580 FIFTH AVENUE

(N.W. corner at 47th Street)

Developer: Max J. Kramer

Architect: Warren & Wetmore

Erected: 1928

Top of the tower at 580 Fifth Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

In the late 1920's, Fifth Avenue above 42nd Street began to sprout a new crop of office towers that maintained a common building line, but set back after the first 10 or 12 floors only to shoot straight up in a tall rectilinear tower.

The most famous of these was the exotic and ornate Fred F. French Building (see The City Review article) across the avenue on the northeast corner at 45th Street.

Tower viewed from the southeastThis 33-story tower, shown at the left, was neither the tallest nor the most decorative, but it is a skyscraper of considerable dignity and quite an unusual design from Warren & Wetmore. The architects were best known for their designs of Grand Central Terminal (see The City Review article) and many of the Terminal City towers such as the former New York Central Building (see The City Review article) straddling Park Avenue at 46th Street as well as the exploded chateau of the Crown Building (see The City Review article) on the southeast corner at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Here, their palette is much brighter than usual and the building's crown, shown above, is a summit meeting of large gargoyles who are supported in the building's defense by a series of sharply angled Art Deco battlements. The top of this building is unusual in its lack of symmetry with its peak closest to the avenue. The tower's setback on the avenue, furthermore, is quite shallow with stepped setbacks around its south side.

The building marks the entrance to the city's "Diamond Street," a one-block-long jewelry emporium, and for many years this building was known as the Longines Building, after the watchmaker.

Its developer originally, in 1925, built an 13-story building at 1 West 47th Street, designed by Cross & Cross, which became an annex to this building.

In addition to the gargoyles, escutcheons are held up by seemingly sated, grotesque, reptilian creatures with wings.

The base of the building has an attractive decorative band above the second floor.

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