This one of three very interesting
and highly decorative, mid-rise, "Perpendicular Gothic"
apartment buildings designed shortly after the turn of the 20th
Century by Harde & Short. The others include the Alwyn Court
at 180 West 58th Street and the Studio Building at 44 West 77th
This building, which was
completed in 1908, is distinguished by its attractive red masonry,
excellent fenestration and rounded corner.
Describing this trio of
buildings as "the best gingerbread in town," Paul Golberger
noted in his book, "The City Observed, A Guide To the Architecture
of New York, An Illustrated History" (Vintage Books, 1979),
that this was "the best" of the trio, adding that "The
detail is an eclectic mix of Elizabethan and Flemish Gothic, and
it is just elaborate enough to be showy, but restrained enough
not to compete with the separate, secondary level of texture created
by the dozens of 12-over-12 double-hung windows, a veritable curtain
of tiny square panes."
Indeed, the replacement
of multi-paned windows with larger single pane windows has significantly
altered the appearance and aesthetic integrity of many of the
city's finest residential buildings as owners have concentrated
on "energy efficiency" and modern interior design to
the detriment of their building's architecture.
This 33-unit building originally
had its entrance at the base of its rounded corner before it was
moved to the sidestreet. Given the considerable traffic on Madison
Avenue and the high value of its retail space, the move was understandable
and well done.
The building's cornice is
quite stylish, almost like a French beret and helps contain the
very dynamic facades that are full of terracotta embellishments
that add depth and shadows.
The building's location
is in the heart of the most fashionable retail strip in the world
and close to the Plaza business district. It has an exposed rooftop
watertank, a doorman, and sidewalk landscaping, but no garage
and no health club.
The site was formerly occupied
by the Church of the Holy Spirit, which became the All Souls'
In an excellent "Streetscape"
column in The New York Times October 16, 1988, Christopher
Gray, the superb architectural historian, provided the following
commentary on this building:
"In 1905, Charles F.
Rogers, who had built the Prince George and other hotels, bought
the All Souls church site at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue
and 66th Street. Rogers, the son of the sculptor John S. Rogers,
lived at 60th Street and Madison Avenue and was an All Souls parishioner....The
new building dominated the Madison Avenue brownstones, and its
distinctive round corner tower was unusally prominent. The square-doughnut
structure has a central light court, but the majestic multipaned
windows -framed in white terra-cotta and rising to overhanging,
screen-like assemblies of Gothic ornament - are what catch the
eye....The building was divided into only two apartments...on
each floor. Only a handful survived intact, still grand and elegant
but with most of their unusual woodwork painted over. The building
opened in 1908 as 777 Madison Avenue.....In 1929 the entrance
was moved onto East 66th Street, giving the building its present
address,...The exterior remained in fairly good shape except for
a gradual buildup of grime from engine exhaust (Madsion Avenue
streeetcars were replaced by buses in the 1930's). From 1928 to
1973, the building was owned by the Bing & Bing real estate
company. Major change came after the mid-50's, with most of the
overhanging decorative work at the sixth and 10th floors either
cut back or stripped away entirely. In 1973, 45 East 66th Street
was acquired by a builder, Sigmund Sommer, who cut back some services,
discharged the elevator attendant and replaced incandescent lighting
with fluorescent in the hallways. Tenants conducted a rent strike....They
ultimately won most of their battles and the Bing interests took
the building back in the spring of 1977, just as a tenant effort
of landmark designation was starting....In 1987, a partnership
managed by M. J. Raynes bought the building and began a cooperative
conversion plan that was completed last month."
A photograph in the collection
of the Museum of the City of New York indicates that the building
originally had a wrought-iron fence on both the avenue and the
sidestreet and that a high rather bulky balustrade was above the
cornice. Both the fence and the rooftop balustrade no longer exist
and the latter is not missed as it was not terribly delicate or
graceful and the building, which was designated a city landmark,
looks much better without it.