This 40-story, Art Deco
tower would be one of the most distinguished buildings along Central
Park South were it not for its large rooftop sign that proclaims
its name. The sign unfortunately has been one of the city's worst
skyline blights for decades.
The hotel, which was designed
by Frank Grad, was originally called the Park Tower and then the
In their fine book, "New
York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between the World Wars,"
(Rizzoli, 1987), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas
Mellins noted that "there was little architectural rhetoric
in the design; so little in fact that the hotel erected a huge
illuminated sign on the roof to identify itself."
Of course, the Depression
was not a great time for luxury hotels. While it is true that
this building's massing and design is conservative, indeed, laid
back, it is nonetheless imposing in scale and appropriate for
its context. Moreover, the rich ornamentation of its base is impressive
and a good hint that the interiors might be special.
From the narrow sidewalk,
of course, the rooftop sign is not visible but the hotel's handsome
marquee and large Art Deco-style, gilded decorative elements along
its broad base are. They are merely flourishes but are quite dramatic.
The property has changed hands several times in recent decades
and now operates as both a hotel and a condominium.
Both the hotel, which until
2006 was operated by the Westin chain, and the apartments, now
in the "St. Regis Club" section of the building on the
19th through the 39th floors, share one of the most impressive
lobbies in the city. The lobby extends through to 58th Street
in a narrow, but handsome corridor along which are located the
elevators, which have handsome Art Deco-style cab doors. The broad
lobby facing the park has tasteful and comfortable seating and
exceedingly impressive black-marble columns of very distinctive
form. The ground floor also has a very large and handsome and
very expensive restaurant.
The tower was erected in
1930 and the condominium conversion was in 1974.
This block, between the
Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue, is the most elegant
on Central Park South as it boasts the great and distinctive mid-block
rooftops of the Trump Parc building and the Hampshire House and
the imposing Italian-Renaissance-palazzo-style New York Athletic
Club on the west end.
Like all Central Park South
buildings, this building has great vistas of Central Park and
the skylines of Upper Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. The
building has a doorman, several concierges, and a garage. Good
public transportation is nearby as well as excellent shopping
and numerous restaurants including one run by Alain Ducasse.
Historically, Central Park
South was for many decades a surprisingly unattractive location
despite its great location because of its narrow sidewalks, high
traffic, a proliferation of street people who patronized guests
at its many hotels and a lack of normal residential neighborhood
amenities. At the end of the 20th Century, however, its ambiance
improved significantly with the erection of several new luxury
towers nearby and the opening of new restaurants and a supermarket
not too far away and the long-delayed redevelopment of the New
York Coliseum site at its western terminus into the Time Warner
Center that opened in early 2004.
With the elegant stores
of Fifth Avenue and the boutiques of Madison Avenue nearby to
the east and the varied attractions of the Lincoln Center district
a few blocks away to the west, this location is very prime.
In the 1990s, Japan Airlines
spent more than $130 million in renovating the property and in
1999, Strategic Hotel Capital bought the Essex House for more
than $300 million and hired Starwood Hotels & Resorts to manage
In September, 2005, the
Dubai Investment Group paid $440 million to acquire the hotel
portion of the building, with 606 rooms and 9 of its 148 condominium
apartments and in early 2006 began a $50 million renovation program.
In a February 28, 2006 article
in The New York Post, Steve Cuozzo said that Frank van
der post, a senior vice president with Jumeirah, said that "no
more than 15 percent of guest rooms would be converted" to
condominiums, which would bring the total of such units in the
building to about 247.
The hotel marquee now proclaims
"Jumeriah Essex House" reflecting the fact that Jumeirah
Hospitality and Leisure has been designated by Dubai Investment
to manage the property. Jumeriah operates several properties in
the United Arab Emirates including the sensational Burj Al Arab
hotel in Dubai.
If the rooftop sign were
to be removed, this structure would be recognized as a very good
and handsome Art Deco skyscraper.