...this is only a test.
Dear Mr. Gray, My partner and I recently renovated a floor-through apartment at 444 W50th Street, between 9th and 10th. Built in 1888.
We've lived in the building for close to a decade, and while grand, our apartment has always borne the scars of this neighborhood's many changes. As we launched our renovation/excavation it became clear that our apartment was originally intended for the kind of family that I wouldn't immediately associate with a building so close to the river, built at a time when this neighborhood was not attracting the middle class.
Mahogany pocket doors, elaborate ceiling moldings, well thought out floor plan and spacious rooms. Nothing truly custom, and all the elements are obviously 'catalogue', but all are of a very high quality.
Each floor has the exact same plan, with one family per floor. We wonder why such a relatively lavish apartment building (for this location) was built? Who could it have been intended for? Wouldn't it have been only 2 blocks from a bustling waterfront?
Any information you can provide on our apartment would be incredibly welcome as we've been asking ourselves so many questions during our renovation/excavation!
Thank you and kind regards from a big fan of your NYT column,
Yep, 442 and 444 built together in 1888-1889, on land owned by Henry Astor to a local developer, Adam Geib. This is a typical pattern for the Astors, holding the land while others built.An early photograph shows a high, projecting cornice with the year separated by two letters: "18 AE 88" or perhaps "18 AG 88"? One might be fore Astor Estate, one might be for Adam Geib - any trace of that?Appears to have been built as one or two apartments to a floor - the 1890 NYC directory seems to show five residential tenants (sorry about formatting):
Database: New York City Directory, 1890
Appel William (Bev.) h 444 W. 50th
Geib Adam, builder, h 444 W. 50th
Roth William, engineer, h 444 W. 50th
Schluter Henry, carpenter, h 444 W. 50th
Stanford Catharine, candy, 444 W. 50th
Suter John. dyer, h 444 W. 50thAs you see from the list above, Geib lived in the building. The 1900 census lists a skilled laborer, tailor, "type writer", bookkeeper, and butcher in the building, which gives some idea of its social class. Yes, I agree that one apartment per floor seems rather luxe, especially for the location, but cannot explain Geib's thinking.Very best, Christopher
1. How impressive a building project do you think the original Colony Club for women really was? HOW IMPRESSIVE COMPARED TO WHAT? I AM NOT SURE I WOULD USE THAT WORD AT ALL, AT LEAST ARCHITECTURALLY.2. How impressive was Emily Post's coop building in the mid twenties: was it as unusual an arrangement as she claimed in later years? I AM NOT SURE WHAT SHE CLAIMED. IT WASN'T 'GROUNDBREAKING', IF THAT'S WHERE YOU'RE GOING, IN THE SENSE THAT IT BRILLIANTLY ARRIVED AT SOMETHING NEW. INDEED, IF I RECALL CORRECTLY, IT WAS ONE OF THE LAST OF ITS KIND. IT WAS, HOWEVER, DISCREET, INGENIOUS AND SUAVE.3. How can I find out what an architect like Bruce Price would have earned from, say, the American Surety building? ( I enclose below a note in the NY TImes re a charge related to his building in 1901, I think it was.)THE NOTE ABOVE (AS I SEE IT) DOES NOT RELATE TO HIS FEE, BUT RATHER THE TOTAL COST. ARCHITECTS ALMOST ALWAYS CHARGED A PERCENTAGE FEE ON NEW CONSTRUCTION, INDEED SUCH FEES WERE TYPICALLY "SET" BY THE AIA, A GROUP WITH WHICH BRUCE PRICE WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE ALIGNED HIMSELF. BECAUSE THIS PRACTICE WAS SUBJECT TO PUBLIC CRITICISM, I THINK THE DETAILS WOULD BE COVERED IN THE PUBLIC PRESS, EG. THE TIMES. THERE IS EXTENSIVE COVERAGE OF THIS ISSUE IN THE ARCHITECTURAL TRADES, AS WELL, ALTHOUGH HARDER FOR A GENERALIST TO PIN DOWN - THE AVERY INDEX TO ARCHITECTURAL PERIODICALS WILL HELP. THUS THE PERCENTAGE AS AGAINST THE TOTAL COST OF THE PROJECT YIELDS THE ARCHITECT'S FEE. BUT ARCHITECTS ARE ALWAYS BARGAINED DOWN, AND THE "PROJECT" IS OF VARIABLE SIZE. INTERIORS? FURNISHINGS? STRUCTURAL STEEL? HVAC? IN SHORT: YOU CAN MAKE AN INFORMED GUESS, BUT LORD KNOWS.4. How best to get a sense of how good Price really was, in the panteon of great architects?