Monday, October 27, 2014

Views in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Great Hall ian Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Stairway in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building 

Dining Room in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Window Recess in a Dining Room in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Library in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Detail of Library in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Master's Bedroom in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Master's Bedroom in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Detail in the Master's bedroom of an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

 For more on this apartment and office building - Penthouse Apartment of Robert M. Catts on Top of the Park-Lexington Building

Monday, October 20, 2014

Penthouse Apartment of Robert M. Catts on Top of the Park-Lexington Building

In the early nineteen-twenties, Mr. Catts erected the 20-story Park-Lexington office building at 247 Park Avenue, adjoining the Grand Central Palace on the west, and on one of the top floors he had an apartment, which was referred to in the newspapers as one of the most magnificent dwellings in the city. 

Robert M. Catts and Associates, Who Last Week Acquired Control of the Structure Occupying the Block Bounded by Forty-sixth to Forty-seventh Street, Lexington Avenue and Depew Place, Propose to Erect New Hotel or Commercial Structure on Vacant Plot Adjoining the Palace on Park Avenue and Remodel the Palace Into Modem Office Building.

August 13, 1922
One of the most noteworthy of the big commercial buildings just started in the Grand Central centre is the twenty-story Park-Lexington Building, occupying the site over the railroad tracks on the east side of Park Avenue, between Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Streets. It is being erected by Robert M. Catts, who leased the property some time ago when he took over the adjoining Grand Central Palace on the Lexington Avenue block front between the same thoroughfares. Warren & Wetmore are the architects and the cost is placed at $2,000,000. The facades will be of ornamental terra-cotta and gray brick. There will be a  150-foot arcade from Park Avenue to the Grand Central Palace, combining many artistic features. It will make a new and attractive entrance to the exhibitions held in the Palace, and there will be a row of small stores on either side of the arcade. 

Park-Lexington Building 247 Park Avenue
The view is south towards Grand Central Terminal before the 1929 construction of the New York Central Building(Helmsley Building).

The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream - Building an office building over railroad tracks was not in itself new. The concept dated back at least to the turn of the century, with William J. Wilgus's master plan for the development of the Grand Central area with the new terminal at its core. The enormous difficulties and huge expense encountered in sinking the foundation footings of buildings on upper Park Avenue down fifty feet below grade through the New York Central Railroad's steel double-decked track structure to bedrock, then threading the foundation steel and other construction materials for a new building overhead through the two track levels without interrupting train service, had been encountered as early as 1923, with the building of the twenty-story Park-Lexington Building on Park Avenue. Space both for operations and for the storage of materials on the confined Park-Lexington site was severely limited, and workers had to operate from platforms suspended from above, as they could not erect anything from below that might obstruct the operation of trains. To avoid vibrations from trains, all steel for the new building had to be wholly independent of the railroad structure, with columns resting on steel billets supported on independent foundations, cushioned to minimize transmission of movement. The problems encountered in the Park-Lexington Building had been solved so successfully that it served as a model for the subsequent buildings on Park Avenue that mushroomed in its wake.

Penthouse Apartment of Robert M. Catts on Top of the Park-Lexington Building

In the nineteen-twenties Robert M. Catts, was described in newspapers of the period as the most "spectacular" real estate operator of the day. Mr. Catts may have been spectacular in his operations, but according to the newspaper reports he was also insolvent during most of his career. At one time he barricaded himself in the penthouse to avoid being served court papers.

Among the enterprises with which Mr. Catts was associated at various times, either as builder or owner, or both, were the Marshall Field Building, an unusual combination of apartment house and office building at 200 Madison Avenue; the Medical Arts Building at Fifty-seventh Street and Sixth Avenue, and the Cheney Silk Building. He was the originator of the plan by which Calvary Baptist Church on West Fifty-seventh Street became a combination apartment house and church.

In 1899 Mr. Catts eloped with Miss Ola McWhorter of Millington, Md., six months after he called at her house to solicit orders for pictures. They were divorced a few years later and in 1911 he secretly married Dorothy Tennant, actress, who scored a hit as the original widow in George Ade's comedy, "The College Widow"

The ground in lacquer red, painted with Persian designs in old gold, blue, and antique white. Each of the four sides of the cove depicts a different method of procuring food.

Mr. Catts sold his interest in the buildings to August Heckscher, another large real estate owner, in 1923. The penthouse having several tenants until converted into offices.

July 17, 1960
A twelve-room duplex penthouse apartment on the roof of the twenty-story building at 247 Park Avenue has been converted into a thirty-five-room office suite.

The apartment was a relic of the lavish Nineteen Twenties. Its first occupant, in 1922, was the late Robert M. Catts, a well known real estate operator and the owner of the building at No. 247.

The building is just north of Grand Central Terminal, on the east side of Park Avenue between Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Streets.

Before World  War II, the apartment had a number of tenants who succeeded Mr. Catts, among them Jascha Heifitz, the violinist.

When office space became scarce after the war, the apartment was rented out for offices by William A. White & Sons, agents for the office structure. The duplex was recently leased to Wright Long & Co., accountants, and the law firm of Saul S. Silverman, and has been redesigned by Dallek, Inc., interior design firm.

