Archive for the ‘Beekman/Turtle Bay’ Category

Is this the ugliest brownstone in Chelsea?

April 7, 2014

The iconic New York brownstone, with its high stoop and decorative cornice, made its appearance in the early 19th century and quickly became a stylish, single-family home favorite.

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Over the decades, some have been updated, their facades altered and made over to suit their owners’ tastes.

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There’s this Modernist example in Turtle Bay, the concrete grill townhouse in the East 60s, and the futuristic bubble-window brownstone in the East 70s.

But what explains the refrigerator unit-like redesign of this home, part of a beautiful stretch of three-story row houses dating back to the turn of the last century?

Perhaps its super comfy inside. And a garage—that can be convenient.

Here’s the price (and photos) of the upper duplex, courtesy of a Corcoran listing.

1970s city store signs that burst with color

March 24, 2014

Treat yourself to a Monday morning explosion of old-school color—courtesy of these New York store signs that give off a very 1970s vibe.

Acepumpsign

Ace Pump got its start in 1936, and still deals in engineering supplies on superluxe 21st Street in Chelsea.

20thcenturygaragesign

I’ve always loved the 20th Century Garage sign, as well as its name, which must have sounded very modern at one time. It’s near Tudor City on East 48th Street. It looks like it was made before the 1970s, no?

Jeromefloristsign

Jerome Florist, on 96th Street and Madison Avenue, has been selling arrangements to Upper East Siders (and the area’s abundance of hospitals) since 1929.

Capitalelectronicssign

Once known as Capital Audio & Electronics, this Duane Street shop took the electronics out of its name, perhaps to sound less 1970s-ish.

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Pharmacy signs like this one in Queens—no-frills, no brand names, with a neighborhood vibe—have mostly disappeared from city streets.

An East Side supermarket’s lovely vaulted ceiling

January 6, 2014

Grocery shopping is an inspiring experience at the Food Emporium at 59th Street and First Avenue.

Instead of a box-like store with bad fluorescent lighting, this giant supermarket tucked beneath the Queensboro Bridge is like a cathedral, with graceful arches and pillars and beautiful vaulted ceilings lined with Guastavino tiles.

Bridgemarketceiling

Bridgemarket, as the site is known, is one of many spaces in the city designed by architect Rafael Guastavino.

“Guastavino, an architect from Barcelona, pioneered the adaptation of a centuries-old vernacular building technology called the boveda catalana, or Catalan vault, in which long flat tiles are laid in courses and mortared together with a special mixture of portland cement and cow bay sand,” states Architecture Week.

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“Guastavino vaults can be found in numerous grand interiors, including Grand Central Terminal, the U.S. Customs House, and the main hall at Ellis Island.”

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Bridgemarket didn’t get its name from its association with Food Emporium. The site actually housed a farmer’s market in the early 1900s.

Guastavino also designed the vaulted ceilings of the long-closed, absolutely beautiful City Hall subway station.

The modern metropolis of Georgia O’Keeffe

November 18, 2013

If Georgia O’Keeffe to you means gauzy flowers and southwestern motifs, take a look at her Modernist depictions of the cityscape in the 1920s.

[below, "East River From the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel," 1928]

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Born in Wisconsin in 1887, O’Keeffe studied at the Art Students League in 1907, then came back to New York a few years later to attend Teachers College.

 She returned once again in 1918 to live with photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who had been impressed by her charcoal drawings and forged a relationship with her through letters.

[Below, "East River No 1," 1927]

Okeeffeeastriverfromtheshelton1926

The two married six years later, after Stieglitz’s divorce was finalized. They lived together in the Shelton Hotel at 49th Street and Lexington Avenue, and from her window O’Keeffe began painting the New York skyline.

“Although O’Keeffe’s paintings of skyscrapers might appear simplistic, their power lies in the perspective O’Keeffe employs in her technique,” explains this link from the University of Virginia.

[Below, "New York Night," 1928-1929]

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“Her paintings often times used the vantage point of being on the ground and looking up which conveys a sense of wonder an individual might experience while craning one’s neck to look up at the awe-inspiring skyscraper.

Georgiaokeeffe“In contrast, O’Keeffe’s subtle use of light in New York Night conveys a sense of warmth and life inherent in the city.

“Although the majority of the painting is comprised of dark buildings, the lighted windows in the skyscrapers and the lighted street area in the lower left-hand corner of the painting are suggestive of the living beings who breathe life into the city on a daily basis.”

O’Keeffe also painted the Radiator Building in Bryant Park, all glowing embers.

[O'Keeffe in 1918, photo taken by Alfred Stieglitz]

Is this the East Side’s most hideous brownstone?

November 4, 2013

It might be if you favor classic 19th century New York residences: cornices, wide stoops, decorative ironwork.

But if you’re a fan of Modernist architecture, you’d probably consider the house in the center of this photo, at 211 East 48th Street, to be strikingly beautiful.

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The 1934 home was designed by William Lescaze, a Swiss-born architect who brought Modernist style to the East Coast. It was in the vanguard during its time; perhaps that’s why Berenice Abbott photographed it in 1938.

Bereniceabbottlescazehouse“The way the second-floor bay curves beside the “stoop” is distinctly reminiscent of the of the sleek curve of the base of the pioneering Philadelphia Saving Fund Society skyscraper, completed two years earlier, that Lescaze codesigned with George Howe,” states The Architectural Guidebook to New York City.

“House designs have been blown up to skyscraper proportions, but the Lescaze house may be the first time a skyscraper design was ever scaled down to fit a house.”

