Just north of where Park Avenue officially begins, on the west side of the street, stands the Broadwall Residences, a 22-storey full block apartment building at the corner of 33rd Street. According to the building management company, there are only studios and one-bedroom apartments in this luxury rental, which makes sense given that the building was once the Vanderbilt Hotel (4 Park Avenue).

The Vanderbilt family is responsible for much of Park Avenue as we know it, being the principal investors behind Grand Central, which changed the street most drastically. Although we often think of Park Avenue as being north of Grand Central (and Park Avenue South as being to the south), the original start of the avenue, going as far back as 1860, was the former home of J.P Morgan’s business partner, Robert Baron. Baron's mansion was known for years as No. 1 Park Avenue,  but in 1924 the the street was extended two blocks further south, making his residence No. 7. The Vanderbilt became No. 4.

Built in 1913, this former hotel was designed by the New York firm of Warren and Wetmore, who rose to prominence for their New York Yacht Club. They had also worked on Grand Central Terminal. The building was commissioned by Alfred Vanderbilt as a residential hotel for the ultra-wealthy, freeing them from the “burden” of keeping servants. Alfred himself moved from the family mansion to take the top two floors.

The building is a terra cotta gem that received many accolades upon completion. Unfortunately, much of the ornament at the base of the building was removed in the ‘60s, replaced with plain glass storefront and travertine to showcase the ground floor retail. However, the brilliant roof remains the same; most of the decorative heads are intact. Also, to allow for more interior lighting, the building is set back in two light courts on the Park Avenue façade, but rather than look dull and ominous as is often the case with similar attempts, the effect here creates a wonderful rhythm to the façade. Near the roof, to provide additional support, lacy bridging spans the courts that are themselves buttressed by bare-breasted figures with arms raised in support.

Tags: look-up, new-york
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