New York Songlines: 55th Street

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HUDSON RIVER









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Corner (787 11th Ave): Manhattan Ford Lincoln Mercury (also Jaguar)

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Corner (790 11th Ave): Clinton Tower, 1975 pink concrete high-rise by Hoberman & Wasserman. It's named for the neighborhood--better known as Hell's Kitchen--and indirectly for DeWitt Clinton, the New York politician who gave us the Erie Canal.

530: Harbor View Terrace, New York City Housing Authority's best project, according to the AIA Guide. Built 1977.

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525: Another part of the NYCHA's Harbor View Terrace project, built 1976.







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Corner: Studio 55, part of Unitel Video, was home to the Sesame Street set from 1982 until 1992. Earlier Dick Cavett was taped here, and later Emeril Live.


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911 (block): Westerly, a 19-story apartment building from 1964, designed by Herbert Fleischer Associates. Includes the Westerly Natural Market.

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357 (corner): Pembroke Apartments, a six-story building from 1935









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The eastern boundary of Hell's Kitchen

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240: McGee's Pub, Irish




230: La Premiere apartments Eating at Applejacks Diner, Broadway... by rmcgervey, on Flickr

Corner (1727 Broadway): Applejack Diner is on the site of the Hotsy Totsy Club (then numbered 1721), Jack "Legs" Diamond's speakeasy and the headquarters of his rackets. A gangster named Red Cassidy was murdered here on July 13, 1929, but the case against Diamond was dropped when some eight witnesses died or disappeared.

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259: Bos Seafood BBQ; A1's Soup House

257: Nocello

255: Sasha, restaurant

251: Sugi Yama, Japanese

245: DuArt Building, built as an auto garage, since 1922 has been home to the Du-Art Film Laboratory, which got its start developing and subtitling silent films for studios like Paramount, Loews and Universal.

243: Moderne Hotel, a 34-room boutique built in 1940, but decorated in a modern style.

Random House Tower

The Random House Building by Ben+Sam, on Flickr

Corner (1745 Broadway): The headquarters of the publishing giant, built in 2003. The triple slab tower atop the trapezoidal base, which is residential, resembles a trio of giant books. The residences here are known as the Park Imperial; Sean "Puffy" Combs was one of the first tenants.

Random House was founded in 1925 by Bennett Cerf, who intended to publish a random assortment of books--which turned out to include works by Faulkner, Truman Capote, Ayn Rand and Dr. Seuss, and the first complete edition of Joyce's Ulysses.


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The Dream Hotel, New York, NY by Grufnik, on Flickr

210 (corner): Dream Hotel (formerly the Majestic, originally the Woodward Hotel) is in a Beaux Arts building from 1895, given an ethereal blue lighting scheme. Serafina, Italian, on the ground floor.














204: The Surrey apartments




Corner (856 7th Ave): In 1882 builder Edward Clark started The Ontiora, an apartment building designed by Henry Hardenbergh, at this corner, giving the builder/architect team three of the four corners on this intersection. The present six-floor building dates to 1909; on the ground floor is the 55th Street Deli.

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MONY Building

55th & Broadway by Andrew Baron, on Flickr

Corner (1740 Broadway): Built in 1950 as the 25-story headquarters of the Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Shreve, Lamb and Harmon were the architects), the building was known for the MONY logo at the top that inspired the Shondells song "Mony Mony." MONY moved out after a 2004 merger with AXA, and the logo was replaced with a "1740" in 2008.

Park Central Hotel

Corner (870 7th Ave): Built in 1927 as the Park Central Hotel, it was the Park Sheraton and the Omni Park Central before resuming its original name. Its famous guests have included Eleanor Roosevelt (1949-53, 1958), columnist Walter Winchell, filmmaker D.W. Griffith (1935), boxer Joe Louis, actor Jackie Gleason and actress Mae West. Two of New York City's most famous mob hits occurred here: Gambler Arnold Rothstein was fatally shot here November 4, 1928, and hitman-turned-capo Albert Anastasia was shot to death in the barber shop here October 25, 1957.

Previously at this location was the Van Corlear apartment house, designed by Henry Hardenbergh for builder Edward Clark and put up in 1878.


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Corner (857 7th Ave): Ben Ash Deli is in The Wyoming, a 13-story French Renaissance-style apartment building completed 1906, designed by Rouse & Sloan. It replaced an earlier Wyoming, built by Edward Clark and designed by Henry Hardenbergh, started in 1880, the same year the same team started work on The Dakota.

