Posts Tagged ‘Upper West Side buildings’

A West Side apartment house that transports you to Renaissance England

September 20, 2021

So many of the side streets of the Upper West Side are lovely architectural time capsules, with uniform groups of townhouses and majestic apartment buildings reflecting the fashionable styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But sometimes you come across a building that feels like a design unicorn. Case in point is Red House, on West 85th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.

This delightful six-story confection of English and French-inspired Gothic details feels more like an Elizabethan manor house, with its white terra cotta, crown cartouche, and red brick—which gave the building its name, according to The Landmarks of New York, Fifth Edition.

Why architects Herbert S. Harde and R. Thomas Short were inspired by Renaissance-era England and France isn’t clear. But Red House is the first upper-class residence the two collaborated on, and it serves as something of an advertisement for their work—which departed from the stately Beaux-Arts style and offered delight and whimsy. “A six-story romantic masterpiece,” the AIA Guide to New York City calls it.

Harde himself lived at Red House with his wife through the 1910s. The building can boast of another notable tenant: a young Dorothy Rothschild—the future Dorothy Parker, states Kevin Fitzpatrick, author of A Journey Into Dorothy Parker’s New York.

“An early example of Harde & Short’s elaborate and luxurious apartment buildings, Red House established many of the recognizable elements which were to become the firm’s calling card,” stated the 1982 Landmarks Preservation Commission report, designating the building a historic landmark.

“The building indicates the acceptance of the apartment building as a desirable housing form, and reflects the impact of this change in the physical development of the Upper West Side.”

After completing Red House in 1904 (above), Harde & Short went on to design the Gothic renaissance-inspired 44 West 77th Street. They’re also the creative geniuses behind 45 East 66th Street as well as Alwyn Court, at Seventh Avenue and 55th Street. All three buildings still grace the cityscape with lots of visual eye candy, such as cathedral-like flourishes and flamboyant detailing.

There’s one unusual design feature that both Alwyn Court and Red House share, courtesy of Harde & Short: both buildings have terra cotta salamanders on the facade. The Red House salamander wears a crown.

Why a salamander? It’s the emblem of Francois I, the king of France from 1515 to 1547—another Renaissance-inspired touch.

[Third image: MCNY; X2010.7.1.395]

A creepy bat on a West End Avenue row house

May 23, 2016

BattownhouserowHorses, dogs, cats, squirrels—New York building facades are decorated with a huge variety of animal figures.

Yet I’m pretty sure this is the first bat I’ve ever come across.

He’s enjoying the warm evening on a playfully ornamented Queen Anne row house on West End Avenue at about West 76th Street.

Often a particular animal symbolizes something. Honeybees adorn bank buildings because they stand for industry and thrift. Owls convey knowledge, which is why they tend to be built on schools and libraries.

Battownhousefigure

But a bat? I think it’s just the architect with a dark sense of humor.

Among the other animals adorning the row house or its neighbors are rams, owls, and somethings that look to be inspired by sea horses.

The billboard eye candy of Columbus Circle

March 24, 2011

Okay, so it was no rival to Times Square.

But in its 20th century heyday, the former Grand Circle (laid out in the 1860s; the Columbus monument didn’t arrive until 1892) boasted an impressive number of eye-catching signs and landmark billboards.

Here’s the West side of Columbus Circle in a 1907 Library of Congress photo, where the Time Warner Center is today. Ads for cigars, booze, and Uneeda Biscuits dominate.

A slightly different camera angle in the teens or 1920s reveals more billboards: for cigarettes and cars.

The famous Coca-Cola ad, photographed in 1938 by Berenice Abbott (through another alcohol ad), stood for decades until the building supporting it was bulldozed in 1966.

The site then hosted the Gulf & Western Building, which was remodeled into the Trump International Hotel in the 1990s.