580 FIFTH AVENUE
(N.W. corner at 47th Street)
Developer: Max J. Kramer
Architect: Warren & Wetmore
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.
This 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
The base of the building has an attractive
decorative band above the second floor.