Art Nouveau beauty on a Fifth Avenue building

Baltmanfifthaveentrance3In 1906, distinguished fine goods store B. Altman & Company opened this Italian Renaissance palazzo–inspired store on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

The new store helped transform “middle” Fifth Avenue from an elegant street of small shops and mansions to a commercial boulevard fronted by several department stores.

 B. Altman went out of business in 1989. Yet the lovely flagship building still stands, taken over by CUNY’s Graduate Center.


The Fifth Avenue facade is stunning: the columns, the bays, and especially the “curving, Art Nouveau style metal and glass canopy, supported by elaborate wrought-metal brackets” above each entrance, in the words of the CUNY Graduate Center website.

Baltmanfifthaveentrance4These ornate entrances are essentially unchanged. “The B. Altman & Company building remains an exemplar of American neo-Renaissance commercial design, and a landmark in the cultural history of New York,” the CUNY site notes.

It’s a little slice of old New York beauty amid the express buses and Empire State Building crowds and throngs of shoppers.

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9 Responses to “Art Nouveau beauty on a Fifth Avenue building”

  1. arcruz34481 Says:

    Reblogged this on She Blogs Daily and commented:
    B Altman beautiful building that still stands near the Empire State building , now part of the CUNY campus.

  2. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Do they still have the public library on the Madison Ave side? It was a business library and was there once or twice.

  3. trilby1895 Says:

    When I first beheld those lyrical canopies over 30 years ago, I knew I was looking at a special part of New York’s past. The store itself was unlike other department stores managing to retain a certain somewhat ghostly Gilded Age grace and charm. A friend told me that until the 1960s or ’70s, close to the main entrance, stood something like a lovely Art Nouveau fountain. Too bad I came along too late to marvel over that and too bad now the entire building is converted to utilitarian use. At least clods didn’t destroy the entire building.

  4. Art Nouveau beauty on a gritty Midtown corner | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] in European cities such as Paris and Prague at the turn of the century, the naturalistic Art Nouveau style of architecture—with its curvy lines and showy ornaments—never caught on with New […]

  5. Sylvester Lukasiewicz Says:

    In April 2015 CUNY TV producer a half-hour documentary about 5 of its most-prominent (NYC) landmarks. It includes the B. Altman building, which was leased perpetually to institutions with educational missions: CUNY, Oxford Press and NYPL.

  6. trilby1895 Says:

    Here I am again, two years later and still admiring this magnificent Art Nouveau creation, still grateful than no “progressive-thinking” do-gooder has destroyed this entrance. Even if Altman’s is sadly gone, at least this remains.

  7. 13 stories of Art Nouveau beauty in Manhattan | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Nouveau–inspired buildings are scattered in different pockets of New York, such as this former department store on Fifth Avenue and 34th […]

  8. The 1877 “palace of trade” opens on Ladies Mile | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] palazzo-inspired building, home to the luxury department store from 1906 until its bankruptcy in 1990. still […]

  9. The lovely Art Nouveau window grille on a Riverside Drive row house | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] That unusual front window grille, however, seems to be the one part of the house that aligns more with the Art Nouveau style, which emerged in Europe in the early 1900s and wasn’t widely adopted in New York City. […]

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