Tag Archives: John Sloan

Fred F French Building

The Fred F. French building was constructed in 1926-27 as headquarters of real estate developer Frederick Fillmore French (who built Tudor City, among other projects). French’s own architect, H. Douglas Ives, collaborated with John Sloan (Sloan & Robertson) to create the Art Deco-cum-Babylonian design. Setbacks are outlined in colorful terra cotta; the massive top panels are of faience, a more expensive glazed version.

The building’s lobby and Fifth Avenue vestibule are small but stunning for their rich colors and gilding. At this writing (August 2012) the ground floor retail space is being renovated for a Tommy Bahama store – one hopes that the storefronts will be in character with the building. The 38-floor French Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and became a New York City landmark in 1986.

Sad Admission Department: For many years, I worked one block away from this building and never noticed it.

Fred F. French Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 551 Fifth Avenue at E 45th Street
  • Year completed: 1927
  • Architect: H. Douglas Ives and John Sloan
  • Floors: 38
  • Style: Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1986
  • National Register of Historic Places: 2004
Fred F. French Building Suggested Reading

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Pershing Square Building

The Pershing Square Building’s days may be numbered. Unless the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission intercedes, this tawny brick and terra cotta structure is in the path of the midtown rezoning proposal designed to encourage development of new office towers.

Although the building was completed in 1923, its foundations were laid in 1914 – thus escaping the 1916 zoning law that required setbacks on tall buildings. The polychrome brick and terra cotta was novel at the time.

The large terra cotta figures at the fifth floor level are Roman caduceators, or peace commissioners; one version holds his caduceus, the other holds a cornucopia of peace. Nice touch, for a building named for a World War I general.

The Pershing Square Building stands on the site of the original Pershing Square – the former site of the Grand Union Hotel, which was demolished in 1914 for construction of the Lexington Avenue subway. The city sold the land instead of developing the park and memorial to General John J. Pershing. Pershing Square moved across the street to the site now occupied by the Pershing Square (aka Park Avenue) Viaduct ramp and Pershing Square Cafe.

You may note that the Pershing Square Building blends in very well with the neighboring Bowery Savings Bank. It’s no accident. The same firm designed the bank in a complementary style.

Pershing Square Building Vital Statistics
Pershing Square Building Recommended Reading

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898 Park Avenue

Golden-hued 898 Park Avenue is a wonderful 14-story Romanesque building by the same architect who designed the 19-story Art Deco building across the street: both 1920s structures are luxury cooperative apartments.

(John Sloan also designed the Pershing Square Building, similar in color and style to 898 Park Avenue.)

The facade was restored in 2009; the building lost some of its original terra cotta decoration over the years, but what remains is still impressive and beautiful.

When built, 898 Park Avenue had just eight units according to Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan: Six full-floor duplex apartments on the upper floors, a one-floor apartment on the second floor, and a doctor’s suite on the ground floor. According to City Realty’s listing, the building is still limited to only 10 apartments.

At this writing (February 6, 2014), two of those apartments are available: A two-bedroom unit for $6 million and a four-bedroom apartment for $9 million.

898 Park Avenue Vital Statistics
898 Park Avenue Recommended Reading

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