What’s the style of The Pierre?

The Pierre was built in 1930 by the architectural firm of Schulze and Weaver, well known for their hotel design. Tall and slender, with characteristic setbacks, its silhouette looks very much like the Art Deco. However, on closer examination, this is where its similarity with Art Deco ends. Its base with columns, window arches, and…

The Pierre – pick a story

Elegant and understated, The Pierre hotel bears the name of its original owner, Charles Pierre Casalasco. His story deviates from the expected New York rug-to-riches story into an “haute cuisine”-to-riches one. Except, the story has more than one version. The first one is prosaic. In this version, Charles Pierre Casalesco worked as a busboy in…

NYSE Building—a Roman temple with glass walls

Facing Broad Street at the corner with Wall Street stands a stronghold of American finance — the mighty Stock Exchange. The building looks like a Roman temple adorned with imposing columns and crowned with classical portico. The resemblance is not accidental: financial structures were meant to project stability, security, and strength. By the beginning of…

New York Life — a skyscraper with a golden crown

The 40-story tower crowned by the 6-story shining golden roof in the shape of an octagonal pyramid on the northeast corner of Madison Park belongs to New York Life Insurance Company. The crown was originally covered by cooper-and-gold leaf, which eventually eroded and was replaced with gold-colored tile. The effect is fantastic — the golden…

The tale of two Cathedrals

Even three-fifths complete, St. John the Divine is the largest cathedral in the nation and one of the largest in the world.  Estimating the cathedral’s size is not an easy task: is it the length, height, or volume? Often, people say (correctly!) that Rome’s St. Peter’s is indisputably larger. However. . . St. Peter’s is…

Lions, books, and philanthropy

One of the most significant national treasures, the New York Public Library, was not created by the government but was a product of philanthropy. Hard to imagine, but there was a time when New York City did not have a library. By the second part of the 19th century, New York was emerging as one…

St John the Divine – the Cathedral that was never finished

St. John the Divine, a striking presence of mammoth size and old-world-inspired beauty, was destined for a strange journey. One of the largest in the world, it started in 1892 and still stands unfinished. . . An Episcopalian Cathedral, St. John the Divine, was conceived to outshine the recently built Catholic St Patrick’s on Fifth…

Prometheus – giving mortals “a Means to Mighty Ends”

The Aeschylus quote, carved in the granite wall behind the massive gilded statue of Prometheus in the heart of the Rockefeller Center, says: “Prometheus, Teacher in Every Art, Brought the Fire That Hath Proved to Mortals a Means to Mighty Ends.”  But who was Prometheus? And why is he the focal point of the Rockefeller…

Jefferson Market Library – details that tell a story

Elaborate buildings’ details are often more than mere decorations–they convey meaning and tell a story. One of the most beautiful structures in New York’s architectural landscape is the spectacular Jefferson Market Library. Built a part of a multifunctional complex that included a jail, a market, and a fire tower, it used to house a courthouse….

Frick Collection—the house built to be a museum

The Frick Museum, which houses a remarkable collection of art treasures, was originally build as a private residence of Henry Clay Frick, a Gilded Age industrialist and art collector. Armed with unbridled ambition, Henry Frick formed his own company by the age of 20. Vowing to himself that he would be a millionaire by the…

The Carnegie Mansion—the plainest house in New York?

All Andrew Carnegie wanted for his home was “the most modest, plainest, and most roomy house in New York.” While the 64-room Georgian Revival house succeeded in being roomy, it failed at being plain. The mansion is adorned by a private garden—a rarity in New York city. Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropic industrialist and one…

St. Paul’s—a Chapel Older than the United States

Built in 1766, St. Paul’s is New York City’s oldest public building in continuous use as well as Manhattan’s oldest surviving church building. After Manhattan fell to the British in 1776, a raging fire set the city ablaze. Nobody knows for certain whether the fire was an accident or an act of arson by retreating…