New York Songlines: 54th Street

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HUDSON RIVER









S <===         12TH AVENUE               ===> N

South:

DeWitt Clinton Park

This park, opened in 1905, is named for U.S. senator, NYC mayor and New York governor DeWitt Clinton, best remembered as the politician most responsible for the Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean and ensured New York City's place as the commercial capital of the United States. He was also the first president of the New-York Historical Society.

The park gave its name to the surrounding neighborhood, Clinton, adopted as a euphemism for Hell's Kitchen.

The playground here is the Erie Canal Playground, named for Clinton's greatest accomplishment.

Maria's Perennial Garden features 19th Century flowers as well as those that attract butterflies and bees.

The Clinton War Memorial known as Flanders Fields (for the John McCrae poem inscribed on its pedestal) features a doughboy statue by Burt W. Johnson; it was dedicated in 1929 as a memorial to the neighborhood's World War I dead.

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AT&T

Corner (811 10th Ave): A "windowless colossus" (AIA Guide) that houses telephone switching equipment. A 1964 effort by Kahn & Jacobs.

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Corner (790 11th Ave): Clinton Tower, 1975 pink concrete high-rise by Hoberman & Wasserman

539: Centro Maria, housing for women by Catholic Charities; built 1910.

513: The Colbert Report is taped here; The Daily Show was taped in the same studio until 2005.

(530 W 55th St): Harbor View Terrace, New York City Housing Authority's best project, according to the AIA Guide. Built 1977.

Corner (815 10th Ave): Parking garage


S <===           10TH AVENUE           ===> N

South:

Sony Music Studios

460 (corner): From 1992 until 2007, this was a recording and TV studio for Sony. Some of MTV Unplugged was taped here, including the Nirvana and Bob Dylan episodes. The U.S. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? started here in 1999.










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453 (corner): Ole Cafe

439: Knickerbocker Glass

421: From 1992 until 2005, this was The Hit Factory, a legendary recording studio. While most of its classic albums (like Songs in the Key of Life, Born to Run and Double Fantasy) were recorded at previous locations, these facilities produced releases like TLC's Crazy Sexy Cool and Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die. 50 Cent was stabbed outside the studios in 2000. Converted to residences known as The Hit Factory Condominium.

419: School for Strings, Suzuki-based music school founded in 1970. It moved in 1987 to this former carriage house.


S <===           9TH AVENUE           ===> N

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Corner (806 9th Ave): New York City Transit Authority

Midtown Community Court

314: This court, which handles misdemeanor arrests in the Times Square area, was established in 1993 in a landmark 1896 courthouse designed by John H. Duncan in the Classical style. On the upper floors is the American Theatre of Actors, a repertory company founded in 1976 to "promote the development of new playwrights, directors and actors" and produce "dramas and comedies dealing with the social and ethical problems of contemporary society." Among the actors who have worked here are Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis, Kevin Spacey and Chazz Palminteri.

Midtown North Precinct

306: An Art Moderne limestone cube built 1939. The precinct had one murder in 2007.

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359: Cosmo Martini Bar, tiny gay bar; was Chase HK, before that Scandal.






315: Uncle Vanya, homey Russian bar/restaurant







307: The St. George





S <===           8TH AVENUE           ===> N
The eastern boundary of Hell's Kitchen

South:



Studio 54

254: Built in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House, the venue was variously known as the New Yorker Theatre, the Casino de Paree (managed by Billy Rose), the Palladium Theatre and the Federal Music Theatre. In 1942 it was bought by CBS, which later used it as a studio for TV gameshows like The $64,000 Question, What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, Password and Beat the Clock, as well as The Jack Benny Show, Captain Kangaroo and the soap opera Love of Life.

In 1977, the dance club Studio 54 opened here as the epitome of disco era decadence. Celebrities like Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger, Margaret Trudeau, Margaux Hemingway, Truman Capote, Halston and Andy Warhol presided over the scene. It closed in 1980 when owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were busted for tax evasion, though it reopened from 1981-86 for a second, more subdued run.

250: Rene A. Morel Rare Violins. This was the address of Maysles Films, responsible for such classic documentaries as Salesman, Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens.

