Posts Tagged ‘Beaux-Arts buildings New York City’

Central Park West’s most enchanting apartments

March 17, 2014

SturbantallThe wonderful thing about New York is that you can pass a building hundreds of times before discovering its magic.

Which is how, on a rainy late afternoon with just a slant of sunlight left in the sky, I discovered the beauty of the Beaux-Arts gem the St. Urban.

It’s a 12-story apartment house at 89th Street, one of many French flat–style residences built in an almost unbroken line along Central Park West at the turn of the last century.

The building’s neighbors, the Dakota and the San Remo, are perhaps more flamboyant. The St. Urban’s beauty is more understated, and it stands today as an elegant throwback—described in one book as a “splendid anachronism” of gracious, Gilded Age living.

SturbancherubFacing the park is a porte-cochere—a magnificent recessed carriage entrance—illuminated by golden globes affixed to the limestone entrance.

The St. Urban’s sloping mansard roof and dormer windows give it a castle-like feel, which is underscored by its rounded, domed tower crowned with a copper lantern.

I’m not the only one enchanted by the St. Urban. In 2001, writer Andre Aciman had this to say about the building, in a New York Times Magazine issue that focused on the specialness of New York City.

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“As with Monet’s portraits of the Rouen cathedral, does the St. Urban stir so many images that changing the season, the cast of light or time of day changes the building as well?,” wrote Aciman.

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“All I know is that something in me is forever grafted here—which is why I dare not think of the city without this building, or of me without this city, or of this building without me.”

The sea-inspired windows of a Midtown clubhouse

January 20, 2014

Yachtclubphoto1901West 44th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is packed with architectural gems.

It’s kind of a clubhouse and hotel district, with the headquarters of the Harvard Club and General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen there, as well as the old Algonquin and Iroquois Hotels.

Still, I think the six-story headquarters of the New York Yacht Club just might be the most enchanting building of all.

It all comes down to those incredible nautical-themed windows, with their shells, seaweed, and raging dolphins.

Completed in 1900, the “street side of the building is regarded as one of the most expressive examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the country,” states the NYYC website.

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“It draws on a number of classic motifs,” the NYYC website explains.

Yachtclubwindowcloseup“But its hallmark is the elaborate bay windows set into sculpted framework depicting the sterns of fancifully carved baroque sailing vessels, with garlands of seaweed and shells hanging from wave-like consoles and dolphins spewing into the overhanging wakes of the departing ships.”

Inside the clubhouse, things look pretty spectacular as well, as these NYYC photos and a virtual tour of one of the rooms reveal.

The most beautiful ballroom in New York City

August 6, 2012

Today, the former Prince George Hotel, at 14 East 28th Street, is part of the nonprofit housing group Common Ground, providing low-income housing for about 400 once-homeless adults.

But when the hotel opened in 1904 (another building was added in 1912), it was a Beaux-Arts jewel reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s New York.

The luxurious rooms on each of its 14 floors came with private baths, and the ground floor featured several restaurant and lounge areas.

One of those lounges is now the Prince George Ballroom, a 4,800-foot space with ornately carved classical columns and ceiling murals inspired by the Renaissance.

Restored to its original beauty in the 1990s, it can be rented for parties and events.

Judging by how gorgeous it is now, it’s hard to imagine what it looked like in the 1980s.

That’s when the Prince George fell on hard times and became one of the city’s most crime-ridden welfare hotels, home to 1,600 people.

Like the rest of the building, the ballroom was a rundown eyesore, painted white and used as a dining hall, social service office, even a basketball court.

I wish I could find a photo of it during its welfare-hotel days. Until then, the one above, as it looks today, and this one below, from 1915, will have to suffice.

Photos: Common Ground

A museum goes up on the Upper West Side

June 15, 2011

When the American Museum of Natural History was created in 1869, its home was the Central Park Arsenal.

By 1862, it had outgrown that space. So museum bigwigs obtained land called Manhattan Square across Central Park West from 77th to 81st Streets. Plans for a grand, world-class natural history museum were drawn up.

The first building, above, opened in 1877. It sure looks lonely all by itself out there on the empty and untamed–looking Upper West Side, doesn’t it? (photo from the Museum of the City of New York)

Piece by piece, the rest of the museum came together, until finally the Beaux-Arts Central Park West entrance was completed in 1936.

The faces on the Flatiron Building

August 5, 2009

FlatironbuildingpostcardThe Flatiron Building is so striking and unusual, it’s easy to get caught up gazing at the overall shape and design and not notice that near the top of its 22 floors are some rather unfriendly faces.

These grotesques, like this one below, have been staring pedestrians down since 1902, when the Flatiron Building—originally called the Fuller Building—opened. It was New York’s first skyscraper and its tallest for years.

Though not an immediate architectural hit, its cultural impact was established fast. Artists photographed and painted the building, and writers referenced its beauty.

In 1906, H.G. Wells wrote: “I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper—the prow of the Flatiron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the late-afternoon light.”

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Fun fact: The term “flatiron” was used before the building was ever conceived; it’s what locals called the iron-shaped triangular plot at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 22nd, and 23rd Streets upon which the building was eventually constructed.