727 FIFTH AVENUE
Architect: Cross & Cross
Developer: Tiffany & Co.
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.