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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

640 West End Avenue

Between Broadway & West End Avenue

84
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.
 

With its very large windows with limestone reveals, great copper cornice and imposing balconies, this 12-story building at 640 West End Avenue on the northeast corner at 91st Street is one of the most elegant pre-war apartment buildings in the city. 

Erected in 1912 and designed by Ralph S. Townsend. 

It was converted to a condominium in 1986. 

This building has 37 units. 

This is one of the most attractive areas along West End Avenue and is very convenient to Riverside Park and neighborhood shopping on Broadway.

Both sides of West End Avenue on the block south have only low-rise buildings.

 

Bottom Line

One of the handsomest pre-war buildings at the prime location on West End Avenue.

Description

The grey-brick building has a three-story rusticated limestone base with very handsome limestone balconies on the fourth floor and smaller balconies with garlands near the top. 

The building's two-step-up entrance on the side-street has no canopy but two polished granite columns and a very impressive broken pediment reveal around the second floor window above the entrance that leads to a small but handsome lobby. Canopies normally make a building appear more impressive, but here the absence of a canopy permits a better view of the impressive entrance, a reminder that many buildings have obscured their handsome entrances with canopies. 

The building, which permits protruding air-conditioners, is notable for its lush landscaping, much of which covers the lower portions of the building. 

Amenities

The building has a part-time doorman, a live-in superintendent, a bicycle room and permits cats and dogs.

Apartments

Apartments have 10-foot ceilings. 

Apartment 2B is a three-bedroom unit with a long entry foyer that leads to an 18-foot-long living room next to an 18-foot-dining room and a 9-foot-long angled and windowed kitchen and an angled and windowed 13-foot-long maid-'s room. 

Apartment 9A is a three-bedroom unit with a 21-foot-long entry foyer that leads past an 18-foot-long kitchen to a 18-foot-long dining room that adjoins at 20-foot-long living room. 

Apartment 12A is a two-bedroom unit with an entry foyer that leads to a 18-foot-long living/dining room and an open, 15-foot-wide kitchen with an island. 

Apartment 5P is a two-bedroom unit with a small entry foyer that opens onto a 18-foot-long living room and a 12-foot-long angled and windowed kitchen. 

Apartment 4C is a one-bedroom unit with a long entry foyer that leas to a 19-foot-long living room and a small dining room next to an 8-foot-long windowed kitchen.

History

Christopher Gray devoted much of his September 5, 1999 "Streetscapes" column at The New York Times to this building and its architect, Ralph S. Townsend. 

"The building at the northeast corner of 91st Street and Riverside Drive was designed by the architect-developer Ralph S. Townsend, who watched the Upper West Side grow from an area of open lots to one crowded with elevator apartments.... 

"Just after 1900, he began a string of midtown commissions for William R.S. Martin, an investor, including a highly decorated stable at 149 East 38th Street and the unusual double house at 122-124 East 38th Street. 

"At the same time, he did some robust neo-Renaissance apartment houses, like 194 Riverside Drive and 425 West End Avenue, which share the bold, tactile quality typical of his work. A peculiar commission came in 1903, when he designed the handsome fire escapes on the front of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, at 20 West 44th Street. 

"In 1906, Mr. Townsend designed the Kenilworth, at the northwest corner of 75th Street and Central Park West, a rich, red brick building with a mansard roof. It was when he controlled the project that he best realized a particular conception, for instance, the apartment house at 190 Riverside, which he both developed and designed in 1910. 

"This building, with two apartments on a floor, ironed out the flamboyant Victorianism seen in the Kenilworth and left only the suave Renaissance assurance comparable to contemporary town house designs. The limestone trim and sophisticated lobby decoration are rare for a West Side apartment house. 

"In 1912, he designed one of the best buildings on West End Avenue, No. 640, at the northeast corner of 91st Street, a work that is confident and serene, notable in a field where the pedestrian often dominated. Townsend also owned that building, and both 640 West End and 190 Riverside share unusually wide rear yards because of an old right of way that could not be built on. The two buildings, visible simultaneously from the south side of 91st Street, are not twins but exhibit a distinct kinship.... 

"Townsend later lived at both 640 West End Avenue and 190 Riverside Drive, and died in 1921."

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