New York Songlines: 48th Street

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HUDSON RIVER



Pier 88

While being retrofitted here into a troop ship, the French ocean liner the S.S. Normandie caught fire here on February 9, 1942, and was capsized by the water used to douse it. Whether the fire was accidental, Nazi sabotage or mob extortion is still unknown.


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South:

Corner (620 12th Ave): Millar Elevator Industries







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South:

Corner: Playground








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328: Midtown West elementary school (PS 212) was founded in 1989 in conjunction with the Bank Street College of Education.



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393: The home address of Detective Adam Flint in the TV series Naked City.

Hotel Belvedere

319: Built in the 1920s as a a 16-story apartment building.



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The eastern boundary of Hell's Kitchen

South:

Corner (782 8th Ave): The Broadway Firehouse, home to Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9, lost 17 firefighters on September 11--one of the hardest hit.

234: Best Western President Hotel doesn't get the greatest online reviews.

232: Hurley's Saloon, opened 1892 on 6th Avenue at 49th Street. Notable for refusing to be bought out by Rockefeller Center, forcing a redesign in the layout of the RCA Building. It used to be where NBC personalities like Johnny Carson, Jack Paar and David Letterman hung out. Finally cashed out and moved here c. 2000, to a building that was once an Army-Navy store with a synagogue on an upper floor.

Longacre Theatre

220: A French neo-classical design by Henry B. Herts finished in 1913; the backer was Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee. Longacre Square was the former name of Times Square, referring to a street in London's theater district. Ain't Misbehaving and Children of a Lesser God played here.

Morgan Stanley

CIMG2805.JPG by L.x. Fringes, on Flickr

210 (corner): The post-modern facade of this building features rolling financial quotes. Morgan Stanley was formed in 1935 from parts of JP Morgan and Drexel when the Glass-Steagall Act forced commercial banks to spin off their investment units. In 1914, this block became the site of The Strand, the first Times Square theater designed specifically for movies.

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North:

Corner (790 8th Ave): Hilton Garden Inn Times Square, formerly Days Inn Midtown

235: The Ritz Plaza apartment building was built in 1990 on the site of Mamma Leone's pizzeria.





Walter Kerr Theatre

219: Built by the Shuberts in just 60 days in 1921 as the Ritz--Herbert J. Krapp, architect. It was leased by the Federal Theatre Project in 1937, and was used as a radio and TV station from 1943-65; Alexander Woolcott broadcast his commentaries on Broadway from the stage. It was renamed in 1990 for critic and playwright Walter Kerr. It has a distinguished history as a venue for serious drama: Angels in America and four of August Wilson's plays debuted here. In 1943, My Sister Eileen had its bow. I don't see a lot of Broadway plays, but I saw both Proof and The Weir here.

Crowne Plaza Manhattan

Corner (1605 Broadway): This 1989 building by Alan Lapidus stands out for its purplish glass and curved concrete corners. DSC02115 by StrahlemannBE, on Flickr

On the southeast corner of the hotel is Hershey's Times Square, a chocolate store with a 215-foot multimedia facade. Spot any broken lights? It's supposed to look like that.


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The intersection of Broadway and 48th has been designated Jack Dempsey Corner after the boxing champ.

South:

Ramada Renaissance

NYC - Times Square by wallyg, on Flickr

Block (1580 Broadway): This wedge-shaped building, put up in 1989, is most famous for its signage--Coca-Cola has had a sign here since 1936 (though it's temporarily absent). The site has a storied history: In the 1920s it was the Palais Royale, with the Moulin Rouge in the basement; then from 1936 to 1940 it was the Cotton Club's post-Harlem home, featuring stars like Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne. From 1942 to 1969, it was the Latin Quarter nightclub--run by Lou Walters, Barbara Walters' father.

