(Formerly Chickering Hall)

Developer: Chickering Pianos

Architect: Cross & Cross

Erected: 1924

Top of building with great caryatids

By Carter B. Horsley

This 13-story building was erected by a piano manufacturer, but is not really competition for the larger and far more opulent and extravagant Steinway Building further to the west on 57th Street. Its caryatids, however, are marvelous as shown in the photograph above.

Ornate office building at 29 West 57th Street is to left of sloping skyscraperIn the very handsome book, "New York From The Air," (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998), John Tauranac writes that this building, shown at the left, "was the headquarters of the American Piano Company, which manufactured its own line of pianos and held a controlling interest in the companies Knabe, Chickering, and Mason & Hamlin." "Relief medals representing the 'Cross of the Legion of Honor" that Chickering won in Paris in 1867 were installed on the roofline. The medals served the double function of masking the housing for the elevators, while nettling Steinway down the block," Tauranac noted.

History has been good to this building, as the plaza and slope of the skyscraper immediately adjacent to the east, 9 West 57th Street (see The City Review article), gave it greater exposure, and its original dark masonry has been painted white making it a far brighter urban object.

What really singles this building out, of course, is its very ornate decoration and regilding of not only its quite mysterious and elegant rooftop caryatids but also its spandrels.

Despite such gaudiness, however, the overall effect of the decoration and gilding is quite irrepressible and its bold ornamentation is all the more lovable because of its juxtaposition with its Goliath, sleek, but somber, skyscraper neighbor. How can you not like an underdog? Chickering Hall was formerly located at 437 Fifth Avenue where it maintained a recital hall.

The wonderful statues at the top are also visible from 58th Street.

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