The first floor of the duplex had two master bedrooms, a living room measuring 35 by 64 feet, a studio, dining room and gallery, all surrounded by a terrace.

The interior design of the duplex — a  melange  of French Gothic, which predominates, Italian Renaissance, and a touch of old Spain and the Far East— has been kept intact.

New walls, however, were built to divide the great rooms into offices, and some passageways were closed to re-route the traffic pattern. All the offices have been air-conditioned, and a new lighting system has been installed throughout.

The old dining room is now a conference room. Oak paneling and the ceiling which had been painted to resemble a medieval tapestry, have been retained and the travertine floor has been renewed by sanding.

The roof of his house has been transformed into a gorgeous garden, containing rare plants and statuary. The great East River bridges, in the background, supply striking contrast. Popular Science 1924

Mr. Catts died April 22, 1942, at the age of 63. He had remained active in the real estate business long after he gave up the Palace. A business associate was quoted saying that "Mr. Catts had more vision and initiative than any other New York realty operator and builder of his time."

Grand  Central Palace
A view of the Catts penthouse can be seen at the top.

For years the Grand Central Palace was one of the best known and heaviest trafficked buildings in the city. It provided the largest exhibit space available here until the completion of the New York Coliseum in 1956.

Thousands of New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors attended the annual flower, automobile and motor boat shows that made the Palace famous. 

During World War II the Government took over the Palace's exhibition hall as an Induction and Enlistment Headquarters for the armed services. 

After the war it was decided that the city needed a larger and more modern central exhibition center, and plans got

underway for the Coliseum. The Manhattan district office of the United States Internal Revenue Service occupied the Palace's exhibition space from 1953 until its demolition, and every year, at the approach of April 15, the old building was nearly as crowded as it was in its old exhibition days—but with taxpayers, not  flower lovers.

In 1963, 52 years after Grand Central Palace opened and a decade after the last show was held there, the building was demolished. A 44-story office tower, 245 Park Avenue, took its place. The adjoining Park-Lexington Building was taken down at the same time. 

Additional interior photos of the Robert M. Catts  penthouse - Views in an Apartment on the Roof of a New York Office Building

Friday, October 10, 2014


 Thomas Harlan Ellett, Architect, New York

"Brookwood", the Henry Miller Minton estate designed by Thomas H. Ellet c. 1929 in North Hills.

Mr. Minton began his career with the New York financial concern of Spencer Trask & Company, where he remained until he joined Church & Dwight. Mr. Minton joined the company in 1938 and was instrumental in making the logotype of one of its divisions, Arm and Hammer, the country's largest producer of baking soda.

"Brookwood" has since been demolished. Click HERE to see where estate stood at wikimapia. 1966 aerial showing estate still standing. Check THIS LINK for another Ellett rendering. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014



Marian C. Coffin, Landscape Architect

Follow THIS LINK for all past posts related to "Caumsett".

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Shorelands" the Seaside Villa of Henry Seligman, Esq., Elberon, New Jersey

SEASIDE property which is bounded on one end by the principal driveway of its town, and on the other by the Atlantic Ocean, and contains within it vegetable and flower gardens, lawns and tennis courts, a lodge, stable and bathing pavilion, while the mansion itself is amply secluded within spacious stretches of grass, possesses some elements of novelty and many properties that lend themselves to delightful and charming treatment. Such at least are the salient features which Mr. Seligman's house, designed by Mr. C. P. H. Gilbert, architect, of New York, at Elberon immediately offers to the visitor. 

A Pair of Doric Columns Marks the Entrance to the Grounds

The roads limits of the place are defined by chains, fastened to posts of interesting design, with two lofty columns at the driveway, surmounted by globe-lights. 

The Lodge Is a Pleasant two-story Structure

To the left is the lodge, a pleasant two-story, flat-roofed structure with wings of one story. The space between it and the entrance driveway is filled by a lovely garden of the gayest-blooming flowers. 

Only the Central Court-like Recess Makes Known the Stable

On the right is the stable, a structure whose identity is at once proclaimed by its central covered court, but which, being designed in harmony with the other buildings on the property, has, save for this feature, little of the outward characteristics of such buildings. Both structures, as well as the house, are of wood, painted white, with blinds of Indian red. The grounds are beautifully hedged here, and within them is the vegetable garden, arranged in blocks and groups, and having a true ornamental character of its own. The land beyond stretches away in ample lawns to the house, which, while by no means situated at the furthest extremity of the property, is located at a considerable distance from the outer highway.

The House Is of Wood Painted White, with Shutters of Indian Red, and Is Abundantly Porched on All Sides

A splendid curve brings the carriage directly before the entrance portico. The house is H-shaped, with a central body and wings at either end, projected on the entrance front. Across the middle is a covered porch, with a projected center, and which at each end is connected with the terraces that are carried all around the house. These terraces, on the entrance front, have their own separate steps. At the base of one are carved sphynxes of marble; at the base of the other are upright lions supporting shields. The house is two stories in height, with an attic so boldly developed as to have the real architectural character of a third story. Directly in the center is a roof garden, surmounted with a