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791 Park Avenue

Southeast corner at 74th Street

791 Park Avenue

791 Park Avenue is the beige-colored building at the left

By Carter B. Horsley

Erected in 1925, this 14-story, beige-brick apartment building was converted to a cooperative in 1947 and contains 32 apartments.

It was designed by George and Edward Blum, whose other buildings on Park Avenue include 555, 830, 940 and 1075.

791 Park Avenue entrance

Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, took the penthouse in 1927, according to James Trager, "Park Avenue, Street of Dreams," (Atheneum, 1990). "Early in 1932 the Swedish mountebank Ivar Kreuger shot himself in his Paris apartment, leaving behind a mountain of debt and a New York penthouse at 791 Park. It lay vacant for two years before being rented by Edna Ferber, a Mid-western writer of forty-eight who had lived for years on the West Side. Her novels included ‘So Big’ (which won the Pulitzer Prize), ‘Cimarron,’ and ‘Show Boat’ (basis of the 1929 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical), the women’s magazines paid handsomely for her short stories and for serializing her novels, and she had collaborated with George S. Kaufman on a number of Broadway hits, including ‘The Royal Family’ and ‘Dinner at Eight.’ Ferber wrote about the former Kreuger apartment in her 1938 autobiography ‘A Peculiar Treasure,’ saying that she had lived in it for three years (1933-36). It was, she said, the ‘only really quiet apartment’ she had ever seen in New York. Traffic noises bounded off its high brick penthouse parapet, over which ‘unbelievable willow trees,’ planted by Kreuger, tossed ‘great leafy hoopskirts in careless abandon.’ The apartment itself lay empty and ‘dilapidated’ in the wake of its previous owner’s suicide. ‘I, renting it at a surprisingly low price, became Kreuger’s sole heiress, really, for I alone benefited by his going.’ Ferber wrote of pulling down partitions and building ‘great French windows that let in the sun.’ She recalled a grape arbor thirty feet long, a peach tree eighteen inches in circumference, espaliered apple trees, ‘rhododendrons, wisteria, ivy, roses, lilac bushes, iris, forsythia, privet all growing on a penthouse sixteen stories high on Park Avenue. There were three fountains, a rock garden...with...flagstone paths.’ In her 1963 memoir, ‘A Kind of Magic,’ Ferber said she had ‘come upon this unbelievable country house in the air.’ (Her friend, Dorothy Rodgers, wife of the composer Richard Rodgers, had evidently found the ‘sky-house.’) ‘It was offered me for rental at an unbelievably low figure....’ Ferber now recalled that she had lived there for five years (until May 1939), not three, and the willow trees described earlier as being twenty-four inches in circumference and fully forty feet high were now remembered as ‘fifteen feet high and as thick in circumference as an elephant’s leg. [They] cascaded their liquid green branches over the parapet. Peach trees, espaliered apple trees, grape arbors and strawberry plants and rhubarb actually bore fruit in this bizarre Eden. Two fountains tinkled annoyingly. Jonquils popped their goldenheads in the spring....’ Ferber moved from Park Avenue to a house in Connecticut but returned in 1953 to another Manhattan apartment at 730 Park. Here she wrote the novels ‘Giant’ and ‘Ice Palace,’ and here she died, in 1968, at age eighty-three." Trager wrote.

This building is located in one of the finest stretches of Park Avenue and is convenient to many famous boutiques and art galleries on Fifth Avenue and is not far from Lenox Hill Hospital and a local subway station at Lexington Avenue and 77th Street. Cross-town bus service is two blocks south.

The building has a two-story rusticated base with some arched windows, sidewalk landscaping, a doorman, a few decorative balconies, and sidewalk landscaping, but inconsistent fenestration, a one-step-up canopied entrance, no garage and no health club.

 

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