Tag Archives: romanesque

444 Central Park West

444 Central Park West is a distinctive Manhattan Valley apartment building that easily dominates the block. The 19-story Romanesque structure towers over its six- and seven-story neighbors, and its inventive facade of brick and terra cotta over a limestone base stands out from the crowd.*

The design is the work of Emery Roth alumni Russell Boak and Hyman Paris. The duo were active 1927-1942, with their most noteworthy work designed in the late 1930s.

The building was converted to a co-op in 1976.

* Not that Manhattan Valley is dull. A block north, the landmarked former New York Cancer Hospital is a stunning condo conversion.

444 Central Park West Vital Statistics
444 Central Park West Recommended Reading

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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.

Kingsbridge Armory

Originally known as the Eighth Coastal Artillery Armory, Kingsbridge Armory was built in 1912-17 with what was then the world’s largest drill hall, to accommodate artillery.

According to “Guide to New York City Landmarks,” the armory was designed by Pilcher & Tachau and inspired by a medieval French castle at Pierrefonds.

The main hall has been unused by the military for more than a decade, and New York City now controls the building. (A National Guard unit still uses the north annex, adjacent to the armory.) The Bronx Borough President has endorsed a proposal to turn the armory into an ice skating center with nine rinks.

Kingsbridge Armory Vital Statistics
  • Location: 29 W Kingsbridge Road between Jerome and Reservoir Avenues
  • Year completed: 1917
  • Architect: Pilcher & Tachau
  • Style: Romanesque
  • New York City Landmark: 1974
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1982
Kingsbridge Armory Suggested Reading

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St. Bartholomew’s Church

St. Bartholomew’s Church was a legal, as well as architectural landmark; its status was contested all the way to the Supreme Court. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) had designated the church and its Community House landmarks in 1967 – over the objections of the church. In 1981 the church sought to replace the community house with a 59-story office building, in order to raise cash. The LPC rejected the plans, setting off a legal battle over whether churches could be subject to historic ordinances. LPC prevailed and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

The current church is St. Bart’s third site: The congregation was organized in 1835 at Lafayette Place and Great Jones Street; in 1872 it moved uptown to Madison Avenue and E 44th Street; in 1918 it moved to the Park Avenue location.

Though the church proper was designed by Bertram G. Goodhue, the three-door Romanesque porch was designed by McKim, Mead & White. The entryway, part of the Madison Avenue church, had been built as a memorial to Cornelius Vanderbilt II; it was moved to the new building.

The Community House was erected nine years later, designed by Goodhue’s associates Mayers, Murray & Phillip. (Goodhue died in 1924.) The Community House and adjoining terrace are the site of a restaurant, “Inside Park.”

Mayers, Murray & Phillip also designed the dome, erected in 1930 in place of the steeple that had been planned but never built.

St. Bartholomew’s Church Vital Statistics
  • Location: 109 E 50th Street at Park Avenue
  • Year completed: 1919 (church); 1928 (Community House); 1930 (dome)
  • Architect: Bertram G. Goodhue (church); Mayers, Murray & Phillip (Community House & dome)
  • Style: Byzantine & Romanesque
  • New York City Landmark: 1967
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1980
St. Bartholomew’s Church Suggested Reading

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American Tract Society Building

If you don’t like the American Tract Society Building, blame the sinners of 1824 New York. The building is here because the ATS’ Rev. William Allen Hallock believed that the religious publisher should be headquartered where it is needed most – in “the great wicked city of New York.”

Fast forward to 1894: The ATS decided to erect an office building on their land, as an investment. They chose Robert H. Robertson – prominent for his churches and religious institutions – to design the building.

Like his later Park Row Building (15 Park Row, completed 1899), the American Tract Society Building mixes styles: Romanesque and Renaissance Revival. This structure also mixes construction types: the facades are part self-supporting masonry, part curtain wall.

When completed, the American Tract Society Building was among New York’s tallest structures – tallest, by full floor count (20). But Robertson, who did not really like tall buildings, designed this one in layers that de-emphasized the structure’s height.

Alas, the building had more than its share of bad luck. For starters, during construction a plasterer’s assistant fell 14 stories to his death. ATS declined to help the worker’s family despite the glare of publicity – even banning an alms box on the site. In the first year of operations, three elevator accidents injured passengers. Then in 1897 another elevator dropped 19 floors, killing two people.

