THE TIFFANY BUILDING

727 FIFTH AVENUE

Architect: Cross & Cross

Developer: Tiffany & Co.

Erected: 1940

The Tiffany Building

By Carter B. Horsley

The international fame of this expensive store far exceeds the architectural quality of its building.

There are only three non-wearable things of great distinction here: its wonderful clock above its Fifth Avenue entrance; the great ingenuity of Gene Moore's displays in the building's ground floor windows that set an unequaled standard on Fifth Avenue for decades and legitimized its reputation as the city's most stylish boulevard; and its contextual relationship to the far superior Art Deco low-rise Bonwit Teller store on the remainder of the Fifth Avenue blockfront that was razed to make way for Trump Tower.

The large stainless steel doors at the Fifth Avenue and 57th Street entrances are rather plain but very well designed and reminiscent of huge bank vaults. They are only observable, however, when the store is closed.

The clock has a 9-foot-high figure of Atlas shouldering a large clock. The almost naked figure was sculpted by Henry Frederick Metzler, a friend of the store's founder, Charles Tiffany. Since 1853, it has adorned Tiffany's facade, first at 550 Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets and then at other locations before arriving here. According to Margot Gayle and Michele Cohen in their book, "The Art Commission and the Municipal Arts Society Guide to Manhattan's Outdoor Sculpture," published in 1988 by Prentice Hall Press, Metzler was a carver of ship figureheads and the Atlas clock here, shown below, is made of wood and painted to resemble bronze.

The store's first floor is large, very bright and lined in rich wood. Despite the intimidating atmosphere of security guards and steep prices, this space is sprightly perhaps because the precious baubles are desperate to escape the low showcases and boogie while draped around some lovely ballgowned lady.

A setback addition of four floors did not add to the building's luster and only demonstrated how low the store had descended from the giddy Art Nouveau heights created by the founder's very artistic son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose exceeding colorful and fantastic designs are nowhere in evidence in this rather pompous emporium. It's too bad Donald Trump didn't raze this building rather than Bonwit Teller's.

The Tiffany Building site was once occupied by a very large stone mansion owned by Mrs. C. P. Huntington that was set behind a tall wrought-iron fence.

 

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