500 Fifth Avenue
At the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street is one of the classic New York skyscrapers of its period, known by its address of 500 Fifth Avenue. Shreve, Lamb & Harmon–the architects of the Empire State Building–designed the soaring Art Deco tower in 1930. It is 60 stories high.
Continuing west on 42nd Street, at 11 West 42nd Street is a building originally known as Salmon Tower. York & Sawyer, one of New York’s greatest architectural firms, designed the handsome building in 1926-27. It is especially noteworthy for the tile vaults of its lobby, produced by the renowned Guastavino firm, and for the bas-reliefs around its entrance, representing the months of the year. New York University occupies part of the building.
W.R. Grace Building
Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the travertine-and-glass W.R. Grace Building, with its dramatically sloping form, to the west in 1972. The site had been occupied from 1913 to 1970 by Stern’s department store, which moved here from 23rd Street in the “Ladies’ Mile” district. (After 1970, Stern’s, founded in New York City, was without a Manhattan presence until it opened its store in Manhattan Mall at Greeley Square.)
Bryant Park Building
In 1985, the architects Kohn Pedersen Fox remodeled York & Sawyer’s 1926 Bryant Park Building into the Home Box Office Building (HBO), at the northeast corner of the Avenue of the Americas and 42nd Street.
Avenue of the Americas
1095 Avenue of the Americas
The tall modern building on the Avenue of the Americas between 41st and 42nd streets was built in 1974 as the New York Telephone Building. Architects Kahn & Jacobs gave the building its marble “stripes” to echo the vertically striped treatment of the rear of the New York Public Library on the other side of Bryant Park. The building has been renamed 1095 Avenue of the Americas at Bryant Park, and current ownership is planning a major renovation including an extensive reskin of the exterior facade.
Bryant Park Studio Building
The distinctive building at the southeast corner of the Avenue of the Americas and 40th Street is known as the Bryant Park Studio Building. Charles Alonzo Rich designed the Beaux-Arts-style building in 1900-01 to contain artists’ studios, and over the years such notable artists as the photographer Edward Steichen and the painter Fernand Léger maintained studios in the building.
American Radiator Building
Raymond Hood and J. André Fouilhoux designed the most prominent building on the block, and one of the best-loved sksyscrapers in the city, the American Radiator Building of 1923-24. This romantic tower is of dark brick (an effect achieved by dipping the brick in manganese), and is topped with gold, so that when illuminated at night the building resembles a glowing radiator coil. Architect Hood, who died at the age of fifty-three in 1934, was one of the most influential skyscraper architects of the period, and directed the team of architects that designed the early buildings of Rockefeller Center. The American Standard Company later occupied the building, which has been converted by the architect David Chipperfield and the hotelier Brian McNally into the Bryant Park Hotel.
Knox Hat Building
John Hemenway Duncan (architect of Grant’s Tomb) designed one of midtown’s loveliest commercial buildings for the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 40th Street. The Knox Hat Building, erected in 1901-02, housed the retail store and offices of one of the country’s best-known manufacturers of men’s hats. Knox customers included Enrico Caruso, Alfred E. Smith, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller.
The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was built on the site of the old the Croton Reservoir, a popular strolling place that occupied a two-block section of Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. Following an open competition, the relatively unknown firm of Carrère and Hastings was selected to design and construct the new library. The result, regarded as the apogee of Beaux-Arts design, was the largest marble structure ever attempted in the United States. Before construction began, however, workers spent two years dismantling the reservoir and preparing the site. The cornerstone was finally laid in May 1902. The Library eventually opened nine years later in 1911.