The Art & Architecture of Park Avenue from Lever to Grand Central
New York City, NYSelf Guided Tour
Everyday over 700,000 New Yorkers pass through Midtown along Park Avenue to and from Grand Central Terminal. This is a part of the City where in a few blocks you can see many of the forces that have shaped our city. There are icons of architecture (Midtown Modernism) and capitalism such as Lever, Seagram, and the Chrysler building. There are icons of real estate such as the Grand Hyatt and Helmsley. There are great clubs and great churches. Under construction is New York second tallest tower, One Vanderbilt. There are stories about Grand Central and its construction, the viaduct which may have been the first limited access highway. There are cultural institutions such as New York Public Library and Scandinavia House. New Yorkers from Commodore Vanderbilt to JP Morgan influenced this neighborhood. This walk will showcase some of the art and architecture along Park Avenue and tell some of the stories about its past, its present, and perhaps future.
2.08The Waldorf Astoria
5.01Grand Central Terminal
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Charles Luckman was fired as the President of Unilever just before Lever House opened. Ever resourceful, he called up his former roommate from architectural school William Perreira who invited him to join his Los Angeles Architectural practice. He moves and gets immediately tapped by Charles Bronfman to design the Seagram Building. Bronfman shows the design to his daughter Phyllis who does not approve, takes over the design process and hires Mies Van Der Rohe and Phillip Johnson to design the building.
Many people of note lived in 277 Park Avenue including John F Kennedy. Harold Ross, former editor of The New Yorker, objected to an eviction notice for “having persons of the opposite sex” in his apartment overnight. Mr. Ross was between marriages, and noted that he had rented a three-bedroom apartment for just such a purpose, not “to sleep in each one successively for two or three hours each night.” he wrote in his 2001 book of letters.
Open House New York Weekend - October 17th-18th, 2020
Archtober - October, 2020
The Commons - The Heart of New York City
Great Crashes of Wall Street
Park Ave & E 53rd St, New York, NY 10022
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There is no better place to begin this tour than the corner of 53rd and Park where all these themes intersect. Here is where the train tracks below Park Avenue were covered, and Vanderbilt began to develop the newly created land. Here you can see the impact of zoning and its creative interpretations on the skyline with Lever and Seagram. And you can witness the history of McKim Mead and Whites Racquet Club which continued to refuse to admit women as recently as 1986
The Corner of 53rd Street and Park Avenue - by Barry Bergdoll
Zoning in Midtown - by Carol Krinsky
At 50th and Park the highlights are two of New Yorks most significant cultural institutions. Not only is St Barts a beautiful building decorated with significant artworks, but it is also equally as infamous for the court case about its air rights which made it to the Supreme Court which said the designation of the church, the buildings that make up its grounds and a garden there as landmarks did not violate the churchs constitutional rights either to religious exercise or to the use of its property. Across the street is the Waldorf Astoria which was the first hotel to become the social center and townsquare of a city.
At this corner, one can see the effects of continued development on the city for with the recent rezoning of Midtown, JP Morgan Chase was able to demolish the much loved but never landmarked Union Carbide Building by using the air rights finally sold by St Barts. The replacement is slated to be one of the largest office buildings in the City designed by Norman Foster.
On this corner we see Capitalism at work and meet Leona Helmsley aka the Queen of Mean who wrote a will that left $12 million to her dog Trouble and nothing to her offspring. The Helmsley Building also was the real setting for Taggert Transcontinental which featured prominantly in Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged. Behind it is the Metlife Tower where every major architect of significance tripped over their scruples about plonking large skyscrapers on top of Grand Central Terminal to secure the commission to do just that. The Winner was Gropius at the time Dean of Harvard.
Grand Central Terminal has it all: the romance of the 20th Century Limited and the Clock, the loving and gorgeous renovation, the hidden corners such as the whispering gallery, an upstairs library and the Campbell Apartment, the architectural innovations of Gustavinos Oyster Bar Vault and the food of the Great Northern.
42nd and Lexington is noteworthy for having 5 major buildings within a few feet crowned by the Chrysler Building which was briefly the Worlds Tallest Building.
Pershing Square Viaduct was was probably the first limited access highway as it was constructed around 1905 to skirt the Terminal building which was concurrent with the dawn of the automobile age.
One Vanderbilt has the significance of being the first addition to the Midtown office skyline after Midtown East was rezoned. It clocks in at 67 stories featuring 1.7 million square feet of office space over 9 stories of office space.
Park Avenue below Grand Central is a mix of residential buildings with a few cultural facilities. Highlights include the Union League which was founded during the Civil War and the Scandinavia House. 101 Park Avenue is the site of the former Architects Building which housed the offices of the citys architectural elite including Kenneth Murchison, Arnold Brunner, and the firm of McKim, Meade & White. To commemorate its heritage, the Business Improvement District commissioned Gregg LeFevre to create a series of bronze reliefs of some of the buildings that were designed there (or nearby) which is in the sidewalk.