Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Park Avenue to Madison Avenue

Park Avenue is much wider than other avenues to accomodate the railroad tracks leading out from Grand Central Terminal. The little islands are graced with seasonal plantings, a program brought to fruition many years ago by philanthropist Mary Lasker, who did not live on Park Avenue, but on Beekman Place, to the southeast. The Avenue is at its best during tulip season.
On the southeast corner, in a black, glassy building you can find Sherle Wagner, This luxury bath design store filled the needs of the very rich for eye-popping fixtures a generation before Waterworks (see earlier post) This store still produces alabaster sinks and gold faucets for those who can pay for them. Here's a typical (can you really call it a) "sink," in the window.

In the same building, a few steps to the east, is Suarez handbags. And there's another slot of "open" space with a few benches.

Tod's shoes is currently occupying temporary space at 50 East 57th Street, behind a wooden-framed display window.

A row of 5 houses, much altered, appear to date from the time that this part of 57th Street began to be developed as an elegant residential area. Bucellati, a jeweler at #46 whose creations I imagine appeal to those whose bathrooms are by Sherle Wagner, is renovating, but there is plenty of bling to be looked at in Jacob & Co., at #48.

The building has been undergone a sleek, stripped-down renovation, in contrast to its neighbors, #44, a Gothic Revival structure housing Dalva Brothers antiques and the Italianate fantasy at #40 housing Audemars Piguet.

Turnbull and Asser, the famous English tailor and shirtmaker, is at #42 in this row.

And then there's Victoria's Secret, one of many branches, whose catalogue has replaced Playboy in the hearts, minds and hands of adolescent boys. The store is a bit low-end for this stretch of 57th Street.

On the northern side of the street is the Four Seasons Hotel, designed primarily by I.M. Pei, built in the 1990s and soon to house an iteration of Joel Rebuchon's Atelier, his first venture in NYC. This is an impressive, but cold building.

If you want warmth, look further east to the Fuller Building, at 41 East 57th, a designated NYC Landmark, including the ground floor lobby. Coach is renovating its store. (There is quite a bit of renovation going on at this end of 57th Street, an indication that the economy is good, at least at the high end. When you start to see empty stores on 57th Street or Madison Avenue, it's already too late to worry. It means that times are tough, even for the rich.)

So much of the building is under wraps that it is difficult to appreciate it at the moment, but it is a beauty.
If there can be such a thing as Baroque Art Deco, this is it. The 57th Street entrance: It was built in 1929 to the designs of Walker & Gillette. This building used to have so many galleries that it was possible to spend an entire afternoon just going from floor to floor. A few remain. In the 1970s, many galleries decamped to the fomer light manufacturing area that became known as SoHo, a designated NYC historic. district. (Before that, it was an important shopping area, in the mid-19th century.)

By the 1920s, this part of 57th Street was well-established as an art and interior design district, the galleries, studio buildings, antique stores and interior designers having followed the extremely rich people who had started building mansions nearby, on Fifth Avenue. The pattern was the opposite of what we are now used to seeing -- poor artists moving into a cheap, run-down neighborhood, followed by galleries to display their work, followed by other stores to sell to people who can afford to buy the art and other merchandise, finally followed by rich people who have decided they like the artistic neighborhood.

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