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Prospect Tower, 45 Tudor City Place: Review and Ratings

between East 42nd Street & East 43rd Street View Full Building Profile

Carter Horsley
Review of 45 Tudor City Place by Carter Horsley

The Tudor City complex, which its developer called "a city within a city," was created by Fred Fillmore French starting in 1925 when he assembled six blockfronts along Prospect Place, a small north-south street west of First Avenue that was lined most with brownstones.

According to a May 15, 1994 article by Christopher Gray in The New York Times, Mr. French had previously erected some luxury residential buildings such as 1140 Fifth Avenue "where he built a squash court into his own roof duplex and then 1010 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street, where he occupied the penthouse apartment with a huge roof garden."

"By 1927 he began construction on the largest single residential project New York had yet seen. By 1932 he had finished nine big apartment houses and a hotel with a total of 2,800 units that soon accommodated 4,500 residents," according to Mr. Gray.

The enclave surrounds two gardens on either side on the bluff at the end of 42nd Street.

According to Mr. Gray's article, the south garden was at first a miniaturized 18-hole golf course and "around 1950, 42nd Street was widened to produce a near-boulevard leading to the United Nations, over the protests of the French Company" and "at that time the parks were narrowed and redesigned by J. J. Levison, a landscaped designer who denatured them by removing most of their English-style accessories."

Harry B. Helmsley acquired the complex in 1970 and announced plans to build two apartment buildings on the site of the gardens, setting off a long controversy when a court ruled against the proposal.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the complex and the gardens a landmark in 1988 after a coop conversion of most of the buildings by Francis Greenberger and Philip Pilevsky.

The area was once dominated by tenements near a power plant and slaughterhouses along the river and was known as "Goat Hill" and later "Prospect Hill" and then "Corcoran s Roost." Eventually it became known as a haven for waterfront thieves including the Rag Gang in the late 19th Century.

The architecture is more neo-Gothic than Tudor.

The buildings along Prospect Place have very few windows that face east because of the stench of the slaughterhouses and the lack of architectural distinction across the East River. The views that face west, however, boast spectacular vistas of midtown.

In a May 13, 1988 article in The New York Times David W. Dunlap observed that the complex consisted of "rather simple brick apartment buildings to which an exuberant profusion of limestone ornament was applied top and bottom - the Tudor rose and heraldic arms, portcullises, griffins and boar's heads" and quoted Anne Lowenstein, the co-chairman of the Historic Preservation Committee of the Tudor City Association as claiming that "the embellishments are so humanizing," adding that "they bring it down too a human scale and give it a warmth and character."

"Between the decorative elements, otherwise simple walls were animated by multiple-pane casement windows and expanses of leaded and stained glass, many contained within complex and delicate traceries," Mr. Dunlap wrote, reporting that the landmarks commission had declared the complex a landmark by a vote of 8 to 0.

Mr. Dunlap said that the complex was built under the supervision of the architect H. Douglas Ives.

Tudor Tower at 25 Tudor City Place and Prospect Tower at 45 Tudor City Place are both 22 stories tall. Hatfield House at 304 West 41st Street is 15 stories tall. Hardwick Hall at 314 East 41st Street, Haddon Hall at 324 East 41st Street, Essex House at 325 East 41st Street, The Cloister at 321 East 43rd Street, the Manor at 333 East 43rd Street and The Hermitage at 330 East 43rd Street are 11 stories tall.

Windsor tower, which has 799 apartments, is 25 stories high.

The tallest building in the complex is Woodstock Tower at 328 East 42nd Street which is 32 stories tall.

The removal of the large illuminated 30 by 50-foot "Tudor City" sign atop 45 Tudor City Place which is known as Prospect Tower was requested by the building's co-op board but the landmarks commission unanimously said it could not be removed. A November 20, 1985 article in The New York Times by Christopher Gray noted that a January 1929 photograph showed signs on top of Prospect Tower and Tudor Tower but that four years later another photographer showed that the sign atop Tudor Tower had been removed.

In the new millennium Sheldon H. Solow and other investors bought property along the East River to the south of Tudor City from Con Edison with the intention of development another major complex that would contain several thousand apartments and a major office buildings that would establish an unbroken connection with the residential projects around the Queens Midtown Tunnel approach at 35th Street. Mr. Solow eventually bought out his other investors, but by 2011 had not yet started construction.

Prospect Tower has 403 apartments of one and two rooms and the two top floors have duplex studios. It is also known as 351 East 42nd Street, 350 East 43rd Street.

The building is a symmetrical, tripartite tower faced with brick and trimmed with pale yellow colored sandstone and terra cotta. The small, central pavilion has a large cartouche depicting a windmill on a checkerboard field framed with lions, an eague, and the word "Veritas."

The complex was declared a city landmark in 1988.

The landmark commission's description of the building said that "among the other notable decorative features are the pointed-arched plaque, to the left of the entrance, which includes the seal of New York, the name of the building, and mythological and aquatic forms; the recessed entrance with adjacent stained glass in Tudor-arched windows; shields with Tudor roses set below crowns; office doors with large metal hinge brackets; original casement windows, including some with diamond-shaped, leaded glass; spandrels with Tudor roses and portcullises; and animals carrying shields."

