THE FULLER BUILDING

41 EAST 57th STREET

Developer: The Fuller Construction Company

Architect: Walker & Gillette

Erected: 1929

Fuller Building seen from the south on Madison Avenue

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.

Base of Fuller Building

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.

57th Street lower facade

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.

Top of Fuller Building

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.

Floor mosaic depiction of building near elevators

A recent renovation added some Art Deco-style light fixtures that are adequate but not up to the excellent front entrance.

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.

spandrel

Spandrel

In 2005, the owners of the building announced that they planned to convert the upper floors of the building to residential condominiums.

 

 

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