By Carter B. Horsley
This building is one of four handsome apartment
houses that share a large common, landscaped garden that differs
from most of the city's other large courtyard projects because
it is not enclosed by high walls at the east and south ends.
The four-building complex, which has about
575 apartments, is unusual also because the south buildings is
18 stories tall while the and north buildings at 340 and 350 East
57th Street, respectively, are 21 stories tall. The south building
at 353 West 56th Street was completed in 1931 while 340 East 57th
Street was completed in 1932 and 350 East 57th Street was completed
All the buildings have similar facades with
excellent detailing and very attractive mansard roofs.
The buildings are remarkably elegant for their
once quite seedy surroundings, a reflection perhaps of the grandiose
plans that once envisioned a major bridge across the Hudson River
at 57th Street.
Their site had been previously considered by
financier Otto Kahn as a new home for the Metropolitan Opera House
before its planners began looking at Rockefeller Center, another
site that it chose not to occupy.
Interestingly, history has caught up with the
Parc Vendome and the area has been considerably gentrified and
improved with new buildings and new stores and new tenants. Major
new nearby projects include the Hearst Tower on the southeast
corner of Eighth Avenue and 57th Street designed by Sir Norman
Foster, the Time Warner Center on the west side of Columbus Circle
designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and
15 Central Park West designed by Robert A. M. Stern.
The Parc Vendome complex was designed by Farrar
& Watmough for Henry Mandel, one of the city's most ambitious
and active developers in the 1920s. Mandel's other projects, also
designed by Farrar & Watmough, included London Terrace on
the block bounded by 23rd and 24th Streets and Ninth and Tenth
Avenues and Chelsea Corners, several buildings on Seventh Avenue
at 15th and 16th Street.
Some of the apartments at the Parc Vendome
complex have very tall windows and ceilings and the building entrances
are particularly attractive and have doormen. Some of the living
rooms measure 27 by 18 feet and have separate dining rooms.
The project, which was converted to condominium
in 1983, has a health club.
It is just to the west of the Sheffield 57,
brown brick, 50-story tower that is just to the west of the Hearst
In his "Streetscapes"
column in the May 23, 2004 edition of The New York Times,
Christopher Gray noted that Mr. Mandel "had begun his real
estate career building tenements and other modest buildings with
his father, Samuel, who brought the family to the United States
from the Ukraine in the late 1880s." "Mandel was part
of a new housing movement in New York City that built smaller,
efficient dwellings in large complexes for white-collar employees
who wanted to live close to work and would trade a prestige neighborhood
for transit convenience," Mr. Gray wrote, adding that on
Seventh Avenue north of 14th Street Mr. Mandel "sought to
remake the neighborhood by dominating one stretch of real estate
with complement structures, and he planned a separate building
with meeting rooms and sports facilities." His other projects
included the Lombardy apartment hotel at 111 East 56th Street
and the Pershing Square Building on the southeast corner of Park
Avenue and 42nd Street.
For an office building at 32nd Street and Fourth
Avenue, Mr. Mandel successfully persuaded city officials to extend
Park Avenue two blocks south so he could have an address of 1
Park Avenue for his building.
According to Mr. Gray, Mr. Mandel filed for
bankruptcy in 1932 and went to jail the next year for two months
because he owned $19,000 in alimony for his former wife and that
he died in 1942.