McKim, Mead &
White is best known for its grand Beaux-Arts designs, but here
the architectural firm created an Art Deco gem.
This low-rise retail building was erected originally for Louis
Sherry, who had had a famous restaurant on Fifth Avenue at 44th
Street from 1898 to 1919.
In his book, "Touring
the Upper East Side, Walks in Five Historic Districts" (The
New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1995), Andrew S. Dolkart remarks
that the restaurateur blamed "prohibition and war-born Bolshevism"
for the closing of his restaurant," adding that "An
eating establishment with Sherry's name was revived following
his death when this stylized Neo-classical building, inspired
by contemporary French commercial design, was opened to the public."
"The large plate-glass
windows," Mr. Dolkart continued, "were planned to draw
the attention of passersby to the elaborate displays of gourmet
foods sold in what was called the 'table luxury shop.' Behind
the store were a tea room and ice cream parlor and a balcony restaurant.
In 1984-85, the Limited clothing chain hired Beyer Blinder Belle
to restore McKim, Mead & White's building and construct a
rooftop addition. The original building received an award from
the Fifth Avenue Association in 1929 and the restoration has won
several design and preservation awards."
In 2000, the store underwent
another renovation to become the New York showcase for Hermès,
the French fashion company, which moved from 57th Street between
Fifth and Madison Avenues. During construction, the building was
stylishly, not surprisingly, enclosed in the store's orange box
with brown ribbon. The building is a landmark and the renovation
did not change the exterior except to add a sprightly uniformly
Frenchman astride a rearing house carrying flags at the pinnacle
of the building. The renovation of the interior by Hèrmes
was quite spectacular with a spiral staircase leading up to the
skylit top floor.