Posts Tagged ‘Murray Hill street’

A Beaux-Arts facade on 31st Street has a secret

January 16, 2013

LifeheadquartersOnce-fashionable 31st Street is a good place to hunt for hidden architectural gems. And number 19, just west of Fifth Avenue, is a striking example.

Look past the Herald Square Hotel sign, and its Beaux-Arts beauty comes to light: a limestone and red brick building with enormous arched front windows.

They frame a cherub holding a pen, surrounded by symbols of the arts: musical instruments, paintbrushes, and a pad. The words “wit” and “humor” appear on a banner.

So what’s it all about? The clue lies under the third-floor front windows. Beneath each window is the word “Life”—for the magazine that once was headquartered here.

When Life moved into the building, designed in 1895 by architects Carrere and Hastings (the same guys who designed the New York Public Library), it was a different publication from the 20th century version.


Life was a general-interest humor magazine, similar to rivals Puck and the New Yorker, and they published a fairly impressive group of literary and artistic talents, including Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl illustrations that debuted in the 1890s.

The cherub was sculpted by Philip Martiny. “Winged Life” is its name, and it symbolized a magazine that in the 1930s was turned into a photo weekly and then shut down in 2000.

Three ways of seeing a Lexington Avenue corner

December 19, 2012

“In 1914, Lexington Avenue from the foot of Murray Hill to 41st Street and above 60th Street was largely residential,” states the caption to this shot of Lexington at 33rd Street, published in 1975’s New York Then and Now.


The street was in the middle of being paved with Belgian blocks, the text tells us, at the time the photo was taken. Notice the swinging saloon doors on the far right and sign up top for Ehret’s beer.

Fast forward to 1974, when the second picture was snapped. “The Murray Hill section of Lexington Avenue remains residential, but large apartment buildings with ground-floor stores have taken the place of private brownstone homes,” reports the book.


The saloon is gone, a supermarket in its spot now. So is the spire of what was the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, at 35th Street. It almost looks like it was replaced by the Chrysler Building. And the Belgian blocks have given way to asphalt.


In 2012, the scene looks very similar to the way it looked in 1974. One building from the first photo survives: the brownstone two blocks up on the left, seen with shades on the windows in 1914.

A rainy day in Murray Hill in 1928

November 19, 2012

This Martin Lewis etching captures the slick sidewalks and belching smoke on a gray and dreary stretch of the East 30s.

“The Thirty-fourth Street Armory at Park Avenue, now demolished, is shown in the print at right,” states Paul McCarron in The Prints of Martin Lewis. “It was a few blocks from Lewis’s studio at 145 East Thirty-Fourth Street.”

It’s the same armory depicted in Quarter of Nine, Saturday’s Children, a Martin Lewis etching from 1929.

What became of the chateau-like structure on the corner?