The three floors above the arched canopied entrance have two three-story sections of multi-paned windows separated by quatrefoil spandrels with projecting three-story-high frames.

The complex, which was built as a rental development, is bounded by First Avenue and Second Avenues and 44th and 40th Streets. It has 12 buildings that range in height from 10 to 32 stories and about 3,000 apartments and 600 hotel rooms.

The east façades of the buildings were built with few windows to blank out the tenement neighborhood that then existed.

The commission's description noted that:

"Forty-second Street, which runs through a tunnel beneath Tudor City, forms the dividing line between two old neighborhoods called Kip's Bay, after a farm owned by Jacobus Kip, and Turtle Bay, settled in 1677 by the De Voor family. A creek called the Saw Kill ran between the De Voor and Kip farms to the East River. The eastern opening was shaped like a Turtle.

"In the mid-19th-century the eastern end of 42nd Street was a shantytown in a location known as Dutch Hill. About a thousand squatters lived in one-room shacks there until the 1870s when the city bulldozed them and had developers build tenement buildings and brownstones in their place. The East River was lined with stockyards, breweries, tanneries, slaughterhouses and abatoirs, with the accompanying filth and odor.

"The cliff upon which Tudor City sits became known in the 1880s as Corcoran's Bluff or Corcoran's Roost, named for a lawless gang called Corcoran's Roosters who occupied a brownstone at 317 East 40th Street. By the 1890s, the east end of the forties was known as Abattoir Center."

The commission's summary also noted that:

"A pioneering venture in private urban renewal, Tudor City is an early and eminently successful attempt to implement the principles of Garden City planning in a high density urban environment.

"The significance of Tudor City to the architectural history of New York is multi-faced. It stands as the well-conceived descendant and culmination of the 'communal' complexes which began, in New York, with such projects as the Home Buildings in Cobble Hill. Tudor City insured the return to middle-class respectability of midtown's East Aide, which had begun with Sutton Place and Beekman Terrace. Similarly, Tudor City became the most extravagant example of Tudor Revival architecture - a tradition which moved during the early twentieth century from suburban mansions to urban apartment buildings....That Tudor City has been emulated in later developments across the country is testimony to its importance. As a model for apartment building complexes with a distinct 'sense of place,' Tudor City inspired Knickerbocker Village, built by the French Company and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, as well as First Houses and Harlem River Houses, both designated New York City landmarks, and Battery Park City."

"The assemblage of property," the commission summary continued, "accomplished in a very short time, was the largest site amassed in Manhattan until that time....The Tudor skyline of the complex is complemented at ground level by human-scaled spaces, fine ornament, and a series of stained glass windows ranging from those with lightly tinted non-figural designs to scenes depicting the history of New York."

The commission's report noted that "the complex's advertising campaign lured New Yorkers with a long list of amenities: restaurants and shops, gymnasium and bowling lanes, babysitting service, permanent taxi stand, drugstore, laundry and valet service, parking garage, circulating library and kindergarten, lounge rooms and radio repair service."

"By avoiding interior courts," it continued, "the design maximized the amount of light and air for the simple apartments. These units often accommodated two fold-out (so-called 'Murphy') beds, two closets, a kitchenette, and a bathroom in a small, but efficiently arranged area."

The report said that that it was "strange" that an advertisement for the development said that "some time later, after the buildings on 43rd Street and 41st Street and the two blocks on Prospect place have been fully rented, these parks will be developed into possibly forty-story hotels." It added that "this scheme was abandoned when the French Company realized how important the parks were to prospective tenants."

The south park had a small 18-hole golf course with a water hazard, nighttime illuminations and a professional golf instructor. In 1930, however, a miniature course was opened on the southwest corner of 41st Street and Prospect Place permitted the south park to be development similar to the north park.

In 1970, Harry B. Helmsley bought much of the complex and planned to erect apartment towers on the park sites but the City Planning Commission approved a transfer of air-rights agreement that was also approved by the Board of Estimate to preserve the parks. The State Court of Appeals, however, ruled in 1978 against any such air-rights transfer and in 1982 the District Rent Office ruled that the parks constituted essential services for the complex's 1,200 rent-controlled tenants, a ruling upheld two years later by the State Supreme Court. Mr. Helmsley subsequently sold his interests.

Rating

31
Out of 44

Architecture Rating: 31 / 44

+
32
Out of 36

Location Rating: 32 / 36

+
16
Out of 39

Features Rating: 16 / 39

+
8
=
87

CityRealty Rating Reference

 
Architecture
  • 30+ remarkable
  • 20-29 distinguished
  • 11-19 average
  • < 11 below average
 
Location
  • 27+ remarkable
  • 18-26 distinguished
  • 9-17 average
  • < 9 below average
 
Features
  • 22+ remarkable
  • 16-21 distinguished
  • 9-15 average
  • < 9 below average
  • #12 Rated co-op - Midtown
  • #2 Rated co-op - Turtle Bay/United Nations
 
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