80 (corner): This 1901 landmark was designed (as
the Beaux Arts Studios) by
Charles Alonzo Rich for
Colonel Abraham A. Anderson, a gentleman portraitist who
had returned from a stay in Paris with that city's enthusiasm for
north light. A great many artists have lived and/or worked here,
Edward Steichen; painters
William Merritt Chase and
Fernand Leger; and print-maker
On the ground floor is the Park Side Cafe & Market; this
used to be the Cafe des Beaux Arts, an opulent
''lobster palace'' frequented by musical
comedy stars. Owned by the Bustanoby brothers,
it featured a ladies' bar where men could drink
only if accompanied by a woman.
58: Banks Building
Daytop Village, the country's oldest drug
counseling service (founded 1963), is in the former
Republican Club, a 1904 York & Sawyer building
noted for its heroic segmented columns.
American Radiator Building
40: A striking black-and-gold Art Deco building
designed in 1924 by Raymond Hood (architect
of Tribune Tower). The subject of a Georgia O'Keefe
painting. Renamed the American Standard Building,
then converted into the
Bryant Park Hotel, which features the vaulted Cellar Bar,
a restaurant ILO
The Columns, formerly the Engineer's Club,
built in 1907, reportedly for Andrew Carnegie.
Was the site of the Comstock School for Young Ladies,
which I believe was the school that Theodore Roosevelt's sister and future second wife attended. .
After one of the young ladies, Helen Neilson Potts, died here in
1891 of morphine poisoning, her clandestine lover, Carlyle W. Harris, was
executed for her murder.
28: Around the World, newsstand with many
20: The parking lot here was once the site of the
Wilkie Building, a nine-story Flemish-style building from 1907, designed by Henry Hardenbergh to house the New York Club.
It was bought in 1945 by supporters of
Freedom House, a right-wing "human rights" group (Sandinistas bad, Salvadoran death squads good), who renamed the
building for 1940 GOP candidate Wendell Wilkie. After vandalizing the building to prevent landmarking, Freedom House sold it in 1985 to Republic National Bank, which turned it into
the present parking lot.
12: 7th Day Adventist Book Center. I have to admit they
have a point about Saturday being the Sabbath. Was Tappe,
a women's wear store.
8: This was inventor
Nikola Tesla's office from 1915-24.
Corner (452 5th Ave): HSBC Tower, formerly the Republic National Bank Tower,
a 1983 modernist building that incorporates the 1902 Knox Hat Building.
(Knox Hats is
still around on 8th Avenue, dba Arnold Hatters.) Houses the
Esiason Foundation, fighting cystic fibrosis.
This area was set aside as early as 1686 for public
use; from 1823 to 1840, like many of Manhattan's
parks, it was used as a
pauper's graveyard. In 1842, the Croton Reservoir
was built on the east side of the space, where
the New York Public Library is now, and the
remaining land became known as Reservoir Square.
The Crystal Palace was built
on the site in 1853, a marvelous seven-story
exhibition space made of glass and cast iron
that housed America's first world's fair before
burning down spectacularly on October 5, 1858.
After serving as a parade ground for Union troops
during the Civil War, Reservoir Square was designated a park in
1871, and was renamed in 1884 for
William Cullen Bryant, poet, lawyer, New York Post
editor, abolitionist and park advocate. It was not much
of a park, though, until it was landscaped
in French garden style in the 1930s, the object
of a contest for unemployed architects.
By the 1970s, the park had become chiefly
known as a drug market (dubbed "Needle Park"),
but since a re-landscaping
in 1992 occasioned by the creation of underground
stacks for the library, it's become a
highly valued urban space, with 2,000 chairs for urbanites to relax on.
It's the venue for popular outdoor movies
in the summer. A plan to use trained falcons to
control the pigeons was scuttled in 2003 when one attacked
Sculptures in the park include an imposing Bryant,
Goethe, Gertrude Stein, copper maganate and YMCA founder
William Dodge (by John Quincy Adams Ward; (originally
in Herald Square) and Brazilian liberator Jose de Andrada
--not to mention Big Crinkly by Alexander Calder.
25: Bryant Park Cafe and Grill
Technically, this is just one of
four research libraries--the Humanities
& Social Science Library, to be specific--but
this is the heart and soul of the NYPL.
One of the world's greatest libraries, the NYPL
was formed in 1895 by combing the Astor,
Lenox and Tilden libraries. From
1902 to 1911, this Beaux Arts
architectural masterpiece designed by Carrere
& Hastings was constructed to house the
Authors who have used the library include
Isaac Bashevis Singer, E.L. Doctorow, Somerset Maugham,
Norman Mailer, John Updike, Tom Wolfe and Frank McCourt.
The Xerox copier, the Polaroid camera and the atomic bomb
were all researched here. Almost all the information in
Ripley's Believe It or Not! came from here--as did
much of Reader's Digest.
This was previously the site of the
Croton Distributing Reservoir, a massive tank holding
water from the Croton River, completed in 1842. Walking along its
monumental Egyptian walls was a popular
recreation, recommended by Edgar Allan Poe; the base
of the reservoir serves today as the library's foundation.
The pink marble lions outside the library
are Patience and Fortitude--nicknamed by
Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.