West Recommended Reading

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Brooklyn Trust Company Building

Brooklyn Trust Company Building, deemed “the most beautiful building on Brooklyn’s ‘Bank Row’,” is well preserved inside and out. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission took the unusual step of designating both the interior and the exterior as landmarks.

Chase Bank sold the building in 2007; those owners sold it in 2011, and the new owner is creating condominium apartments (Barry Rice Architects) in the rear (Pierrepont Street) annex.

Brooklyn Trust Company Building Vital Statistics
Brooklyn Trust Company Building 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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