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Carter's View

From Archives Manhattan House being sold
By Carter Horsley Tuesday, August 16, 2005
One of the most influential post-war buildings in New York City, Manhattan House at 200 East 66th Street, is being sold by the New York Life Insurance Company to Manchester Real Estate, which is headed by N. Richard Kalikow, and O'Connor Capital Partners, which is headed by Jeremiah W. O'Connor Jr.

The development was erected in 1950 and contains more than 580 apartments, many with balconies.

A spokesperson for O'Connor Capital Partners confirmed the pending sale.

According to an article by Lois Weiss in The New York Post August 5, 2005, the winning bid for the property was about $625 million, or "$1.072 million per apartment, the most ever paid." Her article said it would be expected that the new owners "would 'work' lower rents up, while filing for a condo conversion."

Manhattan House marked the beginning of the age of "white-brick monstrosities" in the eyes of some observers and the first big splash of International Style modernity in the city to others.

The 19-story development, which occupies the full block between Third and Second Avenues and 65th and 66th Streets, actually is clad in a light gray-brick, but, niceties aside, it presented a "clean," "neat," almost Spartan appearance in distinct contrast to the historical styles of earlier periods and the Art Deco stylizations of the 1920s and 1930s.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Mayers & Whittlesley, it was, according to Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman in their book, "New York 1960 Architecture and Urbanism Between The Second World War And The Bicentennial," (The Monacelli Press, 1995), "the most literal manifestation in New York of Le Corbusier's postwar conception of vertical living, which the master himself was not to realize until 1952 in his Unit?'Habitation at Marseilles."

"Together with elegantly thin window frames of white-painted metal and carefully detailed balconies," the authors continued, "the glazed brick rendered Manhattan House a genteel manifesto for architecture's brave new world, a reassuring statement that Modernist minimalism had more than cost benefits. In addition, the slab offered a distinct contrast with its mundane surroundings: the still-functioning Third Avenue El and its immediate neighbors, mostly old- and new-law tenements. To protect the building's flanks, New York Life [Insurance Company, the developer acquired the row of tenements on the north side of Sixty-sixth Street, renovated their interiors and painted the facades a tasteful dark gray trimmed in white. The insurance company also protected its investment and views by erecting a low-rise commercial structure that included the Beekman movie theater at 1254 Second Avenue across from Manhattan House."

Air-conditioning was not included when it was completed, although the building has since allowed protruding air-conditioners.

Gordon Bunshaft, the principal architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the project, took an apartment for himself at Manhattan House and at one time Grace Kelly, the actress, also rented an apartment.

The building, which has a roof deck, has five projecting bays, each with two balconies and its entrances are along a curved driveway on 66th Street, which is lushly landscaped and the lobbies have floor-to-ceiling windows that permit views from the driveway through to the development's large gardens on the south side, that are walled from 65th Street. A one-story commercial base along Third Avenue originally housed a large Longchamps restaurant that had its own outdoor terrace facing the gardens.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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