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1600 Broadway by pakec, on Flickr

Block (1600 Broadway): The site of the Studebaker Building, built in 1902 as an auto showroom. In the 1930s it was Joseph Hilton & Sons suits, in 1939 the Ripley Believe It or Not! Odditorium ("Curioddities From 200 Countries"), in the 1940s-60s Howard Clothes, and more recently Tony Roma's A Place for Ribs. Before the Renaissance Hotel was built, it was one of the most visible spots in Times Square, bringing the rooftop memorable signage from Maxwell House to Sony. Torn down in 2005, it's been replaced by a high-rise apartment building designed by Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Achitecture & Engineering.


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"When it comes on summer, and the nights get nice and warm, I love to sit on the steps in front of the bank at 48th Street and 7th Avenue, where a guy can keep himself cool."
--Damon Runyon, "Delegates at Large"

South:

174 (corner): Smiler's Deli & Salad Bar; upstairs is Rod Baltimore's International Woodwind & Brass Music Co.

148: Was Pearl's, a fashionable Chinese in the 1970s (people ate there before going to Studio 54) that popularized lemon chicken.

Cort Theatre

138-146: A 1913 design by Thomas W. Lamb, modeled on Versailles' Petit Trianon. Built by and named for producer John Cort. The Diary of Anne Frank debuted here.

Celanese Building

136 (block): This 1973 Harrison, Abramowitz & Harris building in the southernmost of the Rockefeller addition skyscrapers. It's named for a chemical company, but it's best known as the U.S. headquarters of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation; it's where Fox News, the New York Post and Murdoch himself have their main offices.

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North:

Corner (723 7th Ave): Maxie's Delicatessen

157: Was the site of the 48th Street Theater, where Martha Graham had her first major dance concert on April 18, 1926.





McGraw-Hill Building

Corner (1221 6th Ave): Considered the best of the Harrison, Abromowitz & Harris additions to Rockefeller Center, it went up in 1972 to house the publishing company. McGraw Publishing, founded in 1899, merged with Hill Publishing in 1909. The company also owns Standard & Poor.

The sculpture in front, Athelstan Spilhaus' Sun Triangle, points to the position of the sun at noon on the solstices and equinoxes.


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58: Channel 4 Irish Pub/Restaurant used to be known as Fiddler's Green.

































6: Clara Beebe Spence started a school at this address in 1892 that would later become the Spence School.

Corner (592 5th Ave): This Modernist white prism with black window-slits started out in 1913 as a neo-Classical design by Carrere & Hastings (of NYPL fame) for the Black, Starr & Frost jewelry company. It was radically reclad in 1964. Once the National Bank of North America, it's now a Fleet Bank branch.

On this corner in 1859 was built the Collegiate Reformed Church, aka the Church of St. Nicholas, for the congregation established by the Dutch in New Amsterdam.

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Rockefeller Center

The land that is now Rockefeller Center was once the Elgin Botanic Garden, 20 acres of mainly medicinal herbs established by Dr. David Hosack, the physician who attended Alexander Hamilton after his fatal duel with Aaron Burr. The Lewis and Clark expedition sent plants here for identification. The garden was sold to the state in 1810, which granted it to Columbia University, which allowed the garden to be developed. In 1929, the land was leased to John D. Rockefeller, who built on it an Art Deco masterpiece that is one of New York City's crowning glories.

Simon & Schuster Building

Corner (1230 6th Ave): Built in 1940 as the U.S. Rubber Building, this marks the southeastern corner of the original Rockefeller Center project. Simon & Schuster, founded in 1924 and perhaps most notable as the parent company of Pocket Books, is now part of Viacom.

This building used to house the clubby AJ Maxwell's Steakhouse, which was previously the excitingly named Forum of the Twelve Caesars.

61: A brownstone here was the headquarters of Boni & Liveright, the first publishers of Eugene O'Neill, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Hart Crane, Dorothy Parker, S. J. Perelman, John Reed, Max Eastman and Mary Heaton Vorse. Bennett Cerf, who founded Random House, and Richard Simon of Simon & Schuster both worked here, as did Lillian Hellman. The Modern Library was founded by Boni & Liveright in 1917, bought by Cerf in 1935 and became the core of Random House.

