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Rutherford Place, 305 Second Avenue

Between East 17th Street & East 18th Street

Carter Horsley
Reviewed 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.
 

Formerly the New York Lying-In Hospital, this delightful and very distinguished building, which was designed by Robert Henderson Robertson, was erected in 1902 and converted to condominiums in 1986, but operated as a rental building until 2006.

Robertson had designed the 391-foot-high Park Row Building in 1886 that was for nine years the world's tallest building. He also designed the American Tract Society Building at 150 Nassau Street in 1894 and the New York Savings Bank Building in 1897 at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street.

An eclectic mix of neo-Classical and Italian Renaissance-styles, this building is grandly imposing despite its height of only 9 stories.

The lower three floors are finely rusticated as are some of the multi-story pilasters. The wide, arched, double-story entrance is flanked by handsome columns. The top two floors have a small tower setback at the sides capped with a large pediment with an oculus above an arched window.

The building, one of the most attractive in the Gramercy Park/Flatiron/Murray Hill area, is distinguished by a very ornate and lovely entrance with a large fan window and a marble, 30-foot-high lobby that still has a tablet inscribed with the Hippocratic Oath that was originally unveiled by J. P. Morgan, the financier who was a parishioner at St. George's Church nearby on Rutherford Place.

In their superb book, "The A. I. A. Guide to New York City," (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), Elliot Wilensky and Norval White wrote that "Swaddled babies lurk in laurel wreaths in the spandrels. Otherwise, this bland neo-Renaissance block is boring until one reaches the top where a Palladian crown surmounts it all."

"Architects of the turn of the century, concerned about the idea of a New York skyline, occasionally neglected the pedestrian, spending all their efforts - and money- against the sky," the authors continued.

By today's standards, of course, this is not a bland building.

An exploded palazzo with fine detailing, this is a superb conversion, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, of a former hospital building, an example that sadly has not been widely followed in the city. St. Vincent's Hospital demolished a very fine Georgian-style building on Seventh Avenue at 11th Street and Mt. Sinai Hospital demolished several fine Georgian-style buildings, both at about the same time as this conversion and an even grander Georgian-style building at Bellevue hospital has long been marked for demolition despite the fact that it is the most attractive building in that neighborhood.

In the early part of the century, public buildings such as hospitals and schools were proud structures that reflected civic pride and the City Beautiful and American Renaissance movements that were sparked in large part by the great Colombian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Sadly much of that great heritage has been lost.

This building also fronts on Stuyvesant Square Park, one of the city's nicest. The park, which is bounded by 17th and 15th Streets and Rutherford and Nathan Perlman places, is divided by Second Avenue. It is similar to the nearby and more famous Gramercy Park, but is not locked to the public as is Gramercy Park.

This 122-unit building is convenient, of course, not only to the Gramercy Park and Union Square districts, but also to the Flatiron District and the East Village. Cross-town buses run on 14th Street where there are also express subway stations at Union Square. This area abounds in many attractive restaurants.

Win Chamberlin, a principle of Orb Development, which is managing the property and was a sponsor of the condominium offering plan, has stated that "fortunately, most of the intricate detail work" in the lobby "was intact," noting that "the rosette window over the entrance was warped, but functional still."

The pet-friendly building has a full-time doorman, a roof deck, a bicycle room, and an ATM in the lobby. Each apartment has a different layout and some units have ceilings as high as 17 feet and some are duplexes and some are triplexes.

Kitchens have under-counter halogen task lighting, SubZero refrigerators, Bosch dishwashers, Dacor convection/microwave ovens, Viking ranges, and Poggenpohl European cherry cabinets. The building lies within the Stuyvesant Park Historic District.

Many apartments have curved rooms.

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