This development of five
buildings was designed by Emery Roth for Bing & Bing, one
of the city's premier builders of upper-middle-class housing in
the 1920's and 1930's.
The richly textured reddish
salmon brick facades and sparse but good Art Deco detailing added
significantly to the ambiance of the "Beekman Place"
The four 10-story, mid-block
buildings on 52nd Street are similar in height and general façade
treatment, but each is slightly different. The effect is quite
massive and almost fortress-like, particularly since they are
an imposing prelude to River House (see The
City Review article), perhaps the city's most glamorous apartment
tower, at the river end of the street.
The buildings are distinctive,
moreover, because many apartments have very tall ceilings and
windows and, indeed, are among the city's few "studio"
buildings of their era. The building at 424 East 52nd Street,
in fact, is very, very distinguished with a bank of enormous windows
on either side of a central façade section whose fenestration
pattern is very unusual in its alternating window sizes. Its 80
units were converted to cooperatives in 1987
The apartments, surprisingly,
are relatively modest and do not contain many rooms, but the living
rooms at 424 East 52nd Street are one-and-half-stories high and
those at 400 East 52nd Street are sunken.
The first building to be
completed was 434 East 52nd Street in 1928. 424 East 52nd Street
and 433 East 51st Street were completed in 1930 and 400, a 462-unit
building, and 414 East 52nd Street were completed in 1931.
The 52nd Street buildings,
Steven Ruttenbaum observed in his book, "Mansions In The
Sky, The Skyscraper Palazzi of Emery Roth," Balsam Press,
Inc., 1986, are each "embellished with fanciful iron loggias
and window grilles executed in unique Art Deco motifs with voluptuous
Art Deco terra-cotta trim.The Southgate complex is enlivened with
highly textured, three-dimensional forms that provide much in
the way of visual delight. It was unusual for one architect to
be given the opportunity to mold almost an entire side street
into a unified architectural composition, and Roth responded to
the challenge by creating Manhattan's most distinctive residential
Art Deco ensemble."
The Southgate complex, originally
a rental project but subsequently converted to cooperatives, was
preceded by the larger Tudor City complex several blocks to the
south and a few other similar projects exist in the city, but