240: Iguana, American; Lone Star Boat Club, founded 1887; claims Ed Sullivan, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Matthau and Jerry Orbach among its members.

236: Divine Bar West; the original is on 51st Street. 56th & Broadway by mikeyNYC, on Flickr

230 (corner): Ameritania Hotel (formerly Bryant Hotel) has scary online reviews. Twist Lounge on ground floor.

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265: Shisk Kabob King; Bagel 54

263: Olde Tripple Inn, hotel; Sun Beauty Hats

259: Little Bangkok, Thai

255: New York State Department of Labor; Sound One



















243: Daily Soup; Dillon's Lounge

237: This was Hit Factory Broadway, the second-to-last location of the famous recording studio.











231: Paradise Club. Deep Bar Restaurant?

Corner: 54 Broadway Cafe


S <===           BROADWAY           ===> N

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1700 Broadway by Mr Curle, on Flickr

Corner (1700 Broadway): A 42-floor Emery Roth building from 1969 that has been home since 1996 to DC Comics and Mad magazine (which Bart visited when The Simpsons came to New York). Europa Cafe is on the ground floor. MAD Hallway by sandrino, on Flickr









200 (corner): Adlon Apartments. Midtown Medical Care Center, Big Apple Souvenirs are on the ground floor.

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Corner (1708 Broadway): International Ladies Garment Workers Union




205: Flute Bar & Lounge, specializing in Champagne. In the same building as...

203: This 1903 building was the Hotel Harding, where Mae West lived in 1928 when Diamond Lil was a hit. Coincidentally, gangster Jack "Legs" Diamond was also a resident. The building also housed Club Intime, one of Tex Guinan's nightclubs; in 1929, Guinan held a seance there in which Ethel Barrymore and Heywood Broun helped conjure the spirits of Rudolph Valentino and Arnold Rothstein. (One of the guests, who left shortly before the spirits arrived, discovered that $10,000 worth of jewelry had dematerialized.) In 1931, the speakeasy Club Abbey was here, where Dutch Schultz was wounded in a shootout with bootlegging rival Charles "Chink" Sherman.

201: Oyster Bar


S <===           7TH AVENUE           ===> N

South:

Corner (839 7th Ave): Star Diner

160: Old Castle Pub, Irish bar





























New York Hilton

Corner (1335 6th Ave): A 49-story slab emerging from a boxy base, completed 1963 to Harrison & Abramowitz' design. Philip Pavia's Ides of March, an abstract sculpture group, was in front here until 1988, when it moved to the Hippodrome.

The climax of the film Michael Clayton was shot here.

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161 (corner): The Congress apartments

159: Faces & Names, lounge and bar

The London NYC

153: This hotel opened in 1989 as the Hotel Royal Concordia, designed by Frank Williams & Associates; later known as the Rihga Royal Hotel. The 54-story Art Deco-style tower is New York's tallest hotel. The "gaudy and heavy-handed base" (AIA Guide) features a galleria connecting to 55th Street.

151: Halcyon, restaurant

Zeigfield Theater

141: Built in the 1960s, this 1,131-seat cinema is a pale copy of the old movie palaces, but it's still one of the best places in New York City to see a movie.

Burlington House

Block (120 W 55th): A 50-story office tower completed 1969, named for Burlington Industries, a fabric maker that ceased operations in 2004. The building is now formally the Alliance Capital Building, after Alliance took over Mastercard's former space here in 1994. Noted for the Dandelion Fountain out front.

This was the site of the Old Zeigfeld Theatre, where impressario Florenz Zeigfeld took his Follies here in 1927, to a sumptuous Art Deco house designed by Thomas W. Lamb and bankrolled by William Randolph Hearst. Later that year, the classic musical Show Boat premiered here. During the Depression, it was Loew's Zeigfeld, a movie palace. From 1955 to 1963, NBC used it as a TV studio. Briefly a live theater again, it was torn down in 1966.


S <===           6TH AVENUE           ===> N

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Financial Times Building

Corner (1330 6th Ave): A 41-story completed in 1965 and designed by Emery Roth & Sons. Originally built for ABC, it became ITT's headquarters after the conglomerate bought the network. It's now the U.S. base of the British business paper.