(George Post was, of course, a relative to Emily Post by marriage, and it is hard not to compare the two artists.)UMM. MATTER OF TASTE. I VENTURE THAT YOUR TASTE, SINCE YOU ARE ON THE GROUND, IS SUPERIOR TO OTHERS'. THERE IS VERY LITTLE CRITICAL/ COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF ARCHITECTS' ABILITIES - MOST WRITING "BOOMS" EACH ARCHITECT, AND NEGATIVE REMARKS ARE HELD TO A MINIMUM. I WOULD NEVER HAVE THOUGHT TO COMPARE PRICE, AN ARCHITECT WHO EMPHASIZED CONNOISSEURSHIP AND INDIVIDUALISM, WITH POST, AN ARCHITECT WHO (APPARENTLY) CONCENTRATED ON CREATING A LARGE ARCHITECTURAL OFFICE. THEIR COMPARATIVE OBITS, ESP. IN THE ARCHITECTURAL TRADES, WOULD BE ONE WAY TO EVALUATE.Thanks so much for any thoughts you can share on the above. All best, Laura Claridge
Thanks. I actually have a 3rd question. It appears that there are many prewar synagogues located on mid-block sites (such as Young Israel on W. 91st St. and Bnai Jeshurun on W. 89th St.) while most prewar churches appear to be located on avenues. Is this just anecdotal observation?
For the Metropolitan History database on building permits, when I do a search for the year say 1920, the database returns the following "549 RECORDS FOUND". What does the 549 represent? Does that represent the total # of new building permits issued in that year or it is the # of building completions or is it perhaps a sample of some kind? Is it possible to use the number of records as a measure of either the # of new building permits issued or # of buildings completed?
Hi -- hope you are well. A very quick question: do you know anything about a building at 15 West 38th Street? Deep red brick, funnily eclectic, with an unusual pediment with a huge roman numeral date of 1908. Just curious. Doesn't seem to be in the AIA Guide, and it most certainly isn't in the Very Long Overdue for a Revision City Observed.
Dear Chris, when I first came to NY in the 60s, I knew another architect named Albert Kahn. The son of the one you wrote about. He was definitively not self educated.
Also, when we first moved to Riverside Dr. I was told that it was built in
the late 19th century for the rich Jews, Catholics and show biz folk who
werent allowed to live on Fifth or Park. If so, how come they let Moorish
synagogues go up?
Our writer mentions that asphalt was laid on Upper Fifth Avenue in 1897 and I've had no luck confirming this anywhere. Do you happen to know if this is correct? Please let me know ASAP. Thanks.
Mr. Gray (or whoever reads this),I am a fan of your writing and enjoy your many articles on NYC real estate.I am interested in the provenance of the houses on W 73 from #3-#11. Any suggestions as to where I could discover who was the architect and/or developer? I think it was not W. J. Hardenberg.Thanks, Dan Douglas Executive Director
My great great grandfather, Wm. Tecumseh Sherman, lived at
#75 W. 71st Streetfrom 1888 or 9 until his death. Somewhere on the internet my amateur historian brother-in-law found a drawing of the house as it looked at that time, one of those noble Victorian jobs, with a curved walkway leading to the high stoop (three steps up, landing, turn right, maybe six steps up to the front door. There is a basement floor with two barred windows and there are four stories above. The windows on the entrance level are taller than those on the three higher floors, if the drawing is accurate. This is for sure not the building at number 75 W. 71st at present. Trying to match the drawing to the remaining houses of the period, we suspect that the house may not even even have been on the north side of the street, as the odd numbers are now. Can you tell me which house was the General’s, if it still stands or even if it doesn’t, and when and why the renumbering occurred?