New York Songlines: 49th Street

With Mitchell Place

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Mitchell Place was named in 1899 for Judge William Mitchell, an obscure lawyer who practiced in the early 19th Century. The New York Times quoted a city librarian: ''Back then, they didn't say why they were naming things -- they just named them.''


HUDSON RIVER









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In 1870, on 49th Street just west of 11th Avenue, new precinct captain Tom Killilea took on five waterfront toughs in a bare-knuckled boxing match. He knocked them all out in sequence in 12 minutes.

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606: In the 1890s, Pabst had a brewery at this address.

600 (corner): Was the site of the Munson Diner, a beautiful old-school stainless steel diner built 1945. It was moved to the Catskills in 2004 to make room for the expansion of a Volvo dealership.

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637: Con Edison





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514: U.S. Postal Service Vehicle Maintenance Facility








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Skyline Hotel

Corner (725 10th Ave): Formerly a Travelodge. Police dug up the grounds behind this hotel in 1979 in an unsuccessful search for victims of the Westies crime gang.


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442: MJH Gear & Tool Co.












404: Pam Real Thai Food

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Graphic Communication Arts High School

439: Founded in 1925 as the New York School of Printing, this is a public vocational school that specializes in printing, photography and visual arts. The building, which dates to 1959, has been called "one of the most vigorous International Style buildings in town" (AIA Guide), and features the first escalators in a New York City school. Includes the Off-Broadway venue Manhattan Playhouse.

409: In the musical Guys and Dolls, this is the address of the Save-a-Soul Mission.


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350 (corner): The Coffee Pot got a major spiffing up in 2005. The nice red-brick building starts a unified strip of low-rise development along this block.

326: Poet Frank O'Hara moved to a tenement here in 1952; his poor housekeeping habits led one visitor to dub his apartment "Squalid Manor." A mugger shot O'Hara here in 1956. The current 15-story condo dates to 1962.

324: Sixth Sense, an eclectic candle shop

322: Gallery 49



316: Churrascaria Plataforma, Brazilian barbecue. From 1972-88, this was the club Better Days, a black/gay disco.


300 (corner): Elmsford Apartments

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Worldwide Plaza

Block (720 9th Ave): This block-filling project went up in 1989, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill--it resembles the RCA Building on steroids.

It was built on the site of the third Madison Square Garden, here from 1925 to 1966, designed by Thomas Lamb. The New York Rangers were established here in 1926, and the Knicks in 1946. The first Golden Gloves amateur boxing championship was held here March 28, 1927. A celebration for Adolf Hitler here on February 20, 1939, turned out 22,000 Nazi sympathizers. John F. Kennedy held his 45th birthday party here on May 19, 1962, with Marilyn Monroe singing him a very special ''Happy Birthday, Mr. President.''

309: Lifetime Television and Ogilvy & Mather advertising are headquartered at this Worldwide Plaza address.


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

242: The Mayfair Hotel was built c. 1900 as a hotel for actors; served as an SRO before being converted into a semi-budget hotel, noted for its tiny rooms.

Eugene O'Neill Theatre

230: Built in 1925 by the Shuberts, designed as usual by Herbert J. Krapp, it was originally named for Edwin Forrest, the 19th Century Shakesperean whose rivalry with William Charles Macready led to the Astor Place Riot of 1949. It was renamed first the Coronet in 1945 then the O'Neill in 1959, after the playwright. Tobacco Road played at the Forrest Theatre from 1934-41, prompting a sailor in On the Town to demand to be taken here. A Thousand Clowns debuted here, as did a number of Neil Simon plays--which makes sense, because for a time he owned the place.

Time Hotel

224: Built along with the theater next door as the Hotel Forrest, where Damon Runyon lived from 1928 until the late 1930s. Other entertainers who called this home include Bert Lahr, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Later called the Hotel Consulate; got its current name after a stylish makeover in 1999. Features the Time Lounge.
















Crowne Plaza Manhattan

Crowne Plaza Times Square by VTCarter, on Flickr

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

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Corner: Gershwin Apartments are a 40-story apartment development built in 1998, named for the songwriting brothers.

St Malachy's Church

239: This neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church was built in 1902; the construction of an Actor's Chapel below the main church recognized its function as a spiritual home for Catholic show folk. Among the many who worshipped here were George M. Cohan, Spencer Tracy, Perry Como, Rosalind Russell, Danny Thomas, Bob Hope, Ricardo Montalban and Pat O'Brien. The funeral of Rudolph Valentino, held here on August 30, 1926, attracted 100,000 mourners. Joan Crawford, Fred Allen and Jimmy Durante were all married here.

