Tag Archives: midtown

203 E 45th Street

203 E 45th Street, home of “The Perfect Pint,” is a bit of a mystery to me. My usual sources have no real information on the building – but then, why would they? The three-story-plus-roof-garden building is a modest structure with no special architectural features.

But it appears to belong in “Holdouts!: The Buildings That Got In The Way” (or the earlier paperback version “New York’s Architectural Holdouts” ), a fascinating book by Andrew Alpern and Seymour Durst. The neighboring 32-story Wyndham Hotel is cantilevered over The Perfect Pint, similar to 160 E 22nd Street.

The Wyndham was originally the Alex Hotel, completed in 2006 on the site of the famed Pen and Pencil restaurant. While there are numerous online articles about the Alex’s early financial troubles, I found none that mention dealings with the owners of the property’s diminutive neighbor.

203 E 45th Street Vital Statistics
203 E 45th Street Recommended Reading

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High Line Park

New York “Parkitecture”: An abandoned elevated freight rail line on the Lower West Side has a new life as a one-of-a-kind elevated green space. The park winds from 34th Street near 12th Avenue to Gansevoort Street and Washington Street. (The northernmost extension opened in 2014.) You can enter at either end or at several stairways in between. Visit http://www.thehighline.org/ for more information.

Besides being an enjoyable destination unto itself, High Line is an excellent vantage point for spotting architectural landmarks of Chelsea, West Chelsea and Gansevoort Historic Districts.

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Times Square and Vicinity

Crossroads of the world, heart of the city that never sleeps – the only place where there are crowds on a cold Sunday afternoon. And the only place where bright lights are part of the zoning regulations: You have to have a big electric display on your facade.

Bit by bit, the stately old-guard stone and terra cotta buildings of the early 1900s are being replaced by glass and steel towers, some with bizarre shapes and colors. The building that pretty much started it all – One Times Square, the one-time headquarters of The New York Times – is still there, but hardly in its 1905 form. Allied Chemical covered it in white marble in 1964, and it has since become a 25-story electric signboard. The Paramount Building also survives, along with some theater buildings between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and Bush Tower between Broadway and Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas). Up and down the uptown side streets (43rd – 47th) are plenty of landmark-quality buildings, though – and not just theaters.

You’ll find several distinctive old clubs in the area, and the art deco treasure McGraw-Hill Building and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. You’re also just a hop, skip and a jump from Bryant Park and the main branch of the New York Public Library.

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American Radiator Building

Passers-by are probably puzzled by the industrial-strength gilt-painted chimerae on Bryant Park Hotel – if they even lift their eyes to the third floor level. But the figures make perfect sense in the context of the facade’s original owners, American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Company.

Originally, this was the American Radiator Building and later known as the American Standard Building. The ground floor initially contained showrooms for the company’s bathroom fixtures.

The 23-story tower still stands out for its colors – black brick trimmed in gold – and unconventional shape. One architecture critic called it “the most daring experiment in color in modern buildings yet made in America.”

According to the Wikipedia article, the building is based on a design submitted for the Chicago Tribune building.

The building was converted to a hotel in 2001; it has New York City landmark status, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Bryant Park Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 40 W 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
  • Year completed: 1924
  • Architect: Raymond Hood and André Fouilhoux
  • Floors: 23
  • Style: Gothic/Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1974
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1980
Bryant Park Hotel Suggested Reading

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New York Public Library

With Bryant Park at its back and ample space all around, it’s not just the jewel, it’s also the setting that makes The New York Public Library such standout architecture. (Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets)

The site of the library and adjacent Bryant Park had been the Croton Distributing Reservoir. Bryant Park, incidentally, is a “green roof” for the library’s expanded (in 1980s) storage space.

The fascinating history of the New York Public Library system – and the main branch, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Public_Library.

The library is about to undergo massive internal changes – a circulating library is being installed in space now occupied by book stacks. (See articles by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.)