50: City Athletic Club

44: Connolly's Pub

MOMA

40: Founded in 1929 and moved to this building in 1939, the Museum of Modern Art exhibits some of the most iconic images of the Modern movement, including Van Gogh's Starry Night, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy, Dali's The Persistence of Memory and Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie. It's also known for its film library, established in 1935 and now containing more than 22,000 films.

30: The Dorset hotel, built in 1929, was the last home of World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, who died in 1973. It was a frequent meeting place for media executives; Howard Cosell used to eat breakfast there every day. It was demolished in 2000 to make room for the MOMA expansion.





















10: John D. Rockefeller Jr. moved here from across the street in 1908, shortly after the birth of his son Nelson. He and his family lived here until 1936. soon

4: In 1887, John D. Rockefeller moved to this address, into a four-story brownstone built in 1865--a stone's throw yet a world away from the ostentatious mansions that the Vanderbilt family was building at the same time along Fifth Avenue. The house was torn down in 1936, shortly before Rockefeller's death, to be replaced by MOMA's Sculpture Garden. The address is now the Museum of Modern Art Education and Research Center

Corner (684 5th Ave): William Henry Vanderbilt built a pair of mansions along 5th Avenue here in 1879, both designed by John Butler Snook. The one at this corner was built for his daughter Florence and her husband Hamilton Twombly.

Corner (680 5th Ave): Now the corner address, today Buchman Tower. This was the address of the mansion of Eliza (Lila) Vanderbilt and her husband William Seward Webb.

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Warwick Hotel

65 (corner): Built in 1926 by William Randolph Hearst with a specially designed floor for his mistress, Marion Davies. A favorite of show business sorts, the hotel boasts James Dean, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Russell as having been frequent guests. Cary Grant lived here for 12 years; The Beatles stayed here when they first came to the States. William Randolph Hearst, Helen Morgan (Show Boat), John Garfield Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Harvey Pekar

The hotel restaurant is Randolph's, the bar is Murals on 54th.

43: Connolly's, Irish pub

41: This 1878 townhouse by James G. Lynd was given a "modern" facelift in 1909 by Foster, Gade & Graham.

37: New York Thai Grill & Sushi Bar

35: Another 1878 townhouse by James G. Lynd that was renovated by Foster, Gade & Graham, this time in 1905.

33: Il Gatto Pardo, Italian

Manolo Blahnik

31: The high-end shoe store made famous by Sex and the City.

25: The Regent House

Rockefeller Apartments

17: Built in 1936, designed by Wallace K. Harrison and J. André Fouilhoux. Lewis Mumford called them "surely the most brilliant and most successful example of Modern architecture in the city - at least in apartment houses." Gertrude Lawrence, who originated the role of Anna in The King and I in 1951, lived here from 1936 until her death in 1952.

13-15: This 1897 neo-Renaissance townhouse was designed by Henry Hardenbergh for William Murray, but John D. Rockefeller Jr. moved here in 1901, across the street from his father; he moved next door to his dad in 1908, shortly after the birth of his son Nelson Rockefeller. The son, a New York governor (remembered for the Rockefeller drug laws) and the U.S. vice president under Gerald Ford, later owned the house; he died here of a heart attack on January 26, 1979, accompanied by 26-year-old aide Megan Marshack. No. 15 was the address of Nelson Rockefeller's Museum of Primitive Art from 1953 until the mid-1970s.

9-11: This 1898 limestone-and-brick neo-Georgian townhouse was designed by McKim, Mead & White for James J. Goodwin, a cousin of J.P. Morgan. From 1945 until 1979, the building housed the Rhodes Preparatory School, whose alumni include Robert deNiro, James Caan, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and fugitive Marc Rich. It now is the office of the U.S. Trust Company.

7: Built in 1900 for Philip Lehman, president of Lehman Brothers; the family art collection, which was housed here, is now displayed at the Lehman Wing of the Met. The round windows in the mansard roof, reminiscent of Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, are called "oculi."

5: The Research Board

University Club

1 (corner): A 10-story "Florentine super-pallazo beyond the Medicis' wildest dreams" (AIA Guide), designed by Charles McKim, a member (along with Meade and White). 1899. The City Review calls it "the city's grandest clubhouse." The club was founded in 1865 to promote art and literature; members were required to have college degrees, hence the name. Women were not admitted until 1987.