160: Carnegie Frame

158: Piano Piano, pianos

154: This Romanesque Revival structure was built as a horse stable in 1888, designed by E. Bassett Jones. In 1927 it was converted into a small cinema by Treanor & Fatio, known as the 55th Street Playhouse (and for a while as the Europa Theatre). An art house for much of its lifetime, it was the first theater to show a European talkie subtitled for U.S. release, and saw the premieres of such films as Abel Gance's Napoleon and Cocteau's Orpheus. By the 1960s, it was showing martial arts films, and in the '70s and early '80s was a noted gay porn house. Now serves as a delivery entrance for the London NYC hotel.

150: Writer Carl Van Vechten moved to this nine-story building about the time it was built in 1922. Here he threw celebrated parties-- integrated, unlike most social gatherings of the day, with guests like Theodore Dreiser, Paul Robeson, George Gershwin and James Weldon Johnson--and worked on his controversial novel, Nigger Heaven. On the ground floor today is the florist Flowers of the World.

140: Myzels candy

136: Opened in 1929 as the Gorham Hotel, it was renamed the Blakely New York after a 2004 renovation.

Burlington House

120 (corner): 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. Osteria del Circo, Italian, is in the building.

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Hotel Wellington

Corner: A 27-story hotel built in 1902, named for the Duke of Wellington, vanquisher of Napoleon. Borat stays here in his movie. Includes Molyvos, Greek; Christmas Cottage, decorations; Park Cafe.














145: Tennessee Williams lived in the penthouse of the buidlign here in 1965-66, deeply depressed over the death of his lover Frank Merlo. On the ground floor now is Between the Bread, sandwiches

New York City Center

143: Built in 1923 as a meeting hall for the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (hence the Moorish architectural theme), it was repurposed in 1943 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia as a city-owned performing arts center. Here the New York City Opera and New York City Ballet both got their starts here; Leonard Bernstein and Leopold Stokowski conducted the New York City Symphony; Paul Robeson played Othello and Tallulah Bankhead starred in A Streetcar Named Desire. It's now home to the Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham and Paul Taylor dance companies, the American Ballet Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Company and the Encores! series of staged readings of musicals, which sparked the revivals of Chicago! and Wonderful Town.

125: Milo's

105: Stage Deli

101 (corner): Astro Restaurant, diner. Singer Tony Bennett has lived in this building.


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MGM Building

Corner (1350 6th Ave): Now known as the Men's Apparel Building, a 35-story glass office tower from 1966 designed by WTC architects Emery Roth & Sons. Served as New York headquarters for the classic film studio. It also appeared as the United Broadcasting System studios in Network.

44: Was the address of Gaston a la Bonee Soupe, described in a 1940 restaurant guide as "good French cooking at a sane price."

24: Hal David, songwriter of pop standards like "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "What's New Pussycat?," has lived here. On the ground floor is Michael's, power lunch spot.

22: The building that was here served as the offices of Nelson Rockefeller, who as governor from 1958-73 ran New York State from here rather than from Albany. The building connected with 13 West 54th, where Rockefeller died. Replaced by...

20: A 13-story Modernist office building from 1985, designed by Emery Roth & Sons. Houses Privatbanken, Danish bank.

The Peninsula

2 (corner): The 23-story Beaux Arts hotel was built in 1905 as the Hotel Gotham--and bankrupted in 1908 because it was too close to the Presbyterian church to sell liquor. (The laws have since been reinterpreted.) Damon Runyon, Tallulah Bankhead and Alexander Woolcott all stayed here. During World War I, master spy Sidney Reilly--an inspiration for James Bond--lived here, as did British spy Sir William George Eden Wiseman. Redesigned in 1987 by Pierre Cardin; renamed the Peninsula New York in 1988. Wempe jewelry, Sergio Rossi clothing and Lindt Chocolatier are on the ground floor.

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77 (corner): Gallery House apartments; comic Henny Youngman has been a resident.

69: Maristella, Italian

65: Cassidy's, Irish pub; Tang Pavillion, Chinese; Tuscany Baskets

55: Madrit Pronto Pizza

47: Giobanni, Italian

45: Onigshia, Menchanko-Tei, both Japanese; Imperial Dragon, Chinese

29: Shoreham Apartments; includes the Shoreham Gallery

19: Vini Cucina, Il Corso, both Italian























Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

Corner (7 W 55th): The congregation moved here from 19th Street in 1875. The brownstone neo-Gothic structure was designed by Carl Pfeiffer. Rev. Dr. John Bonnell, the pastor here from 1935 to 1962, introduced Dial-a-Prayer.


