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740 Park Avenue

Northwest corner at 71st Street

740 Park Avenue

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…was 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."

740 Park Avenue

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…[Candela's] best - a solid, sumptuous mass that sits on a corner with absolute authority."

"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 country’s greatest designer of luxury apartment buildings and he collaborated with many of the city’s most famous architectural firms.

Candela’s 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…. Candela 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.

top of 740  Park Avenue

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 1924.

740 Park Avenue entrance

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 columns.

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)

For more information on 740 Park Avenue out its entry at CityRealty.com

 

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