S <===           5TH AVENUE           ===> N

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Corner (685 5th Ave): Gucci moved here from the Aeolian, then went to Trump Tower. Becoming Hugo Bass.

4: This was a townhouse designed by McKim Mead & White in 1900 for William H. Moore. Now offices of Banco di Napoli; Kiten clothing on the ground floor.

18: San Pietro, Italian

24: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Non-Objective Art first opened here in 1939, moving to its present location in 1947.

Corner (520 Madison Ave): Continental Illinois Center is a 43-story red-granite office tower with a gently sloping facade and a roofline that looks like giant steps. The 1982 building was designed by Swanke Hayden & Connell.

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Aeolian Building

Corner (689 5th Ave): Elizabeth Arden salon is in this 14-story Warren & Wetmore building, built in 1926 for the piano company. Arden and her red door have been here since 1930. Zara clothing is also in the Aeolian Building, in a space tastefully redesigned in 1970 for Gucci.

3: Pety Media

5: Rothman's steakhouse

7: Bice, Italian

15: Alpha Garage was built in 1965 by a concrete maker to show off its cast-in-place concrete facade.

19: Inter Audi Bank


S <===           MADISON AVENUE           ===> N

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Corner (527 Madison Ave): This 26-story office building-- a 1982 effort by Fox & Fowle-- features a zigzagging slanted glass facade and sinuous banding. Really a cool building.

Hotel Elysee

60: A European-style hotel opened in 1926. Tallulah Bankhead lived here from 1931-38; Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman lived here off and on in the 1930s, separately and together; Ring Lardner and Ethel Barrymore also stayed here. Joe DiMaggio kept a suite here in the 1950s. Other notable guests include Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Maria Callas and Vladimir Horowitz (who donated a Steinway to the Piano Suite). Tennessee Williams died here, choking to death on a medicine bottle cap, on February 24, 1983.

Lever House

Corner (390 Park): This 21-story blue-green glass office tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Gordon Bunshaft for the British soap company Lever Brothers and completed in 1952, is considered one of the most important and influential Modernist buildings in New York City. It pioneered the use of the glass curtain wall--preceded in the city only by the U.N. Secretariat Building--and the dramatic break with the street wall. It was landmarked in 1982--as soon as it became eligible--and was extensively restored in 1998, when an Isamu Noguchi sculpture garden was added. Since 2003, it's been home to Lever House Restaurant.

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Corner (535 Madison Ave): A 36-story asymmetrical tower by Edward Larrabee Barnes, architect of the IBM Building. Includes Bauman Rare Books.

53: During Prohibition there was a speakeasy called Jimmy's here. Later the site of a French restaurant called Daniel's.

55: Oceana, seafood

57: Actress Lillian Russell lived in this building in the 1880s. In the 1980s, it was home to the Gay Nineties Cafe--now Bill's, American.

59: Photographer Alfred Stieglitz and artist Georgia O'Keefe lived in this building from 1942 until 1946, when Stieglitz suffered a fatal stroke here. On the ground floor now is Reliable Deli, Schumer's Liquors.













65: Cellini, Italian

Corner (410 Park): The General Reinsurance Building was the NFL's national headquarters from 1968 until 1996, when they moved down the street. On the ground floor are Ferrair, cars, and Papyrus Paper.


S <===           PARK AVENUE           ===> N

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Citibank Building

Block (399 Park): This "bland, undistinguished, 39-story tower" ( City Review), designed by Carson & Lundin and Kahn & Jacobs, has been since 1961 the headquarters of Citigroup-- notwithstanding the 1978 construction of the more prominent Citicorp Center. The move here by Citibank--then known as the First National Bank of New York--sparked a trend of big banks moving from Wall Street to Midtown.

There's a Hale & Hearty Soup and a Pret a Manger on the ground floor--local chains.

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123: Korean Palace was, from 1958 to 1968, Sardi's East, a branch of the famous show folks' restaurant.

