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Carter's View

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission today designated the Manhattan House apartment building on the full block bounded by Third and Second Avenues and 65th and 66th Streets as an individual landmark.

It also designated the Lord & Taylor Department Store building at 424-434 Fifth Avenue as a individual landmark.

The development, shown at the right, was erected the New York Life Insurance Company in 1950 and contains more than 580 apartments, many with balconies. 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 mammoth development 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 superb 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...."

"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.

New York Life Insurance Company sold the property in 2005 to Manchester Real Estate, of which Mr. Kalikow and Mr. O'Connor were principals, for about $625 million.

According to the October 11, 2007 second amendment to the condominium offering plan for the development, Mr. Kalikow is longer a principal of the plan's sponsor and Mr. O'Connor is the sole principal.

The amendment indicated that the current total purchase price for tenants for about $958 million.

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

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.

The commissioned noted that Manhattan House attracted tenants such as Benny Goodman and Frank Hardart, co-founder of the Automat restaurant chain, "elevated whiter brick as a fashionable building material and popularized balconies, green spaces and driveways in many new residential high rises constructed in New York City after World II.

The 10-story Lord & Taylor building on the northwest corner at 38th Street was completed in 1914 and according to the commission was "embraced by critics of the day for having fewer ornamental flourishes and details than earlier department stores in New York. It was designed by Starrett & Van Vleck and is notable for its deep bracketed copper cornice. In addition, commission chairman Robert Tierney noted that its store "windows are on the must-see list of virtually every visitor to New York City during the holiday season."
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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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