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Trump Parc

(formerly the Barbizon Plaza Hotel)

106 Central Park South

Trump Parc, center

Trump Parc, center

By Carter B. Horsley

When it was erected in 1930 as the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, this structure was noted for its flamboyant and unusual top, but that top would be replaced within a few years, such are New York's everchanging fashions. In most cases, such changes have been for the worse, but not here.

In describing the emergence of a luxury hotel district around the southeast corner of Central Park in their excellent book, "New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between The World Wars" (Rizzoli, 1987), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins wrote that while "the Central Park South hotels were less resolved architecturally and more troubled economically," "the best of the group was the Barbizon Plaza designed in a Modern Classical vacoulary by Lawrence Emmons, architect and decorator working with Lloyd Morgan and Murgatroyd & Ogden, as general architects."

Building's marquee

Building's entrance marquee

"The building rose from a bulky street-defining mass to a comparatively slender tower crowned by a hipped roof covered with small glass tiles set on their edges in narrow ribs of reinforced concrete. By day the tiles shimmered in the sunlight; at night, the Barbizon Plaza's all-glass pinnacle transformed the tower into a prism of light. According to the Architect tests proved that a 'mellow phosphorescent glow duplicating the texture of moonlight' could be achieved by the lighting system, which consisted of a 'series of flood lights placed inside the glass walls of the tower playing their rays inward to an arrangement of seried windows,'" they continued.

Their book includes two photographs of the Barbizon Plaza with the described roof and they indicate that it curved in from its side pillars and culminated in a flat, albeit colorful and light-emanating roof.

View from inside Central Park

View from inside Central Park

That roof no longer exists. At some point, the roof was redesigned, probably during World War II when the city discouraged night illumination of buildings. The present design, which most likely never would have been approved by city's landmarks agency if it had jurisdiction and had designated the building as a landmark, is one of the most spectacular in the city, indeed its only rivals in audacity are the Chrysler Building and the former RCA/GE tower at 570 Lexington Avenue. The side top pillars of the building have been extended upwards to create an uneven, but very impressive, row of teeth around the top and the entire top has been gilded.

In an age of satellite dishes, rooftop protuberances are not rare, but this roof is not some haphazard, Deconstructivist relic, but an extremely powerful form. The exposed top pillars propel the building skyward. The new design is much better than the original, sort-of-shallow-domed roof, although it might be nice if it could once again be light-show enabled.

View from the northeast

View from the northeast

The top of the tower, furthermore, bulges. Its pillars extend outwards much like those on the Helmsley Building straddling Park Avenue at 46th Street and are also somewhat reminiscent of the bulging top of the Singer Building on Lower Broadway, which was one of the city's most important skyscraper landmarks that was lamentably demolished.

The tower was acquired by Donald Trump who had the foresight to recognize its architectural merits, long overlooked by most critics, and he applied his normal dosage of glitz to its entrance and converted it into a 340-unit condominium in 1988. The 38-story building extends through to 58th Street and wraps around a smaller building on the southwest corner at the Avenue of the Americas that is now known as Trump Parc East at 100 Central Park South, a building that has its own entrance.

View from the southeast

View from the southeast

The entrance to Trump Parc is full of polished granite and landscaping and is not inelegant. The 38-story building has a doorman and a garage but no health club. Its tower is setback from Central Park South. After a fairly controversial conversion of the adjoining building, Mr. Trump unified the retail frontage of both along the Avenue of the Americas.

Detail of the tower

Detail of the tower

The building, which is also known as 101 East 58th Street, has spectacular views and is convenient to public transportation, restaurants and shopping as well as the Wollman Memorial Skating Rink nearby in Central Park that Mr. Trump triumphantly restored quickly after long delays by the city. The building has no balconies but some terraces.

Trump Parc rear

Rear of building as seen from the GE building

Trump Park is fairly conventional except for its tower which is remarkable and one of the city's joys. Although Mr. Trump is best known for his glitzy, brassy towers, it should be noted that he has an eye for fine old architecture as demonstrated here and also in his conversion of the former Delmonico Hotel (see The City Review article) and the Mayfair Hotel (see The City Review article) both on Park Avenue.

For more information on Trump Parc check its entry at CityRealty.com

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