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55 Central Park West

At The Southwest corner of West 66th Street

85
Carter Horsley
Review by Carter Horsley
Carter Horsley Carter B. Horsley, a former journalist for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Post. Mr. Horsley is also the editorial director of CityRealty.com.
 

One of the city's authentic and important Art Deco gems, this 20-story apartment house is noted for its rakish, fluted finials and its subtle shading of bricks, which range from dark red at the base to pale beige at the top.

It was built by Earle and Calhoun on a site formerly occupied by a 9-story apartment building.

Designed by Schwartz & Gross, this 109-unit cooperative apartment building was completed in 1930.

The same architects also designed 101, 241 and 336 Central Park West.

Bottom Line

This fine Art Deco residential skyscraper at a major Central Park transverse road is very memorable in its Art Deco design quality of soaring pinnacles.

Description

All of the setbacks have protruding vertical design elements that are also placed around the building above the ground floor. These elements rise towards the center of the park-facing façade from one-story to three stories in height, mirroring the top of the building, which has its centrally placed watertank in a decorative tower. 

The building has a very distinctive entrance marquee with metal vertical elements that mirror some of the façade elements. 

"It romanticized modern imagery so unabashedly that it might have been drawn by Hugh Ferriss. Everything about it - the stepped tower form, the façade overlaid with a pattern of vertical bands, the stylized fluting, like vestigial wings on the top stories - focused upward. The structure seemed to celebrate the height it achieved; this impression was reinforced even by the coloring of the brickwork, shaded in tones from red at the base to pale tan at the top - forty different hues of earth colors, Lewis Mumford reported - done, it was said, to create the illusion that the sun was always shining on the building," observed Elizabeth Hawes in her excellent book, "New York, New York How The Apartment House Transformed The Life Of The City (1869-1930)," An Owl Book, Henry Holt, 1993. 

The architects, she continued, "were the first to treat the apartment house as a unified whole from sidewalk to summit." 

"The building rose on its own like an organic growth, unencumbered by demarcations of house line or balustrades or cornices. Even the stylized portal blended into the surface....It was a twentieth-century habitat in which form, height, and light, all by-products of the new technology, counted most. 

"Old architectural habits had been sloughed off much as the skin of old social habits. Inside the apartments, there was evidence of an honest and economical mind at work. The gracious basics were there - a large entrance gallery, a living room, bedrooms, good closets, maid's rooms - but no hall, no extras, no surprises, no conspicuous waste, no historical debris.... 

"The building at 55 Central Park West was neither the most sophisticated nor the most explicit example of the modern ideology to appear at the end of the twenties, but the very naivete of its winged setbacks and soaring water tower made it the most passionate," Ms. Hawes wrote. 

The building has sidewalk landscaping.

Amenities

The building has a 24-hour doorman, a bicycle room, a children’s playroom, storage and is pet friendly.

Apartments

Apartments have two-step-down sunken living rooms and false fireplaces. 

The penthouse duplex has three-bedrooms on the 19th floor with a private landing and staircase that leads to a 30-foot-long dining room that opens onto a 27-foot-long living room with a fireplace and a 17-foot-long family/media room next to a 13-foot-long informal dining room off the 20-foot-long, windowed kitchen adjacent to an 11-foot-long, windowed study.  A 37-foot-long gallery on this floor, which has a narrow wrap-around terrace, leads to the bedrooms and the master bedroom has a fireplace. The 20th floor has a 19-foot-wide pavilion that leads to a 16-foot-wide conservatory that leads to an 18-foot-wide, fourth bedroom with a fireplace.  This level has a 53-foot-long south terrace and a 33-foot-long east terrace. 

Apartment 17D is a three-bedroom unit with an entry foyer that turns into a 23-foot-long gallery that leads to a 24-foot-long living room and an 18-foot-wide dining room that leads to an angled 12-foot-wide kitchen with a 7-foot-wide, windowed breakfast area and a 13-foot-wide, angled maid’s room. 

Apartment 5E is a two-bedroom unit with a 17-foot-wide entrance gallery that leads in one direction to a 26-foot-long living room with a fireplace and in the other direction to a 17-foot-long dining room next to a 15-foot-side kitchen and 8-foot-wide maid’s room. 

Apartment 7D is a two-bedroom unit with a 14-foot-wide entrance gallery that leads to a 24-foot-long sunken living room and in another direction to a 20-foot-long dining room, a pantry, an 11-foot-wide maid’s room and a 13-foot-wide windowed kitchen. 

Apartment 18D is a two-bedroom unit with a 9-foot-long entry foyer that leads to a 13-foot-long dining room that opens onto a 22-foot-long living room that opens onto a long terrace.  The unit has a 17-foot-wide, windowed kitchen. 

Apartment 12 G is a one-bedroom unit with a 20-foot-long living room that leads to a 44-foot-long wraparound terrace and an 8-foot-wide kitchen. 

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