Tag Archives: Queen Anne

311 Amsterdam Avenue

311 Amsterdam Avenue

311 Amsterdam Avenue, aka The Wachusett, was built in 1889 as flats. Architect Edward L. Angell designed the five-story brick building in Romanesque Revival style, with Queen Anne embellishments.

According to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, the structure has masonry bearing walls. (Since the advent of modern iron, steel, and concrete frames, brick is usually used only to seal and decorate the facade.)

The building was converted to condominiums in 2006.

311 Amsterdam Avenue Vital Statistics
311 Amsterdam Avenue Recommended Reading

Google Map

387 St. Paul’s Avenue

387 St. Paul’s Avenue is the “poster child” of Staten Island’s historic houses. The exuberant Queen Anne style, sunny palette, and impeccable maintenance make it a much-photographed home in the St. Paul’s Avenue / Stapleton Heights Historic District.

According to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report, “This exceptional Queen Anne-style house was built by brewery baron George Bechtel as a wedding present for his daughter Anna Bechtel Weiderer (1867-1899), whose husband, Leonard Weiderer, owned a glass factory in Stapleton. George Bechtel’s home, a large Greek Revival house fronting on Van Duzer Street (demolished), was located on a spacious lot that extended to the rear of this property allowing Bechtel to create a family enclave with merged gardens. The Weiderer house was constructed by the Stapleton builder Henry Spruck who in the early 1900s published a pamphlet illustrating the building which he credited to the architectural firm of Kafka & Lindenmeyr. Given the date of the house, it must have been the work of the firm’s founder Hugo Kafka, Sr. (1843-1915). Born in Prague, Kafka was educated at the Polytechnikum in Zurich, where he studied under Gottfried Semper. In 1874, he immigrated to Philadelphia to work with Herman Schwarzmann on the Centennial Exposition of 1876. In 1878 Kafka moved his architectural practice to New York. He had numerous commissions for apartment buildings and houses and also designed the Joseph Loth Silk Ribbon factory (1885-86, a designated New York City Landmark) at 1818-1838 Amsterdam Avenue, and Saint Peter’s German Evangelical Reformed Church, now the Free Magyar Reformed Church, Kreischerville, Staten Island (1883, a designated New York City Landmark), a work with which Bechtel would have undoubtedly been familiar.

“Kafka’s design for the Weiderer House is distinguished by its complex massing and its interplay of geometric forms and light and shadow. There is a turreted corner tower, curved bays, recessed porches set off by round openings, a variety of intersecting hipped and gabled roofs, and exuberant detailing, Resting on a base of massive stone boulders, the walls are clad with shingles cut in a variety of shapes and laid in horizontal bands. Multi-pane windows are arranged in differing configurations and most contain stained glass. This large mansion has twenty-four rooms, twenty-four stained-glass windows, and six fireplaces. The Weiderers lived at 387 St. Paul’s Avenue for only a few years. Leonard died in 1891, and his widow moved to Germany and remarried in 1894; she died in 1899 at age 31. George Bechtel had died in 1889, so the house passed to his widow Eva who had taken charge of the family brewery to protect the interests of her thirteen year old son. She continued to occupy the Van Duzer Street House.

“Around 1899, Anna’s sister, Agnes Bechtel Wagner, moved to this house where she resided until the late 1920s. Today, it remains remarkably intact and has recently been restored. It was the
subject of a public hearing by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1980.”

The owners kindly permitted me to take photos of the rear of the home.

My only grumble: I wish the wires were underground!

387 St. Paul’s Avenue Vital Statistics
387 St. Paul’s Avenue Recommended Reading

Google Map

Architectural Style: Picturesque

Although there are hundreds of thousands of buildings in New York City, designed over the course of 400 years by thousands of architects, there are relatively few architectural style categories. The “AIA Guide to New York City” lists just 10 style categories, including “The Picturesque,” which in turn includes the sub-categories Romanesque Revival, Stick, Shingle, and Queen Anne.

Romanesque Revival, according to AIA Guide, is more common in Chicago. It is based on medieval bold arch and vault construction. (You may also see this style referred to as Rundbogenstil or Round Arch Style.)

Stick style makes its wood skeleton visible, as in half-timbered construction.

Queen Anne style is marked by strong vertical emphasis (tall windows, high-peaked roofs, etc.) and elaborate ornamentation. Queen Anne style buildings frequently include turrets.

Shingle style grew out of Queen Anne style, using wood shingles as its protective/decorative veneer. Originated in New England.

AIA Guide: p. xii.

What Style Is It?

John C. Poppeliers, S. Allen Chambers Jr. | 152 pages | John Wiley & Sons | 2003

Architects and architectural writers toss around style classifications like confetti. The “AIA Guide to New York City Architecture” lists 10 main style groups, most of which have two to four sub-types. It’s easy to get lost.

Fortunately, this slim volume describes and amply illustrates 25 architectural styles, so you can quickly tell the difference between Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival. The one thing that I found odd is that the authors seemed to go out of their way to avoid showing any New York City-based examples of any style, even when New York has the most and best examples of that style. Oh well.

Radio Wave Building

Radio Wave Building is the westernmost structure in the Madison Square North Historic District, designed by August Hatfield in Queen Anne style and erected in 1883. Although well executed and well preserved (save for the loss of the Mansard roof), the building’s main claim to fame is that during its tenure as the Gerlach Hotel it was the home and laboratory of Nikola Tesla, who gave us radio, alternating current, neon and florescent lights, spark plugs and remote control. (Not to mention artificial lightning from Tesla Coils!)

