One of New York City's most
prestigious addresses, 10 Gracie Square is the most desirable
residential building overlooking Carl Schurz Park, whose southeast
end it anchors.
The building is distinguished
by a very unusual and elaborate rooftop, a through-block driveway
to 83rd Street, and a very unusual façade treatment.
Designed by Van Wart &
Wein and Pleasants Pennington and Albert W. Lewis for a development
group headed by John Drummond Kennedy, the building has long been
one of the most exclusive in the city. It was completed in 1930.
Its residents have included Gloria Vanderbilt, conductor André
Kostelanetz, critic Alexander Woollcott and publishers John Fairchild
and Horace Havemeyer III. Another resident was Madame Chiang-Kai
Shek who lived in an 18-room duplex from 1975 to her death at
the age of 105 in 2004.
The asymmetrical rooftop
design consists of square columns that form a loggia with the
chimneys. The massing is unusual and intricate and yet quite bold
- a powerful pinnacle.
The vaulted driveway leads
to three entrances into the building and has its own marble walkway
and colonnade, sentry and iron gates.
The northeast corner of
the building is clad in limestone with an asymmetrical fenestration
pattern while the rest of the building is clad in red brick. The
effect, as noted by Andrew Alpern in his book, "Historic
Manhattan Apartment Houses," (Dover Publications Inc., 1996),
is to make "look more like three adjoining buildings rather
than one," an effect also accentuated by the stepped plan
of the building. Ten Gracie originally had a private club below
street level that opened onto a yacht mooring that was demolished
for the FDR Drive. The club has subsequently been converted to
a squash court and fitness center.
The building originally
contained 34 large duplex and "semiduplex" suites and
now has 42 cooperative apartments and some apartments on the East
River frontage have bay windows and others have
balconies. Some apartments
have fireplaces. This area is inconvenient to public transportation.
10 Gracie Square has a through-block
driveway. In a November 1, 1992 article in The New York Times,
Christopher Gray noted that "the building had no grand lobby,
only three separate foyers for three banks of elevators."
"The decoration in
the building is strangely abstract, with neo-Greek details, like
Doric columns and a Greek key frieze set against unornamented
backdrops. Such modern classicism is repeated in the asymmetrical
rooftop silhouette of urns, towers and Greek details. But the
bulk of the building is a conundrum, with the appearance of three
separate structures for no discernible reason. The limestone corner
at Gracie Square and the East River is flanked by two red-brick
sections. The brick section of Gracie Square, it is true, is a
bedroom wing, with floors of lesser height than those in the limestone
portion. But the brick section facing the river, reaching down
to 83rd Street - itself a confusing staccato of angled step-backs
- is of a kind with the limestone section."
In 1992, the building underwent
substantial renovation when it was discovered that its steel structure
had not been rust-proofed. "With scores of stone blocks removed and
replaced with plywood and others drilled or sawn, it looks like 10
Gracie Square is being unbuilt," Mr. Gray wrote.
Gray noted that Van Wart & Wein had designed romantic,
medieval-style apartment houses in the east 50's, including the
riverfrot Campanile at 450 East 52nd Street. Pennington &
Lewis had produced spare, sophisticated buildings with a severity
derived from both modernism and classicism, like 1001 Park Avenue, at
observed that the decoration in 10 Gracie Square "is strangely
abstract, with neo-Greek details, like Doric columns and a Greek key
frieze set against unornamented backdrops. Such modern classicism
is repeated in the asymmetrical rooftop silhouette of urns, towers and
Greek details. But the bulk of the building is a conundrum, with
the appearance of three separate structures for no discernible
reason....The result is not dissonant so much as perplexing, one not
explained by the original architectural drawings or by period criticism
of the design."