The bubble-window brownstone of 71st Street

It doesn’t get any lovelier than Lenox Hill’s East 71st Street, between Second and Third Avenues, a quiet, tidy block mostly of turn-of-the-century brownstones.

And then there’s the bubble brownstone at number 251.

How else to describe this facade wiped clean of its circa-1899 decorative elements, its windows replaced by plastic-looking pods?

A search of the building’s history turned up this, from the May 9, 1976 New York Times, in an article on innovative window design:

“An interesting variation of the bay window can be found at 251 East 71st Street, where the architect Maurice Medcalfe used large oval glass bubbles for his windows.”

Strange as it first seems, it actually grows on you and sort of works with the scale of the rest of the street.

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14 Responses to “The bubble-window brownstone of 71st Street”

  1. visualingual Says:

    Wow! Ugly at first, but it does interact in an interesting way with the neighboring buildings.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Yeah, that’s what I thought, after visiting the block a few times. There’s a certain symmetry and balance to it.

  3. Sister Morphine Says:

    i love it!

  4. wordgrl Says:

    Wonder what the windows do to the view from the inside. Maybe there’s a reason (other than to be different) that is not apparent from the outside.

  5. fifi Says:

    I have seen the building many times, I hate it. But at least it was not torn down.

  6. fivepointsguy Says:

    Minority voice: ugly, dumb, pretentious. Ugh…

  7. Bubble Window House, Upper East Side, NYC | Mid-Century Mundane Says:

    […] York City. According to the guide the house was altered around 1975. And according to this recent article, the architect was named Maurice Medcalfe. I wasn’t able to find anything out about him. […]

  8. aspicco Says:

    It has yet to grow on me. All I think of are the eyes of insects when I walk by… and I feel oddly stared at.

  9. Is this the East Side’s most hideous brownstone? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 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 […]

  10. Citycat 1 Says:

    It was ugly in 1975 and it is still the ugliest brownstone in the city. The architect would have done the block a favor if he had gone with a less pretentious rehab. It is an eyesore that ruins the feel for the whole block.

  11. Is this the ugliest brownstone in Chelsea? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 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. […]

  12. Alexa Says:

    I lived across the street from what you are calling the Bubble Brownstone in another townhouse. The “bubble” windows were actually designed by the person who created the original Esso (now Exxon) sign. The house also had a skylight in the bathroom on the top floor (same bubble shape, but clear) providing a sky view from the tub!

  13. ALEX GREEN Says:

    An ugly mess as far as I can see. If you’re going to do something this bold, at least work over something of little existing architectural value and have more than one line to your poem !

  14. shesnailie Says:

    Why do I imagine the Popcorn was recorded there? Bet there’s a Moog synthesizer in their basement studio…

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