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25 East 83rd Street

Northwest corner at Madison Avenue

25 East 83rd Street

25 East 83rd Street seen from the southeast

 

By Carter B. Horsley

At first glance, this mid-rise apartment tower looks a bit like an blocky industrial building, but, in fact, it was an important Art Deco structure.

Designed by Frederick L. Ackerman, Charles George Ramsey and Harold Reeve Sleeper, it was completed in 1938.

In the fine book, "New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Two World Wars" (Rizzoli International, 1987), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins provided the following commentary about this building:

"Perhaps the most unusual, if not nearly the most aesthetically satisfying, corner infill apartment house of the late 1930, was 25 East Eight-third Street....The building was the first fully air-conditioned apartment house in New York, athough the renovation of 400 Park Avenue in 193 6 - when its large suites were broken into smaller ones - also included a central air-conditioning system. Ackerman's highly reductionist design relied heavily on the fact that the building was air-conditioned: windows consisted of two operable casements flanked by fixed glass block units, resulting in a rather mechnical expressionethat conflicted with the more traditional detail employed in the interiors. [Lewis] Mumford declared grlass brick and air-conditioning 'a menace to sound architectural thinking.' Nonetheless, he cautiously praised the design: as for the outside effect of the building with its three shades of buff brick, its greenish glass, its straightforward use of structural units, its chamfered corner windows, it is a good example of the current cvrnacular. If it lacks the poetic touch of the Rockefller Apartments, it as least shows no attempt at the copy book modernism which so often haunts the eclectic architect who has been converted to designing buildings wholly in the manner of his own age.'"

In the superb book, "The A. I. A. Guide to New York City, 4th Edition" (Three River Press, 2000), Elliot Willensky and Norval White commented as follows:

"A modern monument, not in its external elegance but in its pacesetting technology: the first centrally air-conditioned apartment building in the city (note that there are no grilles penetrating the walls - air is drawn in at the roof and distributed by interior ductwork). In the 1980s the glass block 'windows' though necessary for economical cooling were removed in favor of clear glass, perhaps giving the building a new lease on life, but losing much of its prescient modernist flavor."

The loss of the glass blocks is to be lamented, though it must be said that the 1980's alteration was thankfully not more radical. The building's facades are indented to provide more corner windows and its fenestration pattern is interesting because many of the windows are half-height and only the upper half.

This is a prime site one block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Building's sidestreet entrance

The building has a marque sidestreet entrance with curved terrazzo walls, a doorman and not sidewalk landscaping and no garage.

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