Tag Archives: New York City

304 E 20 Street

304 E 20 Street

304 E 20 Street is a modest apartment building in New York’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, distinctive for heavy flat arches above the windows and for the pedimented dormers at the 8th floor.

304 E 20 Street Vital Statistics
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295 Central Park West

295 Central Park West

295 Central Park West is a lesser-known work of Emery Roth, the preeminent New York apartment building architect. The 19-story-plus-penthouse building stands at W 90th Street, and is part of the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District.

The facade is quite plain, even for Art Moderne. A modest stone surround marks the centered entry on Central Park West; a decorative brick bandcourse separates the first and second floors. The only other significant architectural detail is the use of rounded corners (and rounded corner windows).

The building has so far resisted conversion to condominium or co-op.

295 Central Park West Vital Statistics
295 Central Park West Recommended Reading

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244 W 23 Street

244 W 23 Street

244 W 23 Street shows the versatility of brick, which mimicks rough-cut stone on lower floors and forms fluted pilasters on upper floors. The builder went to the expense (according to Daytonian in Manhattan) to use carved stone instead of terra cotta to ornament the facade. Sadly, subsequent owners splashed red paint over the whole facade – covering some of the stonework and all of the mortar lines.

The building was converted to co-op apartments in 1982, ending a colorful commercial history. In its first 82 years the building was home to a publisher, a filmmaker, an art school, a piano factory and more, according to the Daytonian in Manhattan blog.*

244 W 23 Street Vital Statistics
244 W 23 Street Recommended Reading

* Daytonian in Manhattan – one of my favorite resources – is the work of Tom Miller, assisted by photographer Alice Lum. If you enjoy his blog, you’ll love his book: “Seeking New York.” In it, you’ll find the human stories behind 54 historic Manhattan buildings, mostly seldom-profiled pieces of architecture.

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240 W 23 Street

240 W 23 Street, described as “eclectic” in the “AIA Guide To New York City,” is right at home on an eclectic block of Chelsea. C.P.H. Gilbert, best known for elaborate mansions, designed the commercial structure with almost as much detail as his gothic Ukrainian Institute (former Harry F. Sinclair House). The lofts-turned-apartments sits among official and unofficial landmarks such as the Chelsea Hotel (two doors east), Muhlenberg Branch of the NY Public Library, and McBurney YMCA.

There seems to be some confusion about the building’s age. The AIA Guide reports “1880s”; Daytonian in Manhattan says 1899; the Department of Buildings says 1920; most real estate sources list 1930. Since Daytonian in Manhattan seems to have done the most research, I’m going with 1899.

240 W 23 Street Vital Statistics
240 W 23 Street Recommended Reading

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230 Riverside Drive

230 Riverside Drive is relatively plain on its 15 lower floors, but blossoms above the setback with gargoyles, arcades and glass-canopied penthouse.

The landmarked building was converted to condominiums in 2004. According to Street Easy NY, the sponsor renovated the 268 units in three classes. High-end apartments were lavishly fitted with the finest appliances and amenities, including heated bathroom floors. Some units were renovated “in a more economical sense,” and some units were offered as “do-it-yourself” units.

However, under guidance of conversion architect H. Thomas O’Hara, the sponsor did preserve and restore the structure’s terra cotta.

While the facade’s style is Medieval Revival, the lobby is designed in Art Deco. It was last renovated in 2011.

230 Riverside Drive Vital Statistics
230 Riverside Drive Recommended Reading

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200 Madison Avenue

200 Madison Avenue has a split personality. Its ornate neo-classical facade shelters a technically modernized interior. While the richly decorated lobby and elevator doors remain, the office tower has LEED energy certification.

If the ornamentation reminds you of the Helmsley Building (aka New York Central Building), that may be because Warren & Wetmore designed both. (Warren & Wetmore also designed Grand Central Terminal.) You’ll have to look up to enjoy the effect. The building’s ornamentation is primarily in the cornices, at the setbacks and crown.

Of historical note, this is where the Empire State Building developers had their offices during construction of New York’s most famous skyscraper.

200 Madison Avenue Vital Statistics
200 Madison Avenue Recommended Reading

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126 E 66 Street

126 E 66 Street is memorable for its Roman brick arches and massive wood doors. The picturesque three-story residence is directly across the street from the Seventh Regiment Armory (aka Park Avenue Armory), built 17 years prior.