New York Public Library Vital Statistics
  • Location: 476 Fifth Avenue between W 40th and W 42nd Streets
  • Year completed: 1911 (official opening)
  • Architect: Carrère and Hastings
  • Floors: 7
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 1967 (exterior), 1974 (interior)
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1965
New York Public Library Suggested Reading

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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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Fifth Avenue Swath

You won’t find “Fifth Avenue Swath” on any map of New York City. It is a neighborhood designation that exists only in the “AIA Guide To New York City.” In fact, if you Google “Fifth Avenue Swath,” Google will ask “Did you mean Fifth Avenue Swatch?” and display those results by default.

This section of Midtown takes in the two blocks east and two blocks west of Fifth Avenue, from Central Park South/East 59th Street south to 45th Street. It includes dozens of landmark hotels, churches and commercial buildings – including famed Rockefeller Center – but no Landmarks Commission-designated historic districts.

You’ll find that this is one of the richest sections of New York, architecturally speaking, with every style from Renaissance to Postmodern beautifully represented. Churches, office towers, department stores and boutiques, classic hotels, museums, banks, private clubs, consulates, swank apartments and more – every block has something to savor.

The AIA Guide lists 88 significant buildings; we’ve taken the liberty of adding several others that caught our eye, and were forced to omit some buildings because they were shrouded with scaffolding at the time. As a result, this gallery includes 117 structures.

These are the buildings listed in the “AIA Guide to New York City,” where you can find additional details. The buildings listed in italic are not pictured in the gallery.

1. Rockefeller Center
A. 1270 Sixth Avenue Building
B. Radio City Music Hall
C. GE Building (ex RCA Building)
D. British Building – 620 Fifth Ave
E. La Maison Francaise – 610 Fifth Ave
F. Palazzo d’Italia – 626 Fifth Ave
G. International Building (630 Fifth Avenue) / International Building North (636 Fifth Avenue)
H. 1 Rockefeller Plaza (Time & Life Building)
I. Associated Press Building – 45 Rockefeller Plaza
J. 10 Rockefeller Plaza
K. Simon & Schuster Building – 1230 Sixth Ave
L. Warner Communications Building – 15 W51 Street
M. 600 Fifth Avenue
N. Celanese Building – 1211 Sixth Ave
O. McGraw-Hill Building – 1221 Sixth Ave
P. Exxon Building – 1251 Sixth Ave
Q. Time & Life Building – 1271 Sixth Ave
R. Sperry Corporation Building – 1290 Sixth Ave
2. The Centria Apartments – 18 W48 Street
3. Swiss Center Building – 608 Fifth Ave
4. TGI Fridays – 604 Fifth Ave
5. Benetton (now Sephora) – 597 Fifth Ave
6. Bank of America – 592 Fifth Ave
7. 575 Fifth Avenue
8. Fred F. French Building – 551 Fifth Ave
9. 360 Madison Avenue
10. 383 Madison Avenue
11. Saks Fifth Avenue – 611 Fifth Ave
12. Cohen Brothers Tower – 10 E50 Street
13. St Patrick’s Cathedral Complex / A. Cardinal’s Residence / B. Lady Chapel
14. A. 451-457 Madison Avenue / B. New York Palace Hotel
15. The Urban Center – 457 Madison Ave
16. 488 Madison Avenue
17. Olympic Tower – 645 Fifth Ave
18. 11 East 51st Street
19. Versace – 647 Fifth Ave
20. Austrian Cultural Institute – 11 E52
21. 666 Fifth Avenue
22. Donnell Library – 20 W53
23. The Museum of Television and Radio – 23 W52
24. Paramount Group Building – 31 W 52
25. CBS Building – 51 W52
26. American Folk Art Museum – 45 W53
27. Museum Tower – 21 W53
28. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)- 11 W53
29. St. Thomas Church and Parish House – 1 W 53
30. Samuel Paley Plaza (Paley Park) – 3 E53
31. 527 Madison Avenue
32. 535 Madison Avenue
33. 4 E54 – originally William H Moore House
34. Aeolian Building / Elizabeth Arden Building – 689-691 Fifth Avenue
35. University Club – 1 W54
36. 5 W54 – originally Moses Allen and Alice Dunning Starr House
37. 7 West 54 – originally Philip Lehman House
38. U.S. Trust Company – 9-11 W54
39. 13-15 W54
40. Rockefeller Apartments – 17 W54
41. Privatbanken Building – 20 W55
42. The Peninsula (ex Gotham)
43. St. Regis – 2 E55
44. Fifth Ave Presbyterian Church
45. SONY Building (originally AT&T HQ) – 550 Madison Ave
46. 717 Fifth Ave – originally Corning Glass Building
47. Henri Bendel Building – 712-714 Fifth Ave
48. 712 Fifth Avenue Building
49. 10 W56 – Felissimo (ex-Frederick C and Birdsall Otis Edey House)
50. Consulate of Argentina – 12-14 W56th Street
51. Oma Norma Kamali – 11 W56
52. 30 W56 – originally Henry Seligman House
53. Trump Tower – 725 Fifth Avenue
54. 590 Madison Avenue – originally IBM Building
55. Four Seasons Hotel – 57 E57th Street
56. Fuller Building – 41 E57th Street
57. LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy) Tower – 19 E57th Street
58. The Chanel Building – 15 E57th Street
59. 3 E57th Street – former L.P. Hollander & Co. Building
60. The Crown Building – 730 Fifth Avenue (former Heckscher Building)
61. 9 W57th Street / Brasserie 8-1/2
62. 29 W57th Street – Curtiss-Wright Building, originally Ampico Building
63. Rizzoli Bookshop – 31 W57th Street
64. Louis Vuitton – 1 E57th Street
65. 745 Fifth Avenue – ex Squibb Building
66. Delmonico Plaza – 55 E59th Street
67. 650 Madison Avenue – ex C.I.T. Building
68. 5 E59th Street – one-time Playboy Club
69. General Motors Building – 767 Fifth Avenue
70. Plaza Hotel – 768 Fifth Avenue
71. The Plaza/Grand Army Plaza

