Posts Tagged ‘Art Nouveau in New York City’

An Upper West Side Art Nouveau–like subway sign

June 19, 2017

You don’t have to be a typeface nerd to appreciate loveliness the letters and numerals affixed to plaques and signs in the city’s earliest subway stations.

My favorite is the “96” at the Broadway and 96th Street station. Opened in 1904 as part of the original IRT line, it looks like the numerals were created by hand, not a printing press.

Thanks to the rosettes, green coloring, and what look like two tulips framing the numerals, this plaque across from the platform also looks like a rare examples of the naturalistic Art Nouveau design style—which swept Europe in the early 20th century but didn’t make much of an impression in New York, save for some building facades.

13 stories of Art Nouveau beauty in Manhattan

March 13, 2017

The magnificent boulevards of Prague and Vienna are resplendent with Art Nouveau building facades, lobbies, and public transit entrances.

But the sinuous lines and naturalistic curves characteristic of this artistic style never caught on in turn-of-the-century New York, where architects seemed to prefer the stately Beaux Arts or more romantic Gothic Revival fashion.

It’s this rarity of Art Nouveau in Gotham that makes the 13-story edifice at 20 Vesey Street so spectacular.

Completed in 1907, this is the former headquarters for the New York Evening Post—the precursor to today’s New York Post, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton.

The building is across the street from the graveyard behind St. Paul’s Chapel off Broadway, a wonderful place to look up and linger.

Architect Robert D. Kohn designed the limestone structure with three rows of wavy windows and crowned it with a copper roof.

At the 10th floor, Kohn added a playful touch for a media company: four figures meant to represent the “Four Periods of Publicity“: the spoken word, the written word, the printed word, and the newspaper.

Note the “EP” insignia decorating the iron railings that link the four figures.

The Evening Post moved out in 1930, and today 20 Vesey is known as the Garrison Building, which houses a fairly typical mix of businesses behind its European-like facade.

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

Plans for an Art Nouveau hotel around the corner on Church Street drawn up in 1908 by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, unfortunately, never panned out.

[Third photo, 1910, MCNY x2010.7.1.887]

Art Nouveau beauty on a Fifth Avenue building

April 24, 2014

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.

BAltmanfifthaveentrance2

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.

The Brooklyn Museum’s hit art exhibit in 1921

July 15, 2011

Alphonse Mucha’s Art Nouveau style became hugely popular in New York and Europe around the turn of the century, thanks in part to his theatrical posters of top actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Czech-born Mucha even lived in the city for a few years, his 1904 arrival trumpeted by the Daily News, which called him “the greatest decorative artist in the world.”

So when the Brooklyn Museum staged a retrospective of Mucha’s drawings, paintings, and posters in early 1921, about 60,000 New Yorkers packed the museum in January and February to see it.

The success of the exhibit may have had to do with the fact that it was free.

“Alphonse Mucha opted to allow free entry rather than charging each visitor fifty cents,” states the website of the Musuem of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Spain.

“At the time money collected for admission went to the artist, and for Mucha it would have amounted to a very substantial sum.”

The ladies looking out over lower Broadway

October 13, 2010

It kind of looks like they’re entombed in propped-up coffins and are about to be laid to rest, doesn’t it?

Whatever the backstory, these ladies now stand guard on the facade of the 12-story Broadway-Franklin Building.

Constructed in 1907 as an office tower, the building is also referred to as Collect Pond House Apartments, after the 18th century pond-turned-stinkhole that once existed across nearby Lafayette Street.

The enchanting angel of East 14th Street

July 19, 2010

It’s hard to see her among the decorative elements at the top of this tenement building on the north side of the street, especially when you’re hurrying by on a sunny summer afternoon.

But here she’s been for probably over a century now, making gritty East 14th Street around Second Avenue a little bit lovelier.

The futuristic hotel never built in New York

May 25, 2010

Architect Antoni Gaudi designed fantastical, colorful, Art Nouveau-style buildings and churches in his native Spain in the late 19th century. 

There’s nothing like them here in New York. But if Gaudi had his way, there would be—a hotel, topped by a giant star, he intended to build on Church Street.

 

Plans were drawn up in 1908. At 1,250 feet, the proposed Hotel Attraction would have been the tallest building in the city.

It never went up, of course, and the sketches were mostly forgotten for decades after Gaudi’s death in 1926.

Now, a group of Spanish artists are reportedly entering Gaudi’s design in the World Trade Center memorial design competition.

The crazy thing is, ground zero is exactly where Gaudi had intended the Hotel Attraction to go up—102 years ago.

At right, Gaudi’s 1908 sketches for the hotel

Who watches you on St. Mark’s Place

January 18, 2010

She does, with the medusa-like hair, from the high floor of a St. Mark’s walkup building. 

I wonder what she has seen over the years.