By Carter B. Horsley
This conservatively elegant edifice is muted
luxury: its polished granite entrance reeks of the prospects of
satin sheets and the promise of the echoes of fine crystal.
It was designed by Rosario Candela and Arthur
Loomis Harmon, the design partner of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon,
the architects of the Empire State Building.
Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas
Mellins devote considerable attention to Candela in their book,
"New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Two
World Wars," Rizzoli, 1987:
They noted that "The building
among the most luxurious apartment houses of the period. Practically
all the apartments in the building were duplexes, with some, such
as the one designed for John D. Rockefeller Jr., a sumptuous triplex.
The exterior expression was that of a quiet, almost hidden Classicism,
which the Architectural Forum characterized as a conservative
expression of contemporary freedom in architectural design. String
and belt courses are used to delimit the principal parts of the
façade, and not at all in a classical or traditional manner."
In his book, "The City Observed: New York,
A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan," (Vintage Books,
a division of Random House, 1979), architecture critic Paul Goldberger
suggests that 740 "is in many ways
- a solid, sumptuous mass that sits on a corner with absolute
"The building is sheathed entirely in
limestone," Goldberger continues, "and the fluted base
and entrance details suggest a hint of Art Deco, but made very,
very tame, for nothing would be worse than to have the gentry
of Park Avenue think they were being given the style of Central
Park West and the Grand Concourse. The front doorway tells all:
it is cut through a granite slab, topped by finials, which contains
lettering that announces the address thus: 740 PARK AVENVE."
The building also has an entrance on the sidestreet
at 71 East 71st Street.
The 36-unit building has long attracted "heavy
hitters." The former apartment of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller
Jr. was purchased by Saul P. Steinberg, the head of the Reliance
Insurance Group, and other residents have included Henry R. Kravis
of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Rand V. Araskog, the chief executive
officer of ITT International and the late Steven Ross, the chief
executive officer of Warner Communications.
Candela is widely considered to have been the
countrys greatest designer of luxury apartment buildings
and he collaborated with many of the citys most famous architectural
Candelas buildings, "it is said,
were the grandest of the decade that was itself the greatest,"
wrote Elizabeth Hawes in her book, "New York, New York, How
The Apartment House Transformed The Life Of The City (1869-1930)",
published by Henry Holt in 1993.
"He had a respect for privacy and an eye
for significant detail. He was a complete thinker. He added duplicate
water connections to street mains and multiple switches for ceiling
lights as well as beautifully turned staircases and separate wine
cellars. More significantly, he designed buildings from the inside
out. He placed windows where they received light, balanced a room,
or allowed a graceful arrangement of furniture
also invested unusual energy in the entry hall. In a typical apartment,
he made it a full-sized room with rich views into the interior
because he thought it was important to greet a visitor with a
full sense of a home
. Candela liked puzzles. During the
Depression, he took up cryptography, and during World War II,
he broke the Japanese code," Hawes wrote.
Born in Sicily, Candela came to the United
States in 1909 and graduated from the Columbia school of architecture
in 1915. His other famous buildings include 834 and 960 Fifth
Avenue, 720, 775 and 778 Park Avenue, and 19 East 72nd Street,
all considered among the most glamorous addresses in the city.
740 Park Avenue was developed by James T. Lee
on the site of his own private house and a limestone mansion that
belonged to George Brewster. Lee had been a major developer whose
other projects included 998 Fifth Avenue, designed by McKim, Mead
& White in 1910, and the Shelton Hotel on Lexington Avenue
between 48th and 49th Streets, designed by Arthur Loomis Harmon
In a October 21, 1990 article in The New York
Times, Christopher Gray noted that Lee took an apartment at 740
Park Avenue for himself and that another resident was his daughter,
Mrs. John V. Bouvier 3rd, and her daughter, Jacqueline, who later
became the nation's first lady.
The building underwent a major façade
restoration in 1990 that Gray reported cost each shareholder in
the building $258,000.
The building has considerable architectural
detail, notably some "peacock" balcony railings on the
upper floors, some cartouches and the marvelous incised entrance
In 2005, Michael Gross published a book
about the building documenting its famous tenantry. (12/05/05)
The 15-room duplex apartment on the fourth
and fifth floors were owned in 2007 by the estate of the late
Janet Coleman, an heir to the Mosler safe fortune. An apartment
on the second floor was owned at one time by Winston Lord, the
head of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Pillsbury heir,
and his wife, Betty Bao, an author. In 2007, Vera Wang moved into
the building from 778 Park Avenue. (8/04/07)