Malachy, a 12th Century archbishop of Armagh, was the first native-born Irish saint; according to a popular prophecy attributed to him, Benedict XVI is the next to last pope before the Second Coming.

Ambassador Theatre

219: Another theater designed by Herbert J. Krapp for the Shuberts, it opened in 1921. Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk played here from 1996-99.

Brill Building

brill building by traffic sounds, on Flickr

1619 (corner): Built in 1931 by developer Abraham Lefcourt, it was soon taken over and renamed by the Brill Brothers clothing store. In 1932, Southern Music Publishing Company moved here, starting the building's role as a center of music publishing that would last until 1974. (Buddy Holly met his soon-to-be wife, Maria Elena Santiago, at Southern Music, where she was a secretary.) Almost a third of the songs played on Your Hit Parade from 1935 until 1958 were published by Brill Building companies. Songwriters like Carole King, Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond and Neil Sedaka got their starts here. Big Bands like the Dorsey Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway were also headquartered here. colony by Digiart2001, on Flickr

On the ground floor, the Colony Music Center, with vintage vinyl and a great sheet music collection, is a reminder of the building's glory days.


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Gambler Sky Masterson met the mission worker Sarah Brown at this corner in the Damon Runyon story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown."

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Corner (1604 Broadway): Spotlight Live, karaoke-themed restaurant with a live back-up band.










202 (corner): The Playwright Tavern pays homage to Irish theater writers.

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750 7th Avenue

750 7th avenue by Drumaboy, on Flickr

Block (750 7th Ave): This 35-story 1989 ziggurat was designed by Kevin Roche. Houses the Majestic Delicatessen, opened in 1972, and Martinique Jewelers, founded 1963.




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729 (corner): Nick's Gourmet Deli; upstairs is a Houlihan's. Also Gifts Camera Luggage, a big souvenir store, and Magno Sound & Video.

152: Sapporo, "the comfort food capital of Nipponese New York."--Robert Sietsema.

142: Radio City Apartments are actually a hotel.










McGraw Hill Building

Corner (1221 Broadway): 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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Lehman Brothers Building

This office complex, which serves as world headquarters for the investment bank, has a million square feet of floor space. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox for the Rockefeller Group, it opened 2002. Includes Hale & Hearty Soups, New York Yankees Clubhouse sports store.

Lehman Brothers was founded in Birmingham, Alabama in 1850 by three German immigrant brothers, and moved to New York after the Civil War.

115: Was the address of Champlain, described in a 1940 restaurant guide as "an excellent French restaurant at medium prices."

111: City Lobster, Sushiden are in the Exxon Building.

Exxon Building

Corner (1251 6th Ave): One of the western additions tacked on to Rockefeller Center, this was built in 1971 to a Harrison, Abramowitz & Harris design. Exxon used to be Esso, which was Standard Oil ("S.O.") of New Jersey, part of the breakup of the Rockefellers' Standard Oil Company. Exxon is now merged with Mobil, formerly Socony--Standard Oil Co. of New York.


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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.







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.

The Today show broadcasts from a studio at street level here, with a window for the tourists to look in through.

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RCA Building

30 Rockefeller Plaza (block): The crown jewel of Rockefeller Center, completed in 1933, this 70-story limestone masterpiece is attributed mainly to Raymond Hood. Diego Rivera's mural, Man at Crossroads Looking With Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future, was painted over by Nelson Rockefeller when Rivera refused to take Lenin out of the artwork. The murals visible today are Jose Maria Sert's American Progress and Time. Above the main entrance is Lee Lawrie's relief sculpture Genius.

The famous Rainbow Room is on the 65th floor, which opened in 1934 as a nightspot for Rockefellers, Astors and Morgans. Entertainment was provided by the likes of Mary Martin, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Comden and Green, and Judy Holliday. It's touted as the "most perfect room in New York."

The "Top of the Rock," the recently reopened rooftop observatory, is a great alternative to the Empire State Building-- the sailors go there in the movie On the Town.

RCA was the Radio Corporation of America, formed in 1919 as a joint subsidiary of General Electric and AT&T; both NBC and ABC were initially launched by RCA. When GE reacquired RCA in 1986, GE CEO Jack Welch insisted on renaming the RCA Building the GE Building. Jack Welch is a poor role model for America's children.

