A new book by architectural historian, Andrew Alpern highlights the opulent entrances of New York City’s most exclusive apartment buildings.
Behind the stunning cast-iron gates, barrel vaulted archways, regal awnings, hand-carved flourishes and gold-tasseled doormen are the stratospherically expensive domiciles of America’s wealthiest and most influential families.
Having lived in Manhattan since 1938, Alpern is an expert on historic houses in New York. From Beaux Arts to Art Deco, Posh Portals Elegant Entrances and Ingratiating Ingresses to Apartments for the Affluent in New York City examines how elegant living has changed over time from the nineteenth century to today.
The colossal 440-page photo book offers a glimpse into the cloistered lives of the rich and very powerful by taking the reader on a tour of 140 different entrances in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Question remains, can you guess these iconic buildings just by their lavish entrances? Answers below.
1) Once known as ‘the world’s largest and most complete apartment house,’ this Italian-Renaissance complex is one of the few buildings that occupies an entire city block. It contains 175 apartments ranging in size from six to 14 rooms. The building is constructed around a large, landscaped interior courtyard which is one the largest in the city. The building was also at the center of an infamous 16-year- long rent strike against its landlord who eventually sold it to an investor that renovated it into luxury condos
2) ‘The Dowager Queen Mother of all luxury apartments in New York’ is an ornate Gilded Age complex featuring a barrel-vaulted archway entrance that leads to a massive interior courtyard where carriages formerly dropped off residents at one of four separate lobbies. The edifice was completed in 1884 for Edward Clark, Singer Sewing Machine president; it’s name stems from the developers fondness for Western names and territories. Home to many celebrities over the years, the complex was also setting for the 1968 film, Rosemary’s Baby and the location where a world-famous rock star was assassinated in 1980 while leaving his apartment
3) This architectural treasure is the last surviving grand courtyard building on ‘Billionaire’s Row.’ It features three arched Gothic-style entrances and a slew of amenities slew of amenities such as white-glove service, concierge, private elevator landings, and 24-hour doormen. More interesting is what exists deep in the basement of the buildings bowels – private train platforms for industrial-era titans to hitch their private train cars onto public outbound Manhattan trains
4) This stunning 12-story limestone facade building sits pride of place in Manhattan’s Museum Mile. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White, the same architectural firm that planned the main campus of Columbia University and the original Pennsylvania Station. The Italian Renaissance edifice was built by developer James T. Lee (Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis’ grandfather) and completed 1912
5) This turreted showstopper overlooks Central Park and was completed at the height of the Great Depression which caused the building to go into foreclosure. It was the fictional address in Herman Wouk’s novel, Marjorie Morningstar and the real address of celebrities like Alex Baldwin, Ron Howard, Bruce Willis and Sinclair Lewis who chose a tower apartment because it had views of every bridge in the city
6) This Art Deco stunner on Manhattan’s ‘Gold Coast’ has been one of New York City’s richest and most lusted-after addresses. Completed in 1930 by James T. Lee (Jacqueline Kennedy’s grandfather), this 19-floor complex has been home to America’s wealthiest dynasties: Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Bouvier, Chrysler, Niarchos, Houghton, and Harkness—and some modern titans as well: David Koch, Edgar Bronfman, Ron Perelman, Steve Mnuchin, Woody Johnson and the CEO of Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman. So exclusive they have denied Barbara Streisand, Neil Sedaka and multiple Russian billionaire oligarchs. Of the many amenities offered, the building refrigerates garbage to contain the odor
7) This Italian Renaissance landmark was completed in 1901 for the real-estate tycoon William Waldorf Astor who also owned and employed the same architect that deigned the dazzling Apthorp building. Both complexes feature lush interior courtyards, arched entryways, and iron gates but this residence fell into disrepair during the 1970s as the neighborhood crime skyrocketed. Numbers rackets and drug deals were conducted in hallways while apartments were operated as brothels. Two of its more noteworthy residents were Danny Glover and Hugh Masekela
8) This 27-story tall building is one of the neighborhood’s grandest apartment houses. The structure is known for its two iconic towers that are topped with Renaissance-style Corinthian temples crowned by 22-foot-high copper lanterns. Completed in 1930, it struggled with bankruptcy during the Great Depression but is now one of the most desirable and expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan with prices ranging from $3million to $75million. It’s famous residents include Demi Moore, Steven Spielberg, Donna Karan, Hedy Lamar, Steve Martin, Rita Hayworth, Dustin Hoffman, Glenn Close, Tiger Woods, and Steve Jobs (who later sold his penthouse to Bono)
9) This 19-story Grand Dame was completed in 1929 and features a grandiose carved limestone entrance that extends to the middle of the fifth floor. Equally elaborate are the floral-paneled parapets and the corner carving of a ram’s head. Past and current pennants include Samuel Newhouse, owner of Conde Nast Magazines, Lyman Bloomingdale, founder of Bloomingdale’s department store and TV broadcaster, Mike Wallace
10) This grandiose Gothic building was built in the early 20th century as artist lofts. Portrait artist Aaron Shikler produced work out apartment 4W for nearly a century— sculptor Karl Bitter, best known for creating the sculptural elements on the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art lived in Penthouse 13. The lower windows are decorated with ‘lacy arches’ over the windows while the very dramatic Gothic lobby is festooned with leaded glass windows, grand columns, groin-vaulted ceilings, pendant chandeliers and bronze statues
11) This distinctive low-rise building stands out among its high-rise neighbors. The Tudor style complex was designed and constructed by the Fred French Company in 1918. The French Company went on to build ‘Tudor City’ in the East 40s and became a ‘pioneer in penthouse living’ having successfully designed palatial apartments for his family atop 1010 Fifth Avenue and 1140 Fifth Avenue
12) This quirky entrance was the brainchild of architects and brothers George and Edward Blum whose unusual aesthetic sense and extensive use of decorative terra cotta yielded some of the most exceptional apartment houses in New York. The complex above is comprised of 320 apartments with a common garden
1) The Belnord at 225 West 86th Street
2) The Dakota at 1 West 72nd Street
3) 1185 Park Avenue
4) 998 Fifth Avenue
5) The Eldorado at 300 Central Park West
6) 740 Park Avenue
7) Graham Court at 1925 Seventh Avenue
8) The San Remo at 145 and 146 Central Park West
9) 730 Park Avenue
10) 44 West 77th Street
11) 370 Central Park West
12) Gramercy House at 235 East 22nd Street