According to NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission research, the building “Replaced a rowhouse built in the 1870’s. Built as a stable, coach house, and residence for coachman’s family. Henry 0. Havemeyer, who commissioned the stable, lived at 1 East 66th Street. After its completion, he sold it to Oliver H. Payne, brother-in-law of William C. Whitney.” The building was sold to John Hay Whitney and at this writing is still in the Whitney family.

An article in Curbed NY points out that the building is only a remnant of the original structure. As built, the coach house and stables extended to the site of 122-124 E 66 Street.

Havemeyer, who commissioned the building, was the prominent Domino Sugar magnate for whom the Brooklyn Street is named.

126 E 66 Street Vital Statistics
126 E 66 Street Recommended Reading

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Post Towers

Post Towers, built in 1926 as the New York Evening Post Building, is a residential conversion in New York’s Financial District. The 21-story Art Deco building was the Post’s second headquarters, after the landmark building on Vesey Street.

Post Towers’ architectural distinction is the colorful geometric terra cotta design in the crown. This was recently cleaned and restored, and is best seen from across West Street.

When built, this (and all buildings on the east side of West Street) was on the waterfront. Battery Park City is built on landfill from the excavation for the original World Trade Towers.

Post Towers Vital Statistics
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Park Plaza Apartments

Park Plaza Apartments is one of the first Art Deco apartment houses to be built in the Bronx. It was designed by the prolific team of Horace Ginsberg and Marvin Fine, who built dozens of buildings on and around the Grand Concourse, including the Fish Building and Noonan Plaza Apartments. Bold, colorful glazed terra cotta enlivens the 365-foot-wide facade.

Ginsberg (who later changed his name to Ginsbern) specialized in the design and layout of apartments, while Fine specialized in the elevations – the facades. Fine began his career working for Cass Gilbert, the architect of the Woolworth Building, among other landmarks. But while working for Ginsberg – in the midst of the Park Plaza project – Fine broke with his classical training and experience to embrace “modernistic” design. Fine credited the work of William Van Alen (Chrysler Building) and Raymond Hood (American Radiator Building) as his inspiration.

The Park Plaza Apartments is on an L-shaped site with its long side on Jerome Avenue; the base pokes through the block to Anderson Avenue. The eight-story building, viewed from the front, has five blocks or wings separated by courtyards. Initially, the building was to have 10 floors. During construction, fire destroyed the building, and the Department of Buildings imposed a lower height for the rebuilt apartments.

When built, Park Plaza Apartments promoted its quiet views of Jerome Park. Part of the park remains (Mullaly Park), but the New Yankee Stadium occupies what was Macombs Dam Park, across the street. So much for quiet.

(At this writing, facade repairs spoil the picture; I hope to re-photograph the building when the scaffolding is removed.)

Park Plaza Apartments Vital Statistics
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Fish Building

Fish Building is “one of the most astonishing apartment houses in the Bronx, indeed in New York City,” wrote Christopher Gray in his July 15, 2007 New York Times Streetscapes column. The six-story building, aka 1150 Grand Concourse, is an Art Deco delight designed by Horace Ginsbern and Marvin Fine. This Grand Concourse landmark gets its name from the aquarium motif mosaic at the main entry.

But Mr. Gray decries the structure’s decline. “HOW do old buildings disappear? Sometimes all at once, under the wrecking ball. But more often they fade away on little cat’s feet, first the cornice, then a doorway, then the windows, then a balcony … leaving behind nothing but an architectural zombie.” And indeed, historical photos that accompany the Streetscapes column show an even more fantastic Fish Building existed some 50-odd years ago. The original cornice, roof railing, windows and door have been replaced with unimaginative substitutes.

Clever Design

At least one aspect of the building’s design is permanent: Its adaptation to the irregular street grid.

The Grand Concourse was designed as a scenic boulevard, and as such it meanders to follow the terrain, often at an odd angle to the street grid. Such is the case at Mc Clellan Street. The Fish Building accommodates the boulevard’s zig with a stepped western facade that artfully hides the skewed grid, and keeps apartment walls rectangular. See the floor plans from Columbia University’s New York Real Estate Brochure Collection.

If the outside of 1150 Grand Concourse is exceptional, the inside is absolutely stunning. The terrazzo floor, murals, light fixtures and boldly decorated elevators are a joy to behold.

If the Fish Building leaves you wanting more, you can visit nearby Park Plaza Apartments. It’s located at 1005 Jerome Avenue, across the street from Yankee Stadium. This grander-scaled apartment building was also designed in Art Deco style by Ginsbern and Fine. It features bold, colorful terra cotta details definitely worth the trip.

Fish Building Vital Statistics
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