(formerly The Squibb Building)
Southeast corner at 58th Street
Developer: Abe N. Adelson
Architect: Buchman & Kahn
Erected: 1930

By Carter B. Horsley

745 Fifth AvenueThis 34-story tower got a partial face-lift a few years ago when its new owners, LaSalle Partners, accentuated its Art Deco beginnings with a new facade base that attracted Bergdorf Goodman to expand across the avenue to open a new men's store.

Thankfully, the face-lift did not touch the building's very fine entrance and lobby, nor seriously hurt the overall design of Buchman & Kahn, the architects of some of the city’s most important Art Deco buildings such as the Film Center at 630 Ninth Avenue and 261 Fifth Avenue. Architect Eli Jacques Kahn considered this building one of his best.

Lewis Mumford praised this building’s restraint in 1931, noting that it was “a great relief after the fireworks, the Coney Island barking, the theatrical geegaws that have been masquerading as le style moderne around Manhattan during the last few years.”

Very often the vestibule between the entrance and lobby is relegated to rather pedestrian status, but here it is noteworthy in its own right. The large space is quite simple with abundant glass areas to permit views into its bright main lobby with its well-done ceiling murals one of which depicts Manhattan.

The vestibule here, shown below, is graced by its bands of horizontal Art Deco light fixtures that are delicate but emanate energy.

vestibule of 745 Fifth AvenueThe bright lobby itself is a bit antiseptic in its whiteness, but the proportions and materials, luscious white marble and bronze, are fine and the ceiling mural of a map of Manhattan by Arthur Covey is excellent and colorful.

This is a solid and substantial building, slightly reminiscent of Raymond Hood's Daily News Building on West 42nd Street. The verticality of its facade treatment is more complementary to the General Motors Building (see The City Review article) across 59th Street than it was to that building's predessor on the site, the great Savoy Plaza Hotel, and the rest of the Plaza enclave, but this building's formality was not disruptive of that enclave's great, elegant ambiance.

The remodeled base of the building applies Art Deco-like elements that are not as strong as entrance grill, but which are unfussy and fairly restrained. Circles are framed in squares at the top of the remodeling and while curves are not prominent elsewhere in the building’s design, these are well contained. While these appliqués stop short of being gaudy, they do not have the substance of the original entrance grill work and detailing, shown at the right, but one cannot be too critical of elements that induced Bergdorf Goodman (see The City Review article) to expand across the avenue, which was very important for the city. The elegant store took over the space formerly occupied by the famous F.A.O. Schwarz toy store that moved across 58th Street into the General Motors Building, where it has had great success and expanded.

Entrance to 745 Fifth Avenue

This building and the others now on the same blockfront on avenue replaced the French chateau-style "Marble Row" of townhouses in 1930. The houses had been designed by Robert Mook and built between 1867 and 1869 for Mrs. Isaac Jones, the wife of the president of the Chemical Bank who was known as Mary Mason Jones. In his book, "Fifth Avenue, The Best Address," (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1998), Jerry E. Patterson noted that Mrs. Jones was the aunt of novelist Edith Wharton by marriage and "she makes an unforgettable appearance as Mrs. Mingott in "The Age of Innocence." The Marble Row houses were considered among the city's most elegant.

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