834 Fifth Avenue

Northeast corner at 64th Street

834 Fifth Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

This sumptuous, 14-story apartment building was designed by Rosario Candela and is widely considered one of his greatest luxury apartment designs and one of the city's most prestigious addresses.

His original design for developer Anthony Campagna, however, was for a narrower structure.

In his fine book, "The New York Apartment Houses of Rosario Candela and James Carpenter" (Acanthus Press, 2001), Andrew Alpern provides the following commentary about this building:

"Of the six houses on the block front between 64th and 65th Street, Campagna had been able to acquire only the four central ones after two years of negotiation. As a result, the plans he originally filed were for a symmetrical, 120-foot-wide structure on the mid-block site of those houses. After construction work was well along using the first design , the holdout house of the 64th Street corner was acquired from owner Margaret V. Haggin. In April 1930, the plans were changed to accommodate the larger site and the building was asymmetrically extended southward. Mrs. Haggin was the second wife and widow of James Ben Ali Haggin, who had died in his 90s about 1915. She moved in to a duplex apartment in the new completed 834 Fifth Avenue, and remained there until her own death in 1965." Mr. Alpern's book reproduces the rendering for the original smaller builder as well as a photograph of the Haggin mansion on the corner with the steel work for Campagna's building rising above it just to the north. Mr. Alpern also noted that Laurance Rockefeller commissioned Harrison & Abramovitz in 1948 to design a triplex penthouse apartment in the building that he occupied for many years.

The building was completed in 1931 and is directly across from the entrance to the Central Park Zoo.

Central Park view of 834 Fifth Avenue, left, and 825 Fifth Avenue, right

The limestone-clad façade is rusticated at its base and has some Art Deco-style cartouches. The building has many duplex apartments with grand living spaces facing Central Park and one tenant once had a chinchilla rug in the den.

Facade decoration at 834 Fifth Avenue

One of the world's most desirable and expensive addresses, the 24-unit building has a concierge, a doorman, an elevator person, an attractive, canopied entrance, and sidewalk landscaping. Although it is a large building, it only has about two apartments per floor.

Entrance to 834 Fifth Avenue

In his book, "The City Observed, New York, A Guide To The Architecture of Manhattan," (Vintage Books, 1979), Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic of The New York Times, noted that Candela's buildings "were always understated," adding that "The windows are vast, not so much out of a desire to bring light in as because the rooms themselves are immense and the windows are scaled to them." "This is architecture that represents not aspiration, but arrival, a self-assuredness that earlier, more ornate buildings could only strive toward. It is a bit reserved but…it brings admiration rather than irritation. You know that this is strong enough so that the whole image of elegance would not fall apart if the doorman forgot to wear white gloves one day."

Tops of 834, left, and 825 Fifth Avenue, right

The building has a doorman, a concierge, and sidewalk landscaping. It has some terraces, but no balconies and no garage and no health club. The triplex penthouse that for many years was owned by Laurance Spellman Rockefeller and, according to a story on the front page of The New York Times was bought for $44 million by Rupert Murdoch, the publisher of The New York Post and the head of News Corp, in mid-December, 2004. The reported sales price is allegedly the highest paid for a cooperative apartment in the city's history. Laurance Rockefeller was the middle brother of five prominent grandsons of John D. Rockefeller. He died July 11, 2004 at the age of 94. He was well known as a venture capitalist and environmentalist. (12/21/06)

An article by Josh Barbanel in the August 26, 2007 edition of The New York Times indicated that a couple purchased a duplex apartment in the building for $35 million from "Loida Lewis, the widow of Reginald F. Lewis, the billionaire chief executive of Beatrice Foods" and that the apartment had previously been owned by "the widow of Harry Payne Bingham, the sportsman and philanthropist, members of the Dodge automotive family, and John Z. DeLorean, the automobile executive." (9/29/07)

An article in the November 12, 2007 edition of The New York Observer reported that Mark Rachesky, chairman of Leap Wireless, paid $33,444,500 for a ninth-floor duplex that had been owned by Loida Lewis, whose late husband, Reginald Lewis, was the chief executive officer of Beatrice Foods. (11/15/07)

A December 30, 2007 article by Christopher Gray in The New York Times noted that the building's "only hint of extravagance is on the 64th Street side, where a double-height opening on the 11th and 12th floors lights the stair hall of the duplex there." The article also contained details about the apartment bought by Mr. Murdoch, noting that in September, 1929, Hugh B. Baker, a banker and stockbroker, bought the building's top three floors," adding that "A sweeping stairway connected all three levels." "The 15th floor was for entertaining, with a 21-by-33-foot living room on the north side and a 19-by-27-foot dining room on the south. The living room had a small conservatory designed by Howard & Frenaye, and the plans for the dining room indicate a niche, perhaps for a fountain or large piece of sculpture. The 16th floor, on the roof, was drawn with a high square observatory, perhaps 20 feet on a side, flanked by terraces north and south, each one double the size of the room itself," the article continued.

For more information on this building see its entry at CityRealty.com

Use the Search Box below to quickly look up articles at this site on specific artists, architects, authors, buildings and other subjects

 

Home Page of The City Review