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The Langham

135 Central Park West

Between 73rd and 74th Streets

View from the northeast

View from the northeast

By Carter B. Horsley

One of the most elegant apartment buildings along Central Park West, the Langham's roof has pyramids at its southeast and northeast corners which harmonized with the steep gables of the Dakota across 73rd Street (see The City Review article) and the former San Remo Hotel across 74th Street that was subsequently replaced by the twin-towered San Remo apartment building (see The City Review article).

The Langham's contextual deference to its famous neighbor to the south, the Dakota, was also reflected in its excellent two-tone fašade. Whereas the Dakota had a light yellow brick fašade highlighted by brown stone quoins, the Langham, which was designed by Clinton & Russell for Boehm and Coon, had a white brick fašade contained within very broad rusticated limestone quoins.

View from the southeast

View from the southeast

The Langham, in fact, is a more elegant looking building than the Dakota with its symmetry and double-height entrance with large marquee atop of which is emblazoned the building's name, and rounded arched windows on the first floor. The very handsome marqee is brased by two elaborate brackets at either side.

The building was also quite modern for its time as it had a central refrigeration plant, built-in vacuum cleaning system connections, a conveyor system for direct mail delivery to each apartment and wall safes in each apartment. In his excellent book, "New York's Fabulous Luxury Apartments With Original Floor Plans from the Dakota, River House, Olympic Tower and Other Great Buildings," (Dover Publications Inc., 1987), Andrew Alpern noted that "unused now for many years, there was originally an arcaded carriage driveway with access from 73rd Street." The 13-story building, which has three light courts on its western side, originally had only four apartments per floor, although many were subsequently subdivided. "The decorative moldings used in each apartment varied from floor to floor, and were exceptionally lavish, utilizing several different period styles. The entrance lobby was ornately decorated with bronze, marble, carved Caen stone and crystal chandeliers," Alpern wrote.

Entrance marquee

Entrance to the Langham with marquee with building's name emblazoned atop it

Some of top floor apartments have oculi, round windows, and at least one of the pyramids on the roof has a duplex apartment in it that was part of a larger penthouse with quite large terraces. The building, which has no garage, no health club and no sundeck, is a block north of a subway station. It has a great deal of rustication and sidewalk landscaping.

In their excellent book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City, Fourth Edition," (Three Rivers Press, 2000), Elliot Wilensky and Norval White comment "A ponderous bulk until you look at the roofline, where a simple cornice has been so elaborated with ornament and ornate dormers that it sparkles with light."

View from the southeast showing rustication

View from southeast showing rustication and dry moat
 

In his superb book, "New York Streetscapes, Tales of Significant Buildings and Landmarks," (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2003), Christopher Gray devotes a chapter to the Langham in which he provides the following commentary:

"When the Clark family built the Dakota from 1880 to 1884, they also bought the blockfront of Central Park West from 73rd to 74th Street but left it vacnt. In 1902, The Real Estate Record and Guide reported that the Clarks put the 73rd-74th Street blockfront on Central Park West up for sale, with an unusual restriction: that any subsequent building not exceed the Dakota in height. The restriction was apparently designed to protect the prestige of the Dakota. If the family had been concerned about the views from the Dakota's 73rd Street windows they would more likely have required the construction of four- or five-story houses. Apparently the Clarks could not sell with such a restriction, for the actual sale deed, later in 1902, included only a boilerplate prohibition of stables and billboards. The new owners, Abraham Boehm and Lewis Coon, did not move ahead until 1904, when their architects, Clinton & Russell, filed plans for a $2 million structure, 'the finest apartment house in the city,'....The Langham had four apartments on a floor, with a parlor, dining room, library, three to four bedrooms, and servants' rooms in each. The biggest entertaining rooms were generous, 17 by 22 feet, but architects had still not figured out how to divide an apartment efficiently into entertaining, service, and dormitory zones - the bedroom wings stretched out along hallways more than 40 feet long. The rooms were finished in Adam, Elizabethan, Colonial, and other styles, and under the mansard were laundry rooms. The thirteen-floor building is perhaps 25 feet higher than the Dakota and appears even taller because of differences in the mansard roof." Mr. Gray noted that its early tenants included Isadore Saks, Edward F. Albee, the head of the Keith and Keith-Albee Orpheum theater chains and grandfather of the playwright Edward Albee, Lee Strasberg, and Samuel I. Rosenman, "the confidant of Franklin D. Roosevelt who coined the term 'New Deal.'"

In his September 20, 1998 "Streetscapes" column, Mr. Gray noted that "the 1907 Langham apartment house at 73rd Street and Central Park West is tall and sophisticated, cosmopolitan compared to the brooding, scrunched-down Victorian design of the Dakota," adding that its "closets were arranged in peculiar fashion, and there were no private bathrooms."  "Rather," he continued, "Boehm & Coon adopted the common practice of putting sinks in many of the bedrooms, to reduce the loan on the common bathrooms in the apartment halls."  That column also noted that other residents over the years included Irving Bloomingdale, whose father, Lyman, founded the famous store in 1873, and Martin Beck, the theater promoter and head of the Orpheum theater chain, and Mia Farrow, the actress.  

 
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