205 West 89th
This distinguished, 13-story,
red-brick, apartment building
is one of the city's few grand apartment buildings erected around a
garden courtyard. The building's plan is in the shape of a "U" with
the opening on its eastern fašade. It has entrances on both 90th and
Streets and the garden is partially visible through the entrances.
building, which is known as Astor Court,
has one of the largest
cornices in the city. The cornice is missing some detailing in the
the building's Broadway frontage.
in 1915, it is a cooperative with 158 apartments. It
was designed by Charles A. Platt and built by Vincent Astor.
three other famous garden courtyard luxury apartment
buildings on the Upper West Side
Dakota at 1
West 72nd Street,
the Belnord at 225 West 86th Street
and the Apthorp at 2211 Broadway at 79th Street.
building has a two-story, rusticated limestone base,
very nice lobbies with doormen, attractive wrought-iron window grates
first floor, impressive bronze lanterns flanking the entrances, a
roof deck, protruding air-conditioners, no sidewalk landscaping, and no
neighborhood is one of the city's finest architecturally
with many superb pre-World War II apartment buildings and some
late 20th Century apartment houses as well. The lively area has many
restaurants and stores. There is a subway station at 86th Street
where there is also excellent
cross-town bus service.
his death in 1969, Vincent left his
widow, Brooke, control of a charitable
foundation worth about $60 million.
his September 10, 2006 "Streetscapes" column in
The New York Times, Christopher Gray wrote that "What is less well
is how Vincent Astor, inheriting the family fortune as a college
it to shape an unusual real estate career that left a rich and original
on the New York streetscape."
fortune was first accumulated by John Jacob Astor,
who by the time he died in 1848 had amassed $20 million, much of it in
estate. By 1890, the money was controlled by two family branches, one
John Jacob Astor IV, Vincent’s father. Vincent Astor grew up in
health; he was at Harvard in April 1912 when word came that the Titanic
gone down with his father on board. Suddenly, a fortune of $87 million
million of it in real estate - descended on a young man whose only
passion was for fast cars."
first development project appears to have been a
chaste tapestry-brick warehouse at 4 Ninth Avenue,
which he completed in 1913. At the
same time he embarked on an exceptionally unusual renovation, for which
retained the architectural firm of Tracy & Swartwout. Taking a
group of 10
back-to-back old houses on 43rd and 44th Streets just west of Times Square, Astor combined
them as a single apartment complex with a
central courtyard. It took only a simple fountain, some trees, a few
furniture and some grass to turn the old buildings inside out as a
refuge, a very early instance of what was later a common technique. The
vanished in 1925, replaced by the Paramount Building,"
to Mr. Gray.
1914, Astor started another much larger project:
the $1 million Astor Court
apartments on Broadway from 89th to 90th Streets. Here, working with
and architect Charles Platt, he erected a facade of brick and stone so
carefully detailed that it might have evoked a private club, except
that it was
13 stories high. Architectural critics had been complaining for years
buildings had grown in height, their cornices had started looking puny.
and Astor actually did something about it. Astor Court’s
great copper cornice
projects out eight feet and was painted in gold and red, as classical
once had been," the article said.
Mr. Gray continued, "forsook the automobile
turnarounds so common at other buildings, substituting instead a series
brick walks and plantings. Nothing like it had been done in New York,
and its design remains one of the
most thoughtful in the city."
blocks away," the article
said, "Astor was simultaneously
working on a project related to his interests in model farming: a model
at 95th and Broadway, finished in 1915. His architects, Tracy &
developed a high one-story arcaded facade of mottled travertine. Under
cornice ran a 290-foot-long frieze by William Mackay depicting a market
procession, with farmers and dealers carrying meat, fish, poultry,
vegetables in everything from medieval carts to motor trucks. Jules
artist, designed festive banners for high flagpoles.
Astor Market closed in 1917 and has been demolished.
the late 1920’s, Astor recaptured some of his
architectural ambitions in his attempt to remake a section of East End
then an area of modest apartment buildings, into a high-toned
enclave. First, he
built two tasteful
apartment houses at 520 and 530 East 86th Street,
also by Platt. Then, he had
Platt design a sumptuous apartment building around the corner, the
all-limestone 120 East End Avenue,
The three buildings benefited from parcels that Astor acquired for
and air - an unusually enlightened if expensive touch," the article
Platt designed "the rear facades in buff brick, lighting up what might
some points be gloomy," observed Mr. Gray in an earlier
"Streetscapes" column, July 1, 2001.
"And he raised the garden level a few feet above the
avoiding the sunken feeling present in some rear areas," he continued,
adding that "Astor sold the building in 1922 and by 1935 it was owned
Henri Bendel, of women's clothing-store fame, who divided some of the
apartments" and "later a garage was created in the basement, with a
ramp from the 89th Street side."
building was converted to a cooperative in 1985 and has
a children's playroom, a bicycle room, a laundry room, a resident
a roof terrace. It
has also 10-foot-high
ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces and is pet friendly.