The Yugoslav-American Bicentennial Committee placed a plaque on the building to commemorate Tesla on Jan. 7, 1977 – the anniversary of Tesla’s death. But the building has a more fitting memorial that would make Nikola smile: A ground-floor tenant is Broadway Wireless Center, whose window is lit in neon and florescent tubes.

Nikola Tesla has several other memorials in midtown. A bust of Nikola Tesla was erected at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, two blocks south of the Radio Wave Building. There’s another memorial plaque on the Hotel New Yorker (W34th Street at Eighth Avenue), where Tesla lived for 10 years – and died. And there’s a “Tesla Corner” at Sixth Avenue and W40th Street, where Nikola liked to feed the pigeons.

Nikola Tesla had a fascinating – though often tragic – life. Follow the Tesla links below to learn more.

Radio Wave Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 49 W 27th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1883
  • Architect: August Hatfield
  • Floors: 11
  • Style: Queen Anne
  • New York City Landmark: 2001
Radio Wave Building Suggested Reading

Google Map

The Montague

The Montague is one of three Queen Anne style apartment buildings designed by Parfitt Brothers on Montague Street; the other two, a joined set of near twins, are just three doors up the street.

The eight-story Montague started out as elevatorless(!) apartments, but were converted at the turn of the century into an apartment hotel (see New York Sun advertisement).

Apartment hotels competed with “bachelor flats” of the era: Daily maid service was included, but there were no kitchens – residents could take their meals in a ground floor cafe on the European Plan.

As the neighborhood changed, so did the building – becoming a welfare hotel, and returning to an apartment building. It’s now a 25-unit co-op, with one- and two-bedroom apartments listing for $750,000 and up.

The Montague Vital Statistics
The Montague Recommended Reading

Google Map

The Berkeley / The Grosvenor

The Berkeley / The Grosvenor are a pair of Queen Anne style apartment buildings on Montague Street, mirror-image twins cleverly joined to look like one massive structure.

The brownstone, brick and terra cotta building was restored in 2004.

The Berkeley / The Grosvenor Vital Statistics
The Berkeley / The Grosvenor Recommended Reading

Google Map

Century Building

Century Building, since 1995 a Barnes & Noble store, was also associated with publishing when it was built in 1881. Century Publishing Company leased the fifth floor and hung its sign outside – which led to the name. Retailer Aaron Arnold (Arnold Constable Department Store) built the landmark as a speculative venture – no prime tenant was signed.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission cited the structure as “a rare surviving Queen Anne style commercial building.” The Century Building was vacant at the time that the Commission designated it a New York City landmark. Barnes & Noble took it over in 1995, according to Daytonian in Manhattan.

The two-story oriel windows and gambrel roof are quite picturesque from Union Square Park. Although the Century Building extends through to E 18th Street, that facade is relatively plain.

Century Building Vital Statistics
Century Building Recommended Reading

Google Map

Bleecker Tower

Bleecker Tower, originally the Manhattan Savings Institution, is a distinctive red sandstone and brick structure. Its chamfered corner and Romanesque arches are on a massive scale – appropriate for the bank that it was. (Lofts filled the upper stories.)

After mergers with two other banks, Manhattan Savings Institution became Manhattan Savings Bank – and closed the branch at 644 Broadway in the early 1940s. “MSI” remains embossed on the building’s copper pediment.

In the 1970s the owners converted the building to residential lofts; in the 1980s the building was converted again, to luxury loft apartments. In 2000 the owners embarked on a major facade restoration.

Bleecker Tower is in good company: Landmarked Empire State Bank Building is across the street; landmark Bayard-Condict Building is next door.

Bleecker Tower Vital Statistics
Bleecker Tower Recommended Reading

Google Map

Potter Building

Orlando Potter set out to make a fireproof building. It became “one of New York’s most significant surviving tall office buildings of the period prior to the full development of the skyscraper,” according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “Its brickwork is among the handsomest in New York City.”

The 1886 Potter Building replaced the ill-fated headquarters of the New York World, which had the distinction of burning up in the shortest time on record. Potter, the building’s owner, set out to make the replacement fireproof.

Iron framing and terra cotta fireproofing were key elements in the plan designed by architect Norris G. Starkweather. The structure represents an early phase of metal framing: Iron columns and joists supported the floors and interior of the building; the exterior walls supported themselves. (To bear the weight, those brick walls are 40 inches thick at the base and 20 inches thick at the top.) Terra cotta tiles surround the iron columns and joists, to protect them from the heat of a fire.

Abundant brownstone-colored terra cotta also decorated the red brick exterior. Starkweather combined four different architectural styles in the 11-story building (which was more than double the height of the previous structure). He emphasized vertical lines – counter to then-current practice. One critic condemned the resulting architecture as “coarse, pretentious, overloaded and intensely vulgar” and in its verticality, “spindling.” Starkweather died before the building was finished.

Potter liked the terra cotta so much, he founded New York Architectural Terra Cotta Co. and became one of the country’s largest producers.

Fast forward to 1973: After eight sales and 87 years, the Potter Building wound up in the hands of Pace College. The school planned to demolish this (and neighboring buildings) to build a large office tower. That project fizzled, and Pace sold the Potter Building in 1979 to 38 Park Row Associates – which converted the building to co-op loft apartments.

Remarkably, the new owners preserved and restored the exterior at great expense – 17 years before the building was designated a NYC landmark.

Potter Building Vital Statistics
Potter Building Recommended Reading

Google Map