The additional buildings pictured (but not listed in the “AIA Guide to New York City”) are:

72. Sherry Netherland
73. Christ Church
74. Swedish Church Center
75. Roosevelt Hotel
76. The Warwick
77. Hotel Elysee
78. Gotham Hotel
79. New York Hilton
80. Apple Store
81. Pop Burger
82. 605 Madison Avenue
83. 5 E57th Street
84. 6 E57th Street – Niketown
85. Tiffani & Co. – 727 Fifth Avenue
86. Harry Winston – 718 Fifth Avenue
87. Phantom of Broadway – 581 Fifth Avenue
88. 545 Fifth Avenue
89. Uncle Jack’s – 44 W56th Street
90. 575 Madison Avenue
91. 35 W54th Street
92. 551 Madison Avenue
93. UBS Building – 1285 Sixth Avenue
94. Credit Lyonnais – 1301 Sixth Avenue
95. 650 Fifth Avenue
96. 39 E51st Street
97. Tower 49
98. 380 Madison Avenue
99. 546 Fifth Avenue
100. 7 W45th Street
101. 555 Fifth Avenue
102. 21 W46th Street
103. 33 W46th Street
104. 14 E60th Street
105. 57 W57th Street
106. 625 Madison Avenue
107. 640 Fifth Avenue
108. Winston Building
109. Trump Parc
110. Trump Parc East
111. Metropolitan Club – 1 E60th Street
112. 21 Club – 21 W52nd Street
113. 18-20 E50th Street
114. The Harmonie Club – 4 E60th Street
115. LOVE – sculpture at Sixth Avenue and W55th Street

Other Resources

AIA Guide: p. 325.