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Parc Vendome

340 West 57th Street

350 West 57th Street

333 West 56th Street

353 West 56th Street

 

By Carter B. Horsley

This building is one of four handsome apartment houses that share a large common, landscaped garden that differs from most of the city's other large courtyard projects because it is not enclosed by high walls at the east and south ends.

The four-building complex, which has about 575 apartments, is unusual also because the south buildings is 18 stories tall while the and north buildings at 340 and 350 East 57th Street, respectively, are 21 stories tall. The south building at 353 West 56th Street was completed in 1931 while 340 East 57th Street was completed in 1932 and 350 East 57th Street was completed in 1929.

All the buildings have similar facades with excellent detailing and very attractive mansard roofs.

The buildings are remarkably elegant for their once quite seedy surroundings, a reflection perhaps of the grandiose plans that once envisioned a major bridge across the Hudson River at 57th Street.

Their site had been previously considered by financier Otto Kahn as a new home for the Metropolitan Opera House before its planners began looking at Rockefeller Center, another site that it chose not to occupy.

Interestingly, history has caught up with the Parc Vendome and the area has been considerably gentrified and improved with new buildings and new stores and new tenants. Major new nearby projects include the Hearst Tower on the southeast corner of Eighth Avenue and 57th Street designed by Sir Norman Foster, the Time Warner Center on the west side of Columbus Circle designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and 15 Central Park West designed by Robert A. M. Stern.

The Parc Vendome complex was designed by Farrar & Watmough for Henry Mandel, one of the city's most ambitious and active developers in the 1920s. Mandel's other projects, also designed by Farrar & Watmough, included London Terrace on the block bounded by 23rd and 24th Streets and Ninth and Tenth Avenues and Chelsea Corners, several buildings on Seventh Avenue at 15th and 16th Street.

Some of the apartments at the Parc Vendome complex have very tall windows and ceilings and the building entrances are particularly attractive and have doormen. Some of the living rooms measure 27 by 18 feet and have separate dining rooms.

The project, which was converted to condominium in 1983, has a health club.

It is just to the west of the Sheffield 57, brown brick, 50-story tower that is just to the west of the Hearst Tower.

In his "Streetscapes" column in the May 23, 2004 edition of The New York Times, Christopher Gray noted that Mr. Mandel "had begun his real estate career building tenements and other modest buildings with his father, Samuel, who brought the family to the United States from the Ukraine in the late 1880s." "Mandel was part of a new housing movement in New York City that built smaller, efficient dwellings in large complexes for white-collar employees who wanted to live close to work and would trade a prestige neighborhood for transit convenience," Mr. Gray wrote, adding that on Seventh Avenue north of 14th Street Mr. Mandel "sought to remake the neighborhood by dominating one stretch of real estate with complement structures, and he planned a separate building with meeting rooms and sports facilities." His other projects included the Lombardy apartment hotel at 111 East 56th Street and the Pershing Square Building on the southeast corner of Park Avenue and 42nd Street.

For an office building at 32nd Street and Fourth Avenue, Mr. Mandel successfully persuaded city officials to extend Park Avenue two blocks south so he could have an address of 1 Park Avenue for his building.

According to Mr. Gray, Mr. Mandel filed for bankruptcy in 1932 and went to jail the next year for two months because he owned $19,000 in alimony for his former wife and that he died in 1942.

For more information about the Park Vendome complex check its entry at CityRealty.com

 

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