By Carter B. Horsley
This impressive and important 28-story, orange-brick
building was erected in 1941 and has 321 rental apartments.
It was designed by Mayer & Whittlesley,
an architectural firm that also designed the same year the 22-story
apartment building at 40 Central Park South that has a similar
but even more striking roof. The same architects were also co-designers
with M. Milton Glass of 220 Central Park West in 1954. All three
buildings extend through the block to 58th Street.
According to Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins
and David Fishman, in their superb book, "New York 1960 Architecture
and Urbanism Between The Second World War And The Bicentennial,"
(The Monacelli Press, 1995), this building was "the first
Manhattan apartment house to make extensive use of balconies."
The authors noted that this building replaced the "Dalhousie
(1884), a pioneering apartment house."
In "New York 1930 Architecture and Urbanism
Between The Two World Wars" (Rizzoli International Publications
Inc., 1987), Mr. Stern, Mr. Mellins and Gregory Gilmartin made
the following commentary about this building:
"The era's last example of the courtyard
apartment house was 240 Central Park South. Despite the limitations
of the courtyard, the contextually responsible design was a superb
restatement in Modernist terms of the River House parti.
[It] occupied a complex point of transition in the city, fronting
Central Park South, Columbus Circle, the diagonal of Broadway,
and West Fifty-eighth Street, each of which had its own distinct
character ranging from one that can be likened to the Champs Elysées
at the Etoile to another resembling a quiet backwater at the edge
of a big city. It was not its bland facades that lent 240 Central
Park South distinction but rather the shaping of its two towers,
particularly the northern one, in response to the complex perimeter
of the site. Aspects of the courtyard apartment building were
combined with those of the skyscraper apartment building to establish
both a horizontal and vertical reflection of the city's composition.
Terraces began only above the level of the trees in Central Park
(high enough to be free of the fumes from the street); roofs were
set back not only to conform to zoning requirements but also in
consideration of solar orientation and views; and chimneys and
mechanical equipment combined with the penthouse suites to produce
a lively skyline. At the street level the building respected the
varied nature of its local: a deep, planted courtyard on Central
Park South creates an elegant pocket of shade, while a vigorous
one-story commercial strip along Broadway used curved corners
to define the diagonal of the street. The building succeeded not
as a tour de force of dazzling aesthetics but as an exemplar of
humane values applied to the problem of high-density city living
and as a finely tuned instrument of urbanism. Both a fragment
of the city's fabric and a notably individual statement, it was
a synthetic work that was at once infill and icon."
Apartments facing north in this highly visible
building have spectacular views, but seen from the west the south
tower seems a somewhat ungainly afterthought and the one-story
retail spaces that connect them along Broadway almost seem crushed
by their weight and would have been more effective as if it were
somewhat taller. While no match for the some of the limestone
palatial apartment houses of Fifth Avenue or Emery Roth's great
skyscraper apartment towers along Central Park West, 240 Central
Park South is an interesting and good building at the end of the
Art Deco period and its façade murals while not memorable
are delightfully colorful.
(Mayer & Whittlesley were also co-designers
with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on Manhattan House at 200
East 66th Street in 1950.)
The building has stunning vistas of Central
Park West to the north and, from its upper floors, midtown to
the south. There is excellent local shopping - it is directly
across Columbus Circle from the huge, twin-towered Time Warner
Center that opened in early 2004 - and public transportation and
it is only a few blocks south of the Lincoln Center for the Performing
It has a concierge, many balconies, many corner
windows and very colorful mosaic murals on the second and third
floors above its courtyard, canopied entrance on Central Park
South. It has sidewalk landscaping, but no health club and no
garage. It has protruding air-conditioners and a very elegant
Italian restaurant, San Domenico, just to the east of its entrance.
There is considerable traffic at this Columbus