NBC's main New York studios are located in this building, where shows like NBC Nightly News, Saturday Night Live and Late Night With Conan O'Brien are taped; The Tonight Show used to broadcast from here in the Jack Paar/early Johnny Carson days. Arturo Toscanini used to broadcast from the same studio that today houses SNL.


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

14: Morrell Wine Bar & Café; Dean & Deluca

10: Kinokuniya, Japanese bookstore




4: Alfredo's, Italian

Corner (608 5th Ave): The Goelet Building, a 1932 building of marble, limestone and stainless steel, houses the Swiss Center. Not part of Rockefeller Center.

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Ice Rink

The famous skating rink was not an original part of the Rockefeller Center plan, but was added

11: This is the unlikely home address of Detective Christine Cagney on the show Cagney and Lacey.

La Maison Francaise

Corner (610 5th Ave): This 1933 building used to house the French Consulate, and it still has the Librairie de France bookstore, L'Occitane, a Provencal beauty products store, and Movado, a Swiss watch company. Kenneth Cole shoes has the 5th Avenue side. Over the entrance is Alfred Janniot's bas-relief, The Friendship of France and the United States, a work of art perhaps more necessary today than ever.


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The Big Map has a photo tour of 49th Street from here to 1st Avenue.

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Corner (609 5th Ave): American Girl Place, a store, cafe, photo studio and theater-- all revolving around the popular historically themed doll line.

12: Tower 49

20: Burger Heaven

22: Liberty Deli & Pizza






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Saks Fifth Avenue

Block: Launched in 1924 by Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel, partners in Gimbel's on 34th Street, it brought upscale shopping to what was then a largely residential neighborhood. The building replaced the Democratic Club and the Buckingham Hotel.

19: Sushiden, Japanese

New York Magazine

Corner (444 Madison): Founded in 1968, it has a paid circulation of 437,000, which seems like an awful lot.


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60: The Prime Grill

Bankers Trust

Corner (280 Park): Bankers Trust East 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. Deutsche Bank has offices here.

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Colgate Palmolive Building

300 (block): Built in 1955 as the headquarters of the toothpaste and soap company. (They also make Ajax and Fab.) The building, another Emery Roth design, has been called ''a beige box with an horizontal emphasis that conveys the heaviness of a fat plantation owner sleeping and immovable on some stodgy club verandah.''


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Westvaco Building

299 (block): A 1967 Emery Roth building, named for a West Virginia paper company. It hosts Japan's consul general.

















InterContinental The Barclay

The Hotel Intercontinental was built in 1927 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. Heads of state like Francois Mitterrand and Nelson Mandela have stayed here because of its proximity to the U.N.; other celebrity guests have included Bette Davis, Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway.

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The Waldorf-Astoria

Corner (301 Park): One of the world's most famous hotels started out where the Empire State Building is now--formed by the merger of the Waldorf and Astoria hotels, owned by rival branches of the Astor family. (Waldorf was John Jacob Astor's German hometown.) When the skyscraper replaced the old hotel, it moved to this 625-foot Art Deco landmark (designed by Schultze & Weaver), at the time the largest hotel in the world; when it opened on September 30, 1931, the first guest to be served dinner was the king of Siam.

Former president Herbert Hoover lived here, as did future president JFK; other long-term residents include the Duke of Windsor, Henry Kissinger and generals Eisenhower, MacArthur and Bradley. Every sitting president since FDR has stayed here as a guest; LBJ met with Pope Paul VI here on October 4, 1965, during the first papal visit to the U.S. The first Tony Awards were presented here on April 6, 1947.

The hotel was featured in the Ginger Rogers film Weekend at the Waldorf. Its namesake salad is compared to a Berlin ballad in the song "You're the Top." The hotel's Empire Room was an early venue for Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross.

The hotel is now owned by the Hilton chain. The restaurant is called Peacock Alley, named for the corridor in the original Waldorf-Astoria where the fashionable paraded.


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Marriott East Side

140 (corner): The hotel was built in 1924 as the Shelton Towers Hotel (later Halloran House), once the tallest hotel in the world and highly influential in its cubistic setbacks. Painter Georgia O'Keefe lived here with photographer Alfred Stieglitz from 1925-35; both made use of their 30th floor view in their art. In August 1926, Harry Houdini was soldered into an iron coffin and lowered into the basement swimming pool; he stayed submerged for 91 minutes. In 1941, art collector Peggy Guggenheim lived here with surrealist Max Ernst, whom she had helped escape from Nazi-occupied France.