131: Bobby Van's steakhouse

133: Site of the speakeasies Pierre's Restaurant and Le Caveau

135 (corner): goodburger, local mini-chain


S <===           LEXINGTON AVENUE           ===> N

South:

St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Manhattan

Corner: The congregation was founded in 1862 as the Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Sanct Petri-Kirche, originally meeting above a feed store on 49th and Lexington. It moved to the present location in 1905; it sold that building in 1970 to Citicorp, with the provision that the congregation would get a new church cantilevered under the office tower. The present building, a pyramid-like Modernist building, was completed in 1977, designed by Emery Roth & Sons, with an interior by Vignelli Associates.

Citicorp Center

Block (880 3rd Ave): Fifty-nine stories built in 1977 for the banking giant, designed by Hugh Stubbins Jr. The 45-degree angle on this building's roof--originally intended for solar panels that were never installed--make it one of the most distinctive on the Midtown skyline. Set on four giant columns that allow it to cantilever over St. Peter's Church on Lexington. Includes Houston's, American, and Cucina, Italian; also a Barnes & Noble.

It was the first skyscraper in the United States to feature a tuned mass damper to protect against wind-induced oscillation. Nevertheless, the structure turned out to be dangerously vulnerable to hurricane-force winds, leading to reinforcements that were kept secret for 20 years.

154: This was the address of El Morocco, in its day Manhattan's most glamorous nightclub. It opened here as a speakeasy in 1931, and became the place to be seen after Repeal, with the likes of Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart (who got himself barred for life), Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Cole Porter, Truman Capote, etc. coming here to eat, drink, dance and be seen. The club, known as Elmo or Elmer's to its regulars, is said to have invented the institution of the velvet rope--also the practice of taking photographs of celebrity customers and sending them to the papers. (It was easy to tell where the photos were taken because of the club's trademark zebra-striped banquettes.) It moved down the street in 1960, but at that point its glory days were behind it.

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Corner (900 3rd Ave): A 32-story office tower designed by Cesar Pelli and Rafael Vinoly and completed 1983.


S <===           3RD AVENUE           ===> N

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Lipstick Building

Corner (885 3rd Ave): A 1986 building of 34 stories by Philip Johnson, given its nickname for its elliptical shape and red granite exterior. Toscano, Italian, is now the Lipstick Cafe.

The Mondrian

254 (corner): Colorful 43-story apartment building put up in 1992, designed by Fox & Fowle, originally called Le Grand Palais; renamed for the modernist painter, who lived nearby. "Some class," says the AIA Guide, compared to neighboring contemporaries.

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Corner (909 3rd Ave): Honeycombed cast-concrete office building houses the USPS's Franklin D. Roosevelt Station. Thirty-two stories built 1968, Emery Roth & Sons, architects. The sculpture out front is Ann Gillen's Red Flying Group.







245 (corner): The Brevard apartments, 29 stories of dark-brown brick put up in 1977.


S <===           2ND AVENUE           ===> N

South:

Corner (300 E 54th): Connaught Tower, 35-story apartment building from 1978. Connaught is the least anglicized province of Ireland.







350 (corner): A six-story building from 1959

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Corner (300 E 55th): The Milan condominium, a 32-story glass-clad tower completed in 2005. Architecture critic Carter Horsley calls it "one of the best-looking modern residential buildings in Midtown East." The character Lily van der Woodsen moves here on the TV show Gossip Girl.

307: The nightclub El Morocco moved here in 1960, where it suffered a slow, sad decline--despite a 1987 reopening involving George Hamilton--culminating in a 1992 incarnation as a high-class topless lounge.


S <===           1ST AVENUE           ===> N

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400 (corner): The Revere, a 30-story, dark-brown-brick apartment tower from 1970. Presumably named for Paul Revere, silversmith and insurgent.

Rivertower Apartments

420: A 38-story trapezoidal apartment building built in 1981 with its long sides at a 45-degree angle to the Manhattan grid. Built by Harry Macklowe in 1981.

Corner (60 Sutton Place South): This 20-story red-brick apartment complex features many oddly angled apartments, designed by Arthur Wieser to maximize the project's river views.

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405: Photographer Alfred Stieglitz and artist Georgia O'Keefe lived here from 1936 until 1942.

415: The St. James Tower is an 1982 Emery Roth apartment building clad in dark purple brick.





S <===           SUTTON PLACE SOUTH           ===> N

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What am I missing on 54th Street? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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