The elevator accidents contributed to poor rental performance, and by 1913 ATS was unable to meet the mortgage. Mortgage holder New York Life Insurance Company resold the building in late 1919, but it was in default again by the end of 1936. The building has changed hands several times since – including a 15-year span under Pace University, which owns two neighboring buildings. The American Tract Society Building is now a residential building, except for retail space on the ground floors (the lot slopes steeply toward the east so that the basement level is exposed in the rear).

The elevators appear to have been totally replaced.

American Tract Society Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 150 Nassau Street at Spruce Street
  • Year completed: 1895
  • Architect: Robert H. Robertson
  • Floors: 23
  • Style: Romanesque and Renaissance Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1999
  • National Register of Historic Places:
American Tract Society Building Suggested Reading

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Armeny Building

Nassau and Fulton Streets meet at a busy corner, architecturally speaking: The NYC landmark Fulton Building is on the SW corner; the NYC landmark Bennett Building is on the NW corner; and the Armeny Building is on the SE corner. The Fulton and Armeny buildings were both designed by De Lemos & Cordes, the architects who gave us the Siegel-Cooper Buildings and Macy’s.

If the building looks top-heavy, with an odd transition between the sixth and seventh floors, don’t blame De Lemos & Cordes. In 1893 the owner decided to add two floors, and he hired a different architect for the job. Soon after, pen-maker Gyulo Armeny bought the building.

See the wonderful Daytonian in Manhattan blog for more fascinating history about the building and its tenants.

Today, the ground floor is occupied by a cafe; the upper floors are rental apartments (see the Street Easy listing for details).

Armeny Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 90 Nassau Street at Fulton Street
  • Year completed: 1889
  • Architect: De Lemos & Cordes
  • Floors: 8
  • Style: Romanesque
Armeny Building Suggested Reading

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Barbizon Hotel for Women

Barbizon Hotel for Women, now known as the condominium apartments Barbizon 63, was built as a residential hotel catering to young professionals.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) added the building to its roster in April 2012, noting that the structure is “an excellent representative of the 1920s apartment hotel building, and is notable for the high quality of its design.”

The zoning law of 1916 required setbacks – indented upper floors – on tall buildings to permit more light to reach the street. Complex arcades and courtyards in Barbizon Hotel’s setback design add visual interest to the tower. The complex brickwork, with a mix of colors and corbelling, adds visual rich texture, even from a distance.

Hotels for women were the ladies’ answer to late-1800s “bachelor flats” for men (e.g., The Wilbraham), and completed the quaint (by today’s standards) segregation of residences: for families, for single men, and for single women. (See also Beekman Tower Hotel, the former Panhellenic Tower.) See the LPC designation report for a great synopsis of New York City’s housing variety: tenements, apartments, french flats, rooming houses, residence and club hotels.

The first owners lost the hotel through foreclosure, but a second group led by Lawrence Elliman was able to show a profit by 1938. Quite a few now-famous women lived at the Barbizon through the mid-70s – by which time the hotel was again losing money. Between 1980 and 2001 the hotel changed hands five times, and then in 2005 it was converted to condominium apartments.

Barbizon Hotel for Women Vital Statistics
Barbizon Hotel for Women Recommended Reading

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Beekman Regent

Beekman Regent is the private development of a New York City-owned property, P.S. 135 (originally Primary School No. 35) in the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan.

The original buff-colored five-story Romanesque building of 1893 was used as a school until the 1970s, when the Board of Education decided to sell it. The prospective developer intended to demolish the building, but neighborhood groups fought to save the school.

Preservationists succeeded in getting the building listed in the National Register of Historic Places – but not NYC Landmark status. Nonetheless, the city relented and required preservation of the school facade as a condition of the school’s sale. A decade later, the city found a developer that would observe those terms.

Within the first five floors – the original building height – are retail space (currently a Duane Reade drugstore) and four floors of loft apartments with 14-foot ceilings and 10-foot windows. Above that are duplex, standard and penthouse condominium apartments – homes, in developer-speak.

The apartment tower and historic base are different colors and architectural styles. The effect isn’t as drastic as the glass and steel tower that erupts from the Hearst Building (Eighth Avenue at W 57th Street), but it is odd, like the NYU dorm built behind a fragment of St. Ann’s Shrine Armenian Catholic Cathedral on E 12th Street.

Beekman Regent Vital Statistics
Beekman Regent Recommended Reading

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