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770 Park Avenue

Southwest corner at 73rd Street

770 Park Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

One of the city's finest apartment buildings, 770 Park Avenue is a Georgian-style confection designed by Rosario Candela, widely regarded as the foremost architect of grand apartment buildings in the city.

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:

"Although Candela designed 775 Park Avenue, as well as 47 Plaza Street in Brooklyn in 1928 on his own, he frequently collaborated with other, more established firms. In the late 1920's and early 1930's, Candela reached his peak in four splendid apartments, one of which, 770 Park Avenue, he designed on his own. Number 770 Park Avenue of 1929-30…was a seventeen-story Georgian building, housing forty families in an H-shaped plan that maximized light and air for each apartment on a deep site. Candela created a complex of interlock of duplex and simplex apartments so that no unit was denied a street orientation. Though the massing was simple, the complex window rhythms suggesting the plan enlivened the composition as did the terraced setbacks rising to a domed penthouse.

"The elegance of the building's massing and detail was carried to the interior, which included Modern Classical lobbies and hallways decorated by Mrs. George Tuckerman Draper - who, as Dorothy Draper, would become one of the most successful decorators of the 1930's and 1940's - as well as to the design of the individual apartments, many of which were duplex units" for example, most double-hung windows in the libraries and living and dining rooms of apartments were brought to within ten inches of the floor and protected by ornamental iron balcony rails to suggest the typical condition of the piano nobile of an elegant townhouse.

"Candela's smaller English Renaissance apartment house at 778 Park Avenue at the northwest corner of Seventy-third street, built in 1929-31, entered into a remarkably coherent and lively dialogue with his earlier work at 770 Park Avenue; the pair of towered buildings formed a monumental gateway west toward Central Park."

770 Park Avenue entrance

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.

New zoning in 1929 permitted taller buildings on Park Avenue and "Candela's buildings began to fly and to suggest on the outside some of the extravagant behavior inside," Hawes wrote, adding that "The first to appear was 770 Park…which rose to twelve stories and then broke up into tiers of setbacks that were topped with a lanternlike penthouse tower. A year later, 778 created a similar silhouette on the northwest corner, and together, the pair framed the street like important monuments. The rooflines could be seen from far way, and they expressed the essence of these buildings elegantly, for they looked like clusters of houses or small European villages."

Flying buttress

Top of 770 Park Avenue, left

Hawes noted that the developers of 770 Park Avenue, which has 39 apartments, described the apartments as "country houses" and that the building's "irregular fenestration animated the façade… adding rhythms that suggested the life within."

Facade detail

Facade detail

Candela, she continued "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.

770 and 778 Park Avenue

770 Park Avenue is left center and 778 Park Avenue is right center

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, 740, 775 and 778 Park Avenue, and 19 East 72nd Street, all considered among the most glamorous addresses in the city.

For more information on this building check its entry at CityRealty.com

 

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