20 Rockefeller Plaza: This is the address of Christie's, the famous auction house.

10 Rockefeller Plaza: Formerly the Eastern Airlines Building; Rockefeller Center was officially completed on November 1, 1939 when John D. Rockefeller drove a silver rivet into this building. The Story of Transportation (1944) is the rather sexy mural here by Dean Cornwell. There's a Nintendo World store here that used to be the Pokemon Center during the height of the Japanese cartoon craze.


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1 Rockefeller Plaza: This was the original Time and Life Building, completed in 1937, but the name moved along with the publishing company in 1959.

Corner (600 5th Ave): The building with a Barnes & Noble branch is technically part of Rockefeller Center, though its neighbors to the north are not. It was built in 1952 as the Sinclair Oil Building and purchased by the Rockefeller complex in 1963.


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The Big Map has a photo tour of 48th Street from here to 1st Avenue.

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Swedish Seamens Church

5: This townhouse got a neo-Gothic redesign from Wilfred E. Anthony in 1921. Long the home of the New York Bible Society, it was purchased in 1978 by the Svenska Kyrkan (Swedish Church) to be the home of the sailors' mission founded on Water Street in 1878.


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South:

Chase World Headquarters

Block (270 Park): Fifty-three stories of grey glass and matte-black steel, a 1960 Skidmore Owings & Merrill building, originally built for Union Carbide, redone in 1983 by the same architects. The elevators start on the second floor because the building is built over a railroad yard. It now houses the world headquarters of JPMorgan Chase, the banking giant.

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Corner (280 Park Ave): Bankers Trust Building was designed in 1963 by Henry Dreyfuss, an industrial designer, under the auspices of Emery Roth & Sons. The result was a building consisting of one rectangular block on top of another. An addition to the west was added in 1971. Now owned by the royal family of Dubai.


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South:

Corner (277 Park): This building houses the investment firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, the Continental Grain Company and Penthouse magazine.












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North:

Corner (299 Park Ave): Westvaco Building, a 1967 Emery Roth building, named for a West Virginian paper company. It hosts Japan's consul general.

111: This building was the Hotel Barclay; Hemingway worked on To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls here. Eugene O'Neill lived here in 1945-46.

InterContinental The Barclay

111 (corner): Built in 1927 by the New York Central Railroad as the Barclay Hotel, designed by Cross & Cross. Noted for an oversized birdcage in the lobby. Ronald Reagan liked to stay here; Bill Clinton made it his New York headquarters in 1992.


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South:

Corner (511 Lexington): Radisson Lexington Hotel A 27-story hotel that was home to Joe DiMaggio during his 18 Yankee seasons; Marilyn Monroe stayed here when they were married. Noted for its Hawaiian Room in 1936.

148: Marriott's Residence Inn (formerly the Helmsley Middletowne Hotel) was built as an apartment building in 1931. Starting in 1956, it was the location of Eden Roc, a fashionable restaurant run by alumni of the Stork Club (and the Harwyn Club). (The namesake is a hotel on the French Riviera, though a Miami hotel by that name might have been the direct inspiration.) "The town's leading advertising brains lunch at Eden," a 1959 review noted.

160 (corner): Buchanan Apartments, a 1928 apartment building on the site of the 19th Century Buchanan farm. It was home to 1930s socialites like William Iselin, Eva Drexel Dahlgren and Frederick Havemeyer.

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145: The Cosmopolitan, a 34-story 1986 building








Corner (780 3rd Ave): The Wang Building was built for the computer company in 1984 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The windows form an interesting triangular design. Devon & Blakely, fancy deli, on the ground floor; also Ribot, Mediterranean.


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The western boundary of Turtle Bay

South:

Corner (767 3rd Ave): The AIA Guide calls this 1980 Fox & Fowle building ''stylish and sinuous.''














228: Kurt Vonnegut lived here until his 2007 death.

230: Cabaret singer Hildegarde lived here.






Corner (885 2nd Ave): One Hammarskjold Plaza has 49 floors completed in 1972. The permanent missions to the U.N. of Britain, Ireland, France, Denmark and Sweden are all located here. Houses the steakhouse Blair Perrone; formerly a Ruth's Chris Steak House branch.

