By Carter B. Horsley
Although the Upper West Side
is best known for its fabulous multi-towered, Art Deco-style residential
buildings, it is also well-known for an earlier generation of
apartment buildings that were very decorative and almost whimsical.
The Braender at 418 Central
Park West falls into the latter category and while it is not as
flamboyant as the Ansonia on Broadway at 73rd Street or the St.
Urban a few blocks south on Central Park West, it is one of New
York's few answers to some of the great residential buildings
of Paris and Chicago.
It was erected by Philip Braender
in 1902 and was the subject of a fine "Streetscapes"
column by Christopher Gray in The New York Times September
3, 2006 that was called "The Ungainly Duckling That Alighted
Along the Park."
The article noted that the
building's architect, Frederick C. Browne, "was still working
in the 'long hall' period of apartment design," adding that
one apartment had "a corridor 60 feet long and 4 feet wide."
"The exterior of the Braender
- residents pronounce the name to rhyme with gander - is a complicated,
even chaotic mix of French Renaissance, Spanish and Baroque styles,
all in light-colored stone, brick and terra cotta. A pecular set
of tile-roofed balconies at the ninth-floor level were long ago
stripped of their red tiles and columns....The lobby was sumptuous,
or at least showy. The 17-foot-wide courtyard off Central Park
was ringed with box hedges and gravel paths, with a fountain set
between stone benches. An iron and glass marquee - this was before
the canvas canopy - sheltered the main entrance, which led into
a vestibule with a square-coffered ceiling. This in turn led to
the reception hall, paneled in highly figured white marble with
gray-blue veining and set off by marble with swirls of gray and
brown. This room also had a coffered ceiling, but in patterns
of six-pointed stars."
Mr. Gray noted that Montgomery
Schuyler, a critic, observed in 1902 that the building's narrow
light court plan was quite popular at the time but described it
as hopelessly awkward because its walls were plain brick creating
"a very grim and gloomy slot."
"In the mid-1900s most
of the large apartments in the Braender were cut up into smaller
ones, and by the 1980s, when it was converted to condominiums,
the building was in poor shape: its stone was battered and defaced,
and the cornice and much of its ornament had been removed. The
vestibule had been stripped, the striking ceiling in the reception
hall covered or removed....On the outside, graffiti and paint
are being removed, and masonry problems and leaks being repaired
as part of a $1 million project headed by Dr. Perlman's wife,
Judith. She explained recently that a series of six-foot-wide
terra-cotta griffins supporting the balconies had been removed
for safety reasons and would be replicated in fiberglass or a
The building has a bicycle
room, storage and a laundry.
In an earlier column, Mr. Gray
noted that "at the time the Braender was completed, there
were perhaps a dozen very similar buildings on Central Park West,
and in January 1902 the critic Mongtomery Schuyler wrote in The
Architectural Record: 'One of these things makes you yawn. A mile
of them gets on your nerves.'"
Obviously Mr. Schuyler did
not live long enough to watch the Monsters television show and
did not realize that great cities need creepy, if not creaking,
structures and that idiosyncracy and arbitrary dreams are the
stuff of which architectural dreams are made.