745 FIFTH AVENUE
(formerly The Squibb Building)
Southeast corner at 58th Street
Developer: Abe N. Adelson
Architect: Buchman & Kahn
By Carter B. Horsley
34-story tower got a partial face-lift a few years ago when its
new owners, LaSalle Partners, accentuated its Art Deco beginnings
with a new facade base that attracted Bergdorf Goodman to expand
across the avenue to open a new men's store.
Thankfully, the face-lift did
not touch the building's very fine entrance and lobby, nor seriously
hurt the overall design of Buchman & Kahn, the architects
of some of the citys most important Art Deco buildings such
as the Film Center at 630 Ninth Avenue and 261 Fifth Avenue. Architect
Eli Jacques Kahn considered this building one of his best.
Lewis Mumford praised this
buildings restraint in 1931, noting that it was a
great relief after the fireworks, the Coney Island barking, the
theatrical geegaws that have been masquerading as le style moderne
around Manhattan during the last few years.
Very often the vestibule between
the entrance and lobby is relegated to rather pedestrian status,
but here it is noteworthy in its own right. The large space is
quite simple with abundant glass areas to permit views into its
bright main lobby with its well-done ceiling murals one of which
The vestibule here, shown below,
is graced by its bands of horizontal Art Deco light fixtures that
are delicate but emanate energy.
bright lobby itself is a bit antiseptic in its whiteness, but
the proportions and materials, luscious white marble and bronze,
are fine and the ceiling mural of a map of Manhattan by Arthur
Covey is excellent and colorful.
This is a solid and substantial
building, slightly reminiscent of Raymond Hood's Daily News Building
on West 42nd Street. The verticality of its facade treatment is
more complementary to the General Motors Building (see The City Review article) across 59th Street than it was to
that building's predessor on the site, the great Savoy Plaza Hotel,
and the rest of the Plaza enclave, but this building's formality
was not disruptive of that enclave's great, elegant ambiance.
The remodeled base of the building
applies Art Deco-like elements that are not as strong as entrance
grill, but which are unfussy and fairly restrained. Circles are
framed in squares at the top of the remodeling and while curves
are not prominent elsewhere in the buildings design, these
are well contained. While these appliqués stop short of
being gaudy, they do not have the substance of the original entrance
grill work and detailing, shown at the right, but one cannot be
too critical of elements that induced Bergdorf Goodman (see The City Review article) to expand across the avenue, which
was very important for the city. The elegant store took over the
space formerly occupied by the famous F.A.O. Schwarz toy store
that moved across 58th Street into the General Motors Building,
where it has had great success and expanded.
This building and the others
now on the same blockfront on avenue replaced the French chateau-style
"Marble Row" of townhouses in 1930. The houses had been
designed by Robert Mook and built between 1867 and 1869 for Mrs.
Isaac Jones, the wife of the president of the Chemical Bank who
was known as Mary Mason Jones. In his book, "Fifth Avenue,
The Best Address," (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.,
1998), Jerry E. Patterson noted that Mrs. Jones was the aunt of
novelist Edith Wharton by marriage and "she makes an unforgettable
appearance as Mrs. Mingott in "The Age of Innocence."
The Marble Row houses were considered among the city's most elegant.