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Corner (777 3rd Ave): The U.S. Plywood Building, designed by William Lescaze for the U.S. Plywood Company, was finished in 1963. Architect Philip Johnson's house was one of the buildings torn down for the project. The 38-story building houses the headquarters of Grey Global Group, a major advertising agency founded in 1917. The plaza features the sculptures Contrapunto by Beverly Pepper and Big Red Swing by Theodore Ceraldi.

William Lescaze House

211: Architect Lescaze adapted an existing row house here for his family and office in 1933-34, creating the first modernist house in New York.

Turtle Bay Gardens

229: E.B. White lived here from 1946-1957, where he wrote Charlotte's Web.

237: Journalist Dorothy Thompson, the first foreign correspondent to be expelled by Nazi Germany, lived here from 1941-1957. She was the model for the Katharine Hepburn character in Woman of the Year; Time called her the most powerful woman in the country after Eleanor Roosevelt.

239: E.B. White earlier lived briefly at this address.

245: Another short-term E.B. White home.

249: Turtle Bay House, a 1970s apartment building


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South:

Corner (301 E 47th): Embassy House, 1960s white-brick apartment building, was built on the site of St. Boniface's Catholic Church. The church was connected to the bizarre 1913 murder/dismemberment of Anna Aumuller; Father Hans Schmidt, an assistant here, confessed to the crime, saying St. Elizabeth had told him to do it. It turned out that Schmidt was actually a counterfeiter posing as a priest, and that Aumuller, his lover, had died after a botched abortion. Schmidt had hoped to be declared insane, but he was sent to the chair at Sing Sing in 1916.

304: Alamo, reincarnation of a popular Mexican that ran from 1984-2000.

318: This parking garage used to be a silent film studio set up in 1916 by Joseph Schenck, future president of United Artists. On the ground floor was a studio for Schenck's wife Norma Talmadge; the third floor was Fatty Arbuckle's Comique Films, where Buster Keaton shot his first film in 1917 and met his future wife, Talmadge's sister Natalie.

Trump World Plaza

Corner (845 1st Ave): This 72-story building, completed in 2001, is the tallest residential building in the world. It closely resembles the monoliths from 2001, but is far less likely to advance human evolution.

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301: The facade of Marlo House, a 1960s apartment building, features an abstract mural by William Bond.









321: Continental Apartments, white-brick building












Corner: United Nations Plaza, 1990s apartments by Der Scutt.


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Below this intersection flows De Voor's Mill Stream, aka Turtle Creek, which used to flow into Turtle Bay. An 1854 cholera epidemic prompted the city to turn it into a culvert, which still empties into the East River.

South:

The flags of the U.N. members fly along U.N. Plaza in alphabetical order; the flag of Afghanistan is at the corner of 48th Street.

United Nations Headquarters

This land, formerly used by slaughterhouses, gas works and the like, was going to be developed by William Zeckendorf into a futuristic housing/retail complex called X-City. When that fell through, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave the U.N. the money to buy it for its headquarters, to spare New York the embarrassment of having the world organization base itself in Philadelphia instead.

Construction began in 1947, following the design of an international architectural committee, with Switzerland's Le Corbusier probably the most famous and influential member.

North Garden

Cast the Sleeping Elephant, by Bulgarian-born artist Mihail and donated to the U.N. by Kenya, Namibia and Nepal, has attracted more than its share of controversy. The bronze, based on a cast of a tranquilized wild bull elephant, made U.N. officials squeamish because of the animal's anatomically correct erection; some strategically planted shrubbery was added for modesty.

A monument to Eleanor Roosevelt, the U.S.'s first delegate to the U.N., bears the motto: "Rather than curse the darkness, she lit a candle, and her light has warmed the world."

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Corner: 860 U.N. Plaza




870 U.N. Plaza

Author Truman Capote lived here from 1965 until his death in 1984.



















Macarthur Plaza

Named in honor of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was fired by President Harry Truman for carrying out his own war policy.





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EAST RIVER







What's missing on 48th Street? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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