Recently up for rent ($6,400 a month!), the house’s interior can be seen in this listing.

It’s hardly the only untraditional-looking residence on a brownstone block in New York. The “bubble brownstone” on East 71st Street is in a class by itself.

Holdout tenements dwarfed by towering giants

October 24, 2013

Holdoutbuildings22ndst

Every so often on New York City streets you come across a faded old walkup or tenement that’s holding its own beside a gleaming tower or tall office building.

It’s hard not to be charmed by these little underdogs, whose owners likely turned down a hefty buyout offer for the property.

I love these two buddy tenements on Third Avenue and 22nd Street, once probably part of a late 19th century row of tenements that looked just like them.

New York is all about change, and lovely buildings are always being torn down to make way for something new.

Yet there’s something strangely satisfying about a massive 20-story co-op being forced to build around these two stragglers.

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On East 59th Street sits the well-maintained walkup below—squeezed between handsome 1920s residences that are at least six times the little building’s height.

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Also in the East 50s is this little guy—a fire-engine red old-school walkup wedged against a 20+ story apartment building, with other apartment residences casting cold shadows over it on its right and from behind.

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What’s it like to live in an architectural relic—left behind from an older, smaller-scale New York—that refused to budge as the city marched forward?

Ghostly outlines of the city’s vanished buildings

July 29, 2013

Once, they served as homes, shops, and offices for an older New York.

Now, they no longer exist—the only trace left behind are faded impressions where each building once stood. These haunting outlines will also vanish soon, covered up by the new office tower or co-op and erased from the city’s memory forever.

Ghostoutlinesixthand17thst

I often pass by the long-empty parking lot at Sixth Avenue and 17th Street and wonder about the low-rise tenement that is no longer there. I always liked what looks like a little chimney outline in the center.

Ghostlyoutlines56thand1st

At Lexington Avenue and 56th Street is an odd-shaped building—another tenement?

Makes sense; this was once a neighborhood of belching factories on or near the East River and the houses of people who worked in them.

Ghostlyoutlinechinatown

Check out the impression of a jagged roof left on a taller building on Lafayette Street. I would have loved to have seen it in person.

Ghostlyoutlines30thst

Chimney outlines are always enchanting. Who occupied this gone-forever little house on West 30th Street, and what were their stories?

A Turtle Bay lamp store sign reemerges again

June 13, 2013

For 35 years, Louis Mattia operated an antique lamp and chandelier shop at 980 Second Avenue in the east 50s.

Louismattasign

He closed his store in 1995, and this wonderful old sign (PL for Plaza!) would come in and out of view, as each subsequent store that replaced it went out of business.

Now that a frame shop here has recently gone under, the ghostly old-school sign stands once again. I wonder how long it lasts before it’s covered up.

How Manhattan’s Turtle Bay got its name

May 13, 2013

Turtlebay1878mapTurtle Bay is a wonderful name for an urban neighborhood.

I always imagine hundreds of turtles sunning themselves on the rocks along the East River between 45th and 48th Streets.

That’s where the actual bay was once located in Colonial-era Manhattan, surrounded by meadows and hills, with a stream that emptied at the foot of today’s 47th Street.

Click on the map for a bigger view; it was drawn in 1878 to accompany a book about New York during the Revolutionary War.

Turtlebay1853But while turtles were plentiful in Manhattan (and made for a tasty meal), the name may come from a corrupted Dutch word.

“Some historians attribute the name to the turtle-filled creek, while others say it had nothing to do with turtles, that the name was more likely a corruption of the Dutch word “deutal” (a bent blade), which referred to the shape of the bay,” states the Turtle Bay Association.

“Regardless, the turtle feasts of the day prevailed and so did the name, Turtle Bay Farm.”

Not the Hudson, a site about the East River, has a more definitive answer.

Beekmanmansion“It was named after the Deutal (Dutch for “knife”) Bay farm, which originally covered 86 acres of land shaped like a knife blade. Also occupied by turtles, historians are unsure as to which one of these factors resulted in the name.”

If it was named for the shape of the bay, it no longer applies. The “rock-bound cove” that sheltered ships from storms was filled in and smoothed over in the 1860s.

The Beekman mansion—known as Mount Pleasant (left)—once stood at the northern end of Turtle Bay; it was demolished in the 1870s.

The United Nations occupies most of the site now.

When New Yorkers tried to rename Third Avenue

March 25, 2013

Thirdavenuesign1956 was a crucial year for seven-mile Third Avenue.

That’s when the last piece of steel from the Third Avenue El was dismantled (below at 34th Street in the 1930s), bringing sunlight and broad views to a thoroughfare long known for its shadows and grime.

And right about when the El was finally removed, some residents and real estate officials called for Third Avenue to be given a more glamorous name.

“[Borough President Hulan E. Jack] said that at least five new names had been suggested,” wrote The New York  Times on February 17, after a ceremony marking the removal of a steel column.

ThirdavenueelAmong them were The Bouwerie, United Nations Avenue, International Boulevard, and Nathan Hale Boulevard (the Revolutionary War hero was reportedly hanged at today’s Third Avenue and 66th Street).

“One atomic-minded New Yorker had offered Fission Avenue,” stated the Times.

Borough President Jack was against a name change, though he did propose renaming the Bowery “Third Avenue South” to get rid of the Bowery’s “connotation of drunken derelicts and broken dreams.”

In the end, of course, Third Avenue remained Third Avenue . . . and the Bowery now connotes boutique hotels.

[Photo: New York City Municipal Archives]


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