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630 Park Avenue

Southwest corner at 66th Street

By Carter B. Horsley

This well-located and attractive apartment building is one of many designed by J. E. R. Carpenter, who was the foremost architect in the city of luxury residential buildings of his era.

His other Park Avenue buildings include 550, 580, 625, 635, 640, 655, 812, 950, 960 and 1050. His Fifth Avenue buildings include 810, 825, 907, 920, 950, 988, 1030, 1035, 1060, 1115, 1120, 1143, 1150, 1165 and 1170 as well as 2 East 66th Street.

Erected in 1916, this 12-story building, which replaced five row houses, was converted to a cooperative in 1954 and has 34 apartments. It is convenient to public transportation and the many fashionable boutiques and restaurants along Madison Avenue and, of course, it is not too far from Central Park.

In his delightful book, "Park Avenue, Street of Dreams," (Atheneum, 1990), James Trager devotes considerable space, and humor, to some of the past tenants in this building including Dorothy Kilgallen, the newspaper columnist and television personality, and Mary Roberts Rinehart and Lillian Hellman, the writers:

"Born in Chicago in 1913, the daughter of a Hearst newspaperman, Kilgallen had emulated Nelly Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane), who in November 1889 had been sent around the world by Pulitzer’s New York World to beat Jules Verne’s fictional Phineas Fogg. In September 1936, Kilgallen, twenty-three (the same age Cochrane had been), set off on the German dirigible Hindenburg, which had inaugurated regular transatlantic service four months earlier. Racing against Bud Ekins of the Telegram and Leo Kieran of the Times, she took Pan American’s China Clipper from Manila to San Francisco via Guam, Wake, Midway, and Honolulu, covering 8,200 miles in five days. Ekins won the race, breaking the record by circling the earth in eighteen days, fourteen hours, fifty-six minutes and becoming the first man to do it entirely by air over passenger routes that had barely been established. After a sojourn in Hollywood, Kilgallen returned to New York to write a Broadway gossip column, "The Voice of Broadway," in November 1938. Knickerbocker Holiday, the Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson musical, had opened in October with a twenty-seven-year-old baritone, Richard Kollmar, in the cast. Kilgallen married Kollmar in April 1939, and in 1941, after the birth of the first child, they moved into a[n]...apartment at 630 Park Avenue. Kollmar was known to WOR radio listeners as the voice of ‘Boston Blackie.’ In 1945, ‘Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick’ debuted on WOR, giving the illusion the program emanated from a country cottage. A writer for The New Yorker magazine visited the Kollmar apartment one August morning in 1946. Naturally, he wrote, referring to the homey front-porch-rocker material prepared by the station. ‘I was impatient to see the little vine-covered cottage in which Dick has installed Dorothy. I was disappointed to find that they lived in a sixteen-room apartment on Park Avenue at 66th Street. The door was opened by an elderly Negro butler wearing a white jacket. I entered a long marble hallway, at the far end of which I could dimly see Mrs. Kollmar waiting to greet me in a floor-length hostess gown. By the time I had walked the length of the hall, Mr. Kollmar, having left his rocker and come in off the front porch, was at her side. Mrs. Kollmar is a slim, young brunette with immobile features. Mr. Kollmar is a stocky, boyish looking man...’ Kollmar was also a drunk, and Kilgallen became the family’s breadwinner. On February 2, 1950, she appeared in the premiere performance of ‘What’s My Line?’ a CBS TV game show moderated by John Daly. Kilgallen would continue as a regular on the show until her death, in November 1965, from acute alcohol and barbiturate intoxification. Lee Israel, her biography, suggests that Kilgallen was killed in connection with a gigantic cover-up of facts associated with President John F. Kennedy’s assassination at Dallas two years earlier; but he produces no real evidence for such a suggestion. Nor is there any evidence that Dorothy Kilgallen had literary talent. Park Avenue had better writers. Still living at 630 Park at the time of Kilgallen’s death was Mary Roberts Rinehart, author of the 1908 best seller, The Circular Staircase and of its 1920 Broadway adaptation, The Bat. The writer Geoffrey T. Hellman had visited Rinehart and profiled her for Life Magazine. Less gifted than Cather or even Ferber, she made a lot more money than either from her sixty-odd books (serious novels as well as murder mysteries) and numerous magazine stories and serials, all written, Hellman noted, ‘in long-hand with a fat fountain pen.’ Her eighteen-room Park Avenue apartment, Hellman wrote, included a dining room-drawing-room-living room suite with a ninety-foot vista, a working study with a more modest vista, a billiard room, and an eight-room servants’ wing occupied by three domestics and several dozen filing cabinets crammed with affectionate fan mail, voluminous income tax reports, and other stigmata of a successful popular writer....Her apartment is embellished with Gainsboroughs, Raeburns, Chinese-Chippendale chairs, Adam side tables, inlaid Spanish cabinets, Austrian Aubusson rugs, and a carved dining-room table from the collection of the Duke of Cleveland (England). The Rineharts’ sons Stanley M. Jr. and Theodore left Doubleday Doran in 1929 and started Farrar and Rinehart, which later became Rinehart and co., and in 1960 merged with two other houses to become Holt Rinehart Winston (now Henry Holt). Mrs. Rinehart evidently provided some financial support and wrote a mystery novel, The Door, for her sons’ firm. George Horace Lorimer, the famous Saturday Evening Post editor, paid $60,000 for serial rights. In the 1930’s, when millions of Americans were struggling to survive, Rinehart was averaging $100,000 a year. Magazines paid between $45,000 and $65,000 for her mysteries, depending on their length, and Good Housekeeping put up $75,000 (the largest amount she ever received for serial rights) to run installments of The Doctor, written after the death of Dr. Stanley Rinehart, Mary’s husband, in October 1932. Rinehart moved into the fifth floor Park Avenue apartment in February, 1932. She was fifty-eight and getting richer as readers kept eating up her words....Rinehart died in September 1958, at eighty-two, a Park Avenue dowager unlike most of the blue-haired breed, in that her fortune had come entirely from her own efforts."

One of the building’s other prominent residents was Lillian Hellman, the author of "The Children’s Hour," "Watch on the Rhine" and "The Little Foxes," who, according to Trager, lived on the tenth floor of this building from 1969 to 1984.

The building has a canopied entrance, a doorman, a concierge, but no health club, no sun deck and no garage.


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