New York City 2

New York Art Deco Building 8: 500 Fifth Avenue

Lower façade of 500 Fifth Avenue.

Climbing to 60 storeys high, 500 Fifth Avenue was designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the same firm of architects who created the Empire State Building. Constructed for New York real estate investor and developer Walter J. Salmon Sr, it was completed in 1931. As with the Empire State Building there is Art Deco decoration on the lower floors but little on the tower.

The main entrance.
Art Deco motifs in stone on 500 Fifth Avenue.
More Art Deco motifs in stone on 500 Fifth Avenue.

New York Art Deco Building 9: American Radiator Building, later American Standard Building, now Bryant Park Hotel

The American Radiator Building with a view of the Empire State Building.

The American Radiator Building, located at 40 West 40th Street was later renamed the American Standard Building after a merger. In 2001 it ceased to be offices having been transformed into the 130 room Bryant Park Hotel. Though labelled as Gothic Art Deco this 1924 building has less to suggest this than the previous building of architect Raymond Hood. The 1923 Chicago Tribune tower had a much more Gothic look, with a series of what looked like flying buttresses supporting a tower at the top. Intricate pierced carving and the fact that all of this was accomplished with grey stone further made it Gothic.

The American Radiator Building is instead faced with black bricks, and has gold coloured bricks for detail, mainly at its summit, colours that do not exactly conjure a medieval cathedral. This was because the black building was intended to reference coal and the glowing gold bricks were meant to symbolize fire, so home heating. The resulting dark edifice, lit up at night, looked like fire and burning embers high in the sky. The American painter Georgia O’Keeffe was enchanted by this glowing effect and painted it as ‘Radiator Building—Night, New York’ in 1927.

American Radiator Building, faced with black bricks, and gold ones for detail.

New York Art Deco Building 10: The New Yorker Hotel

Elegant setbacks on the The New Yorker Hotel.

Completed in 1929 the New Yorker Hotel was once the largest in the city at 43 storeys which contained 2,500 rooms. Designed by the architectural firm Sugarman & Berger, it is located at 481 Eighth Avenue. It features a carefully worked out plan of setbacks which rise majestically to its peak. There is some fine Art Deco decoration, but it is on the edges of the setbacks, so a long way up. During the 1940s and 1950s it was popular and saw many celebrities enjoying its complete in-house facilities. This was followed by a decline in subsequent decades and it changed owners several times. It was purchased in 1975 by the Unification Church of the United States which remains its current owner.

New York Art Deco Building 11: New York Life Insurance Building

Gothic and golden, the New York Life Insurance Building.

Architect Cass Gilbert designed a Gothic Art Deco tower for the New York Life Insurance company at 51 Madison Avenue. Constructed 1927–1928 it rises to 34 storeys of offices and this would have been a fine Gothic peak with gargoyles and pierced stone carving. Either the architect or someone in the company wanted more, that something that would set their building apart, so instead of ending at the 34th floor it sets up a marvellous, gilded, octagonal dome that rises another six storeys. This no doubt helped it to attain a place on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and in 2000 being listed as a city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

New York Art Deco Building 12: Canal Street Post Office

Entrance to the Canal Street Post Office.

Located at 350 Canal Street this is a unique post office, and despite the fact that it says ‘Station’ you will find no trains inside, only people selling stamps and post office services. It has a fantastic coloured relief of a Native Indian bowman created by sculptor Wheeler Williams dated 1938 which we might take as a plausible date for the building.

Wheeler Williams’ 1938 Native Indian bowman.

New York Art Deco Building 13: 1 Wall Street

Utterly unique windows on 1 Wall Street.

Architect Ralph Thomas Walker’s design for the 1930 building at 1 Wall Street is a work of pure elegance. Take a look at this incredible window that sits above an entrance and looks in on the magnificent lobby. Every piece of glass had to be custom made for it. Originally constructed for the Irving Trust Company, and the Bank of New York, it became the BNY Mellon Building in 1988. Home to banks for most of its life, it is not surprising that such a fine building with superb interiors has now been shifted to luxury residential.

Decorative relief work on 1 Wall Street.

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