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St. Regis Hotel

10 (corner): Built in 1904, designed by Trowbridge & Livingstone, and named for St. Regis Lake, an Adirondacks resort. One of the city's most elegant hotels, it may have been the first in the world to be air-conditioned, and originally boasted 47 Steinway pianos. The hotel's King Cole Bar is named for its Maxfield Parrish mural, moved here from the bar of the same name in the old Knickerbocker Hotel. Formerly home to the Seaglades and La Maisonette nightclubs.

Among the St. Regis' many famous guests and residents are Joseph Pulitzer, John Jacob Astor, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Alfred Hitchcock, Rex Harrison, Humphrey Bogart, John Huston and Marlene Dietrich. When Marilyn Monroe stayed here during the filming of The Seven Year Itch, her fight with soon-to-be ex-husband Joe DiMaggio over the famous subway grate scene reportly woke up the whole floor.

Robert De Niro picks up Cybill Shepherd here in Taxi Driver; Mia Farrow is a cigarette girl here in Radio Days; Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey tryst here in Hannah and Her Sisters.

DeBeers, the most powerful diamond company in the world, has a store on the ground floor.

From 1887 until it burned down in 1900, this lot was the home of newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer.

16: Scandinavian Ski & Sport Shop

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Corner (711 5th Ave): A graceful 1927 office building, once known as the Columbia Pictures Building and later as the Coca-Cola Building. (Coke until recently had a retail space on the ground floor and I believe still has offices upstairs.) The Disney Store opened in 1996, taking the space that used to be the Cote Basque, and is now one of the few remnants of some 800 stores Disney once owned. Alfred Dunhill clothing is also here.

5: This was the original home of the celebrated French restaurant Le Pavillon, which is said to have redefined French cuisine for the United States. It was here from 1941 until 1957; when the landlord tried to triple the rent, it moved to the Ritz Tower on 57th and Park.

7: Rich Art, chocolates




Sony Building

Corner (590 Madison Ave): A 37-story office tower by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, built in 1984 for AT&T (and originally called the AT&T Building). The building was notable for its "Chippendale" top and dramatic seven-story entranceway, both of whom challenged the functionalist dogma of Modernism and made this a key Post-Modern building. The lobby was designed for the sculpture Spirit of Communication by Evelyn Longman Batchelder, which was originally perched atop AT&T's building on downtown Broadway, but when the Ma Bell moved out the statue went with her to a corporate park in New Jersey.


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30: Polly Adler, New York's most famous madam, ran a brothel in a nine-room apartment at this address in the 1930s.

56: The Tonight Show's Steve Allen lived here in the early 1950s.

60: Park Avenue Place





70: Heron Tower, a 25-story Post-Modern building by Kohn Pedersen Fox, completed 1986. The evenly spaced square windows give the facade a checkerboard appearance.

Corner (410 Park): This was the NFL's national headquarters from 1968 until 1996, when they moved down the street. On the ground floor is a Ferrari/Maserati dealership and Papyrus Paper.

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Friars Club

57: Founded in 1904 as an association of press agents in search of free theater tickets, the club became a well-known show business fraternity, famous for its scabrous celebrity roasts. Officers have included Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tom Jones and Howard Cosell. Liza Minelli was the first female member in 1988--but Phyllis Diller had already snuck in in drag in 1983. The building, which the Friars moved into in 1957, is an English Renaissance townhouse constructed in 1909.

65: Park Avenue Tower, a 36-story Post-Modern building by Murphy/Jahn, completed 1987. Houses Aquavit, New York's best-known Scaninavian restaurant, named for a regional liquor.

Mercedes Benz Showroom

Corner (430 Park): Originally the Hoffman Auto Showroom, it was designed in 1954 by Frank Lloyd Wright--the master architect's first New York work. The circular ramp foreshadows Wright's New York masterpiece, the Guggenheim museum.


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Corner (417 Park): This 13-story limestone building, put up in 1916 by Bing & Bing to an Emery Roth design, "is the last survivor of at least thirteen luxury apartment houses, most of them built before World War I," on its stretch of Park Avenue. Features Walter Steiger, purses.

110: A 19-floor brick building from 1987, designed by The Eggers Partnership, that towers over its once-residential neighbors. Known as Fifty-Fifth Plaza or Park 55 apartments; on the ground floor is Belgian Shoes.

116: Neo-Georgian townhouse from 1928 designed by William Lawrence Bottomley; "bland but pleasant" (AIA Guide).

