41 EAST 57th STREET
Developer: The Fuller Construction Company
Architect: Walker & Gillette
By Carter B. Horsley
This slender, 40-story skyscraper, shown above,
is an understated and refined Art Deco masterpiece and an important
innovator in mixed-use design.
The tower's lower floors were designed specifically
for art galleries with high ceilings and since its opening many
of the city's leading art dealers have been tenants. These lower
floors sport their own distinct facade, shown below, different
from the rest of the setback tower that is used for offices.
Because of its prominent site and fine design,
the building was an important anchor and magnet for the art world
along 57th Street for several decades until some galleries defected
first north on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side and then
south to SoHo scattering the city's art markets.
The tower's proportions are very elegant and
its crown of balconies and banded setbacks with a small geometric
cap is one, shown above, of the handsomest in the city.
The lobby has attractive mosaic floors, shown
below, that depict some of the developer's famous buildings, including
this one and also the Fuller Building at the intersection of Fifth
Avenue and Broadway and 23rd Street, which is better known as
the Flatiron Building. The elevator doors in the lobby have very
attractive bas-reliefs on construction themes.
A recent renovation added some Art Deco-style
light fixtures that are adequate but not up to the excellent front
The main entrance on 57th Street is marked
by a three-story portal whose pilasters are surmounted by the
name of the building, a sculpted skyline and two figures by Elie
Nadelman flanking a clock.
A glass screen at the top of the entrance vestibule
cleverly provides better protection from the elements while permitting
more natural lighting and a greater sense of penetration. It is
topped by a lovely Art Deco bronze sculpture of a bird with raised
wings. The building also has an entrance on Madison Avenue.
With the completion in 1993 of the Four Seasons
Hotel (see The City Review article) on
the same block on 57th Street, the splendid isolation and high
visibility of the Fuller Building's tower has been compromised
and overwhelmed, but not conquered. Fortunately, the much larger
and taller Four Seasons has set its tower further back on its
through-block site so that views from the east of the Fuller Building
are not entirely lost. Given the costliness of such real estate,
it was unreasonable to hope that skyline prominence would endure
forever. Yet it is unfortunate for such a noble tower as the Fuller
Building to have to suffer the affront of upperfloormanship from
such a new upstart, even if it is a lavish one.
In 2005, the owners of the building announced
that they planned to convert the upper floors of the building
to residential condominiums.