Tag Archives: Shreve Lamb and Harmon

Lefcourt Buildings

Abraham E. Lefcourt is no longer a household name, but in his time – the 1920s – he rose from newspaper boy and bootblack to one of New York’s leading real estate developers. Lefcourt Buildings stood from 49th Street to Broad Street, from Seventh Avenue to Madison Avenue. Once dubbed “the Miracle Man of Realty,” from 1910 to 1932 Lefcourt developed 32 loft and office buildings – 20 in New York City – with an aggregate 5 million square feet of space on 477 floors, occupied by 200,000 people! The landmark Essex House on Central Park South was originally developed by Lefcourt as the Sevilla Towers – though it was foreclosed and auctioned off in 1931, before it was opened. He also launched a bank – and then, in the Great Depression, he lost his fortune, his son and his life.

At least 17 New York buildings remain [map and details below]. He built well, specializing in garment industry buildings that contained showrooms, factories and warehouses. However, only the Brill Building has NYC Landmark status; several have been drastically changed from their original appearance.

For more about Abraham E. Lefcourt and Garment District development, a few excellent resources are listed below. Also, the Skyscraper Museum‘s 2013 exhibit “Urban Fabric” was a fascinating view of Garment District development – the people and conditions as well as the brick and mortar. (The Skyscraper Museum is located in Battery Park City.)

Lefcourt Buildings Suggested Reading
Lefcourt Buildings Map

Printable 2-page walking guide

View Lefcourt Buildings in a larger map – print 2-page walking guide

Lefcourt Buildings – by year built (completed)

48 W 25th Street – between Sixth Avenue and Broadway
48 W 25th Street lobby detailHas been converted to cooperative apartments.

134 W 37th Street – between Seventh Avenue and Broadway
134 W 37th Street

42 W 38th Street – between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
42 W 38th Street

Lefcourt National Building – 521 Fifth Avenue at E 43rd Street
Lefcourt National Building

237 W 37th Street – between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
237 W 37th Street

246 W 38th Street – between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
246 W 38th Street

Lefcourt Central Building – 148 W 37th St between Broadway and 7th Avenue
Lefcourt Central BuildingAstoundingly little is written about this building, probably because it is a plain, relatively small (14 floors) structure.

Lefcourt Madison Building – 16 E 34th Street
Lefcourt Madison Building

Lefcourt Marlboro Building – 1359 Broadway at W 36th Street
Lefcourt Marlboro Building

Lefcourt Clothing Center Building – 275 Seventh Avenue between W 25th and W 26th Streets
Lefcourt Clothing Center Building

Lefcourt Manhattan Building / Fashion Gallery Building – 1412 Broadway at W 39th Street
Lefcourt Manhattan Building

Lefcourt Normandie Building – 1384 Broadway at W 38th Street
Lefcourt Normandie Building

Lefcourt State Building – 1375 Broadway at W 37th Street
Lefcourt State Building

ITT Building – 61 Broad Street
ITT BuildingOriginally built as the Lefcourt Exchange Building, the 35-story structure was purchased almost immediately by ITT, which added to the building to dominate the entire block.

Lefcourt Colonial Building – 295 Madison Avenue at E 41st Street
Lefcourt Colonial Building

Lefcourt Empire Building – 989 Sixth Avenue between W 36th and W 37th Streets
Lefcourt Empire Building

Brill Building (originally Alan E. Lefcourt Building) – 1619 Broadway at W 49th Street
Brill BuildingA Lefcourt building that bears the Lefcourt likeness instead of the Lefcourt name: A bust of Abraham Lefcourt’s son, Alan, is in a niche above the main entrance, and another bust is under the cornice. Leftcourt had announced an ambitious plan for a “world’s tallest” structure, but circumstances (and perhaps geometry – the site was too small to support a building of that height) prevailed. Lefcourt defaulted on the building’s lease, and the ground floor haberdasher, Brill Brothers, renamed the structure. The Brill Building went on to become a music industry landmark and, in 2010, a NYC Landmark.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is still New York City’s most-visited landmark, even though it lost “world’s tallest skyscraper” title in 1972. The building claims four million visitors a year to its 86th and 102nd floor observatories; the building reputedly makes more money from observatory ticket sales than from rents.

Books have been written about the Empire State Building (one of the best is linked below) – we’ll just hit the highlights here:

  • The land under the Empire State Building is part of a six-square-block tract that the City sold to John Thompson for $2,600 in 1799. He farmed the land, and sold it for $10,000 in 1825. Two years later William B. Astor bought the farm for $20,500. In 1859 and 1862 the Astors built two mansions on the plot now occupied by the Empire State Building. In 1893 and 1897 those mansions were demolished to make way for the Waldorf Hotel and Astoria Hotel, which were operated jointly as the Waldorf-Astoria. In 1928 the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation bought the properties for $20 million.
  • General Motors executive John J. Raskob set up The Empire State Corporation in 1929, with four-time New York Governor (and Democratic presidential candidate) Al Smith as President.
  • It took five months to demolish the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel; two months to excavate the site for construction; 13 months to build the Empire State Building.
  • Architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon produced drawings for the Empire State Building in just two weeks – based on their earlier designs for the Reynolds Building (Winston-Salem, NC) and Carew Tower (Cincinnati, OH).
  • Under budget: The Empire State Building was erected in less time (13.5 months vs 18 months) and for less money ($24.7 million vs $43 million) than budgeted.
  • President Hoover officially opened the Empire State Building by pushing a button in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 1931. (May 1 was the traditional lease-signing day in New York City.)
  • Bad timing: The building opened during the Great Depression, and for years was derided as the “Empty State Building” for lack of tenants.
  • Lights: The Empire State Building has always used lights to attract attention. A November, 1932 beacon celebrated the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President. In May, 1956, four “Freedom Lights” beacons were installed. In 1964 the building installed floodlights, commemorating the New York World’s Fair. In November 2012, the Empire State Building switched on LED lights, replacing the floodlights.
  • 1933: “King Kong” is released.
  • 1945: An Army Air Force B-25 bomber en route to Newark swerved to miss the fog-shrouded Chrysler Building – and crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building.
  • 1950: The Empire State Building grew 217 feet via a new broadcast antenna, after the FCC ordered an end to NBC’s exclusive use of the tower.
  • 1978: First Annual ESB Run-Up competition. Record time: 9 minutes, 33 seconds from ground floor to 86th floor.
Empire State Building Vital Statistics
Empire State Building Recommended Reading

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