120: A Georgian/neo-Regency townhouse

122: A Palladian brownstone occupied by Floralies, Inc., florist

124: A 1910 Collegiate Gothic townhouse designed by Albro & Lindeberg. Houses DLT Entertainment, distributors of TV shows like Three's Company, Benny Hill and The Dog Whisperer; American Friends of Glascow School of Art.

Central Synagogue

Corner (652 Lexington): Built in 1872, this is the oldest synagogue in continuous use as such in New York City. (The Reform congregation, Congregation Ahavath Chesed, was founded in 1839.) The architect, who worked in a Moorish style complete with onion domes, was Henry Fernbach, the first prominent Jewish architect in the U.S.; he used Budapest's Dohány Street Synagogue as a model. The interior was restored after a devastating 1998 fire.

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Corner (425 Park): A 32-story building from 1957, designed by Kahn & Jacobs. Singer Tony Bennett has lived in this building.

103 (corner): Author John O'Hara lived at this former address in 1935 when he started writing Butterfield 8.

111: Lite Bites deli

119: During Prohibition The Tree Club, a speakeasy, was found here.

123: Sahra and William Lese Religious School; affiliated with Central Synagogue

127: Montgomery Clift lived in a $40/month sublet here from 1944, when he first moved out of his parents home, until 1951, well after he had become famous.

133: Eastside Kinesthic Center; 3 Deli & Grill

















Corner (660 Lexington): Lexington Farm Deli


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Corner (651 Lexington): Mango women's clothing, Jubilee New York shoes, Bianca Jewelers, Eyes on the World opticians

136: Yarlie Fashion Comfort Center

142: Was Kungsholm, of which a 1940 restaurant guide wrote, "Many people say that this is the best Swedish restaurant in New York."

146: Geye, restaurant

152: This 1985 building was owned for a time by Spirituality for Kids, a Kabbalah-oriented organization backed by Madonna. Plans to open a Kabbalah-themed grade school here apparently fell through.

154: Islamic Society of Mid Manhattan. At the same address is Al-Barak, Turkish.

Corner (906 3rd Ave): Pax Wholesome Foods, Flowers by Nicholas

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135 (corner): Was Babies' Hospital, built 1902. Houses MA Antiques, Azza restaurant

141: Shanghai Tea Garden


155: This apartment building housed the brothel of Xaviera Hollander, aka The Happy Hooker, in the early 1970s. On the ground floor is Shung Lee Palace, ritzy Chinese that is the successor to Shung Lee Dynasty, reputed to be the first Hunanese restaurant in this country; it's credited with inventing General Tso's chicken. Midtown Restaurant, diner; Lock Doctors Hardware.

157: Was Charles a la Pomme Soufflee, French restaurant described in 1940 as "fairly expensive, but worth it." Now Da Anotio, Italian.

159: East Ocean, Chinese

161 (corner): Cafe 55


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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.








Corner (245 E 54th): The Brevard apartments, 29 stories of dark-brown brick put up in 1977.

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P.J. Clarke's

Corner (915 3rd Ave): A landmark tavern. The building dates back to at least 1868; it's not clear when the saloon opened, but the well-preserved decor seems to originate in the 1880s or '90s. Patrick J. Clarke, an Irish immigrant, worked here starting c. 1902 and owned the bar from 1912 to 1948. Appears as Nat's Bar in The Lost Weekend; Charles R. Jackson, whose novel was the basis for the film, was a regular here, as were Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Richard Harris and Jackie Onassis. Johnny Mercer wrote "One More for My Baby" here. A celebrated holdout, the building was saved when 919 3rd Avenue was built around it, but it lost its top two floors.


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308: East 55th Street Conservative Synagogue was founded in 1906 as Chevra B'nai Lev, an Orthodox congregation at 57th and 2nd, and moved to this former Baptist church in 1916. It became Conservative in 1966.




348: Catholic Church of St. John the Evangelist

Corner (989 1st Ave): International Film and Video Center; Reme's Oggi Pets

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Manhattan Art & Antiques Center

Corner (1050 2nd Ave): The Bristol Building is home to more than 100 antique galleries offering everything from Meiji Period art to Caucasian carpets. Opened 1975.

313: Hapsburg House, described in 1940 as "not cheap, but I think about tops among the Viennese restaurants."

Catholic Center of New York

Corner (1011 1st Ave): This building, known as the Terence Cardinal Cooke Building, dates to 1979 and is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Replaced a beautiful old Gothic church. Catholic Charities is also based here.


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Corner (994 1st Ave): A 17-story building from 1956








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What am I missing on 55th Street? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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