By Carter B. Horsley
With its double-height entrance and large,
arched window providing glimpses of its large, landscaped garden
courtyard, 1088 Park Avenue is one of the boulevard's few apartment
houses with a truly grand entry.
The limestone and gray-brick building was completed
in 1925 in two sections because of a "holdout" on the
northwest corner of Park Avenue and 88th Street: the northern
section consists of frontage on the avenue and 89th Street and
the southern section is a midblock structure on 88th Street with
an identical façade to the northern portion to which it
is connected through the garden courtyard.
All the 15-story building's 84 apartments overlook
the very large and attractive garden courtyard and have benefited
by surrounding development in the post-war period as the Park
Regis at 50 East 89th Street created a large plaza/private garden
on 88th Street and the apartment tower at 60 East 88th Street
is setback in a driveway. As a result, the garden courtyard, about
a quarter of an acre in size, at 1088 Park Avenue is afforded
considerably more light and air than normal for the Upper East
The building was developed by Robert J. Cuddihy,
publisher of The Literary Digest, whose circulation in 1927 of
1.5 million was second only to the Saturday Evening Post, according
to David Trager, the author of "Park Avenue, Street of Dreams,"
"Cuddihy is said to have financed construction
of 1088 Park because, as a Roman Catholic, he was unable to get
into another Fifth or Park Avenue co-op. Whether this is true
or not, Cuddihy and his son H. Lester, a friend of Robert Moses,
engaged Mott B. Schmidt as architect….its central garden
courtyard, with its fountains and Italian loggia, was Lester's
idea….It has…always been considered an elegant address,
a favorite of families with children," Trager wrote, adding
that one of its early residents was the managing editor of The
New York Times.
In 1980, the building, to its great credit,
banned the installation of "picture" windows because
of esthetic concerns, according to a January 22, 1995 article
by Christopher Gray in The New York Times about the building.
The building's board authorized the installation of new windows
that had muntins dividing panes like the building's original windows,
but about a third of the residents decided not to upgrade and
to keep their old wooden windows.
"From the outside, the form of the new
windows closely matches the original ones, especially from sidewalk
distance. But you can tell by the glass: The modern windows are
a single, perfect sheet under the muntins, with shadowy reflections
caused by the double glazing. The glass in the old windows has
gentle ripples, like a stream eddy, and each pane reflects the
light at a slightly different angle. The wood itself has a soft,
varied quality that metal cannot match. For a sophisticated design
like that of 1088, the only truly hurtful change on the outside
is the choice of color. The original woodwork on this and most
other 1920's apartment houses was painted buff, or cream, or white,
in sympathy with the masonry skin. The co-op has chosen the aluminum
industry's standard brown and is repainting the surviving wooden
windows the same color," Gray observed.