As the Marriott East Side, was the site of the assassination of far-right Israeli politician Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990. Alleged assassin Sayyid Nosair (he was convicted only of gun charges) was connected to militants who later tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993.

146: Manhattan Espresso Café; Kavanagh's Designer Clothes, consignment

Wang Building

Corner (780 3rd Ave): 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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W New York

141 (corner): The first of Westin's W line of luxury hotels, it was designed by David Rockwell in 1998 to evoke the four elements. Includes the stylish hotel bar Whiskey Blue, Heartbeat restaurant.













143: San Martin, Spanish

Hospitality House

145: Part of the Best Western hotel chain. Includes Caffé Linda, La Bellezza Pizza III.

151: ISE, Japanese

Corner (800 3rd Ave): The Icelandic consulate is one tenant in this gigantic brown-glass monolith--a 41-story Emery Roth & Sons design from 1972.


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East 49th Street between 3rd and 2nd avenues is known as Katharine Hepburn Way, named for the actor who lived on the block for many years.

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U.S. Plywood Building

Corner (777 3rd Ave): Designed by William Lescaze for the U.S. Plywood Company, 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.




234: Time founder Henry Luce moved here in 1927; he used to walk to the magazine's offices from here every day.

242: This was the longtime home of stage couple Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin; they leased it to Tyrone Power in 1954.

244: Katharine Hepburn first rented this house in 1932 while appearing on Broadway; in 1937 she bought it, becoming a neighborhood institution for more than 50 years.

246: Maxwell Perkins, editor of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, lived here from 1932-38. Later it was the home of composer/lyricist Steven Sondheim, whose late-night songwriting drove Hepburn to distraction.

250 (corner): Was the Box Tree Inn, a boutique hotel with only 13 rooms, each furnished with antiques, located in two vintage brownstones. Demolished in 2005.

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Smith & Wollensky

Corner (797 3rd Ave): Noted steakhouse founded in 1977 by no one named Smith or Wollensky, but instead by TGI Friday's Alan Stillman, who picked the restaurant's names out of a phone book.

229: Dates to 1860.

Amster Yard

211-215: This is a weird one. There was a set of buildings here that were built c. 1870, on land that had once been the terminal for the Boston stagecoach. They had become delapidated by 1944, when decorator Jim Amster (with the help of architect Harold Sterner) transformed it into an artists' colony centered on a beautiful courtyard. It became home to sculptor Isamu Noguchi, designer Norman Norell and decorator Billy Baldwin.

Then the site was bought by the Cervantes Institute, the Spanish government's cultural ambassador, which demolished the landmarked buildings and rebuilt facsimiles as part of the construction of an underground cultural center. The end result is by all accounts beautiful, but isn't part of the importance of landmarks that the represent an actual history?

255 (corner): Sterling Plaza, a spiky-topped 31-story condominium built in 1984 and designed by Arquitectonica (after the basic plans had been laid by Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron). "Take the main tower of the Houses of Parliament in London and wrap it cardboard and plunk it down in midtown and you almost have the Sterling Plaza"-- City Realty.


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342: Michael Cimino

Corner (875 U.N. Plaza): Nations Cafe

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303 (corner): The Peregrine, an idiosyncratic 24-story apartment tower from 1983.








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860 U.N. Plaza: A 40-story apartment bloc put up in 1966 to a Harrison, Abramovitz & Harris design.

870 U.N. Plaza: A twin to 860. 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 Korean War policy. He died in New York City in 1964.

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Beekman Tower Hotel

Corner (3 Mitchell Place): This 28-story Art Deco landmark was originally built in 1928 as the Panhellenic Tower, designed as a residence and clubhouse for members of Greek-letter sororities. The architect was John Mead Howells, the winner (along with Raymond Hood) in the Tribune Tower design competition, though it more resembles the influential second-place plan by Eliel Saarinen.

The Zephyr Grill is in this building but has the address 1 Mitchell Place.





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One Beekman Place

Corner (1 Beekman): This 1929 co-op, designed by Sloan & Robertson and Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray, is "the most prestigious Beekman Place apartment building," according to Carter Horsley. It was built by a group headed by David Milton, husband of Abby Rockefeller and son-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Early tenants here included "Wild Bill" Donovan of the OSS and John D. Rockefeller III.


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EAST RIVER







What's missing on 49th Street? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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