Many wonder why such a prolific and famous architect as Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t have more buildings in New York City. It’s safe to say he wasn’t a huge fan of urban density, but how could one possibly create something as iconic as the Guggenheim’s spirals without getting any other work in the city? As we showed in a previous post, two Wright designs have actually been demolished. Now, we will look at the two buildings Wright intended for the New York area which were never fully realized—at least, not in Manhattan.
Image credit: MAAP
The Fraunces Tavern Museum at 54 Pearl Street in FiDi has a long history of use, changing hands and purpose countless times since it was constructed back in the 18th century. What started as a simple rental home was later turned into a dance studio, eventually finding itself as a popular tavern-slash-boarding-home-slash-community center throughout and after the Revolutionary War. The building even had a stint as the first offices of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War and Treasury. But it wasn’t until 1904 that The Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York, Inc. took over and decided to restore and preserve the historic building as a museum and restaurant. Our friends over at Find Everything Historic recently sat down with the Fraunces Tavern Museum’s executive director Jessica Baldwin Phillips to chat about what it’s like to maintain a storied building in a constantly changing city.
The Rembrandt at 152 West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was built as Manhattan’s first co-op in 1881. Apartment ownership was already in fashion across the pond, particularly in France and Britain, but the concept of a resident-owned building was still an unknown to most of us. Developed by a syndicate led by Jared B. Flagg, a clergyman with an avid interest in real estate, and built by the notable architectural firm of Hubert & Pirsson, the group had come to the conclusion that potential buyers would be drawn to a building where they would have control over expenses. For instance, buying coal and ice in bulk in order to keep prices down, and hiring a full-time communal staff to take care of the owners’ laundry, cooking and the running the elevators.
Built as a brick and brownstone building with terra-cotta trim and jerkin-head gable windows at the top, the unit mix—a result of an interlocking system of staggered floor heights to allow for very tall art studio spaces—included a few duplex apartments with as many as 12 rooms. Original brochure prices reportedly ranged between $4,000 and $5,000, with monthly maintenance as low as $50. Confident in the ultimate success of co-operative living, Mr. Flagg with Hubert & Pirsson continued to develop another six co-op projects that very same year.
After nearly four decades of sitting vacant, the majestic Loew’s Kings Theatre in Flatbush will reopen. It was announced in 2010 that the 1920s movie palace would be restored to its former gilded glory thanks to a $70 million renovation, and now it’s been revealed that the reopening will take place in January 2015.
The theatre closed in 1977, but according to a press release, the new Loew’s Kings Theatre “will serve as both a cultural and economic cornerstone for the Brooklyn community, presenting more than 200 performances annually—including music, dance, theatre, and comedy—providing a resource to foster and support creativity in the area, creating jobs and attracting thousands of visitors to the neighborhood.” It will also have 3,000 seats, making it the largest theatre in Brooklyn.
We often think of the street grid as New York’s greatest “master plan.” Officially known as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, this put in place the original, gridded street pattern that we still know today. But there have been several other master plans that took shape on a smaller scale within the linear configuration of Manhattan. These planned communities were largely conceived to transform blighted or underutilized areas into suburban enclaves or peaceful oases within the big city. And just like the neighborhoods that grew organically among the street grid, these master-planned areas each have a unique character. They’ve also influenced a new crop of developments, currently under construction on the West Side and in Brooklyn.
Few chairs are as recognizable as those designed by Charles and Ray Eames. And though Modernist duo were pioneers in the creation of quality furniture, both easily produced and sold at affordable prices (though you wouldn’t exactly guess that now), did you know that their lounger was their first foray into the high-end furniture market? Officially titled Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671), the chair was originally designed for Herman Miller back in 1956, and when it was released, Charles and Ray were already household names counting nearly 1 million chairs in homes across the country. To that end, when the pair were ready to debut this latest luxury creation, NBC’s Home show invited them to come on and talk about their design.
Anyone who admires the Eames will without question love this video featuring the adorable twosome modestly taking compliments from host Arlene Francis while discussing everything from their plywood chair, to their precedent home in Los Angeles, to their lounger, which in the segment gets a comically dramatic unveiling complete with curtains, lights and music.
With a prime location overlooking Gramercy Park, accessible solely to those with keys, the 183-year-old Renaissance revival Gramercy Park Hotel was built on the site of infamous architect Stanford White’s home (which had replaced the house where novelist Edith Wharton was born) nearly 90 years ago. The neighborhood, the park, and the hotel date as far back as the 1830s, when more than 60 swampy lots were allocated to developers looking to lure downtown city folks to a new “uptown” community. In time, those lots were transformed into what is now 39 dwellings surrounding a leafy park reserved for a select few lucky enough to live in luxurious homes framing the two-acre park between 20th and 21st Streets at Irving Place. But it wasn’t until 1925 that the stately hotel opened its doors at 2 Lexington Avenue. By 1930, it was extended westward along the park frontage on 21st street, and today it is one of the city’s most coveted quarters.
When it comes to skyscrapers, we put a lot of trust in architects. We have to trust that they know what they’re doing, and these seemingly impossible buildings are safe to be in and around. It’s even harder to trust what used to be known as the Citicorp or Citigroup Center, now 601 Lexington Avenue, whose bottom floors are like four stilts, holding 50 stories of building above them. It looks like a strong wind would blow the whole structure over. And when the building was constructed in 1977, before some emergency repairs, that was true.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an immortal novel about Long Island millionaires in the Roaring Twenties, inspired by actual parties Fitzgerald attended at the time. The Jazz Age mansions of Long Island’s “Gold Coast” certainly represent a bygone era, but you can still visit several of these Gatsby-esque architectural relics today.
Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) and 114th Street in 1895
Today, it’s hard to imagine Morningside Heights without the flurry of students hurrying to class at Columbia University. It may be even harder to imagine it without some of its signature architecture: the gothic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest cathedral in the world, Riverside Church, with its former bowling alley, or Grant’s Tomb along the Hudson River. But Morningside Heights got an exciting start in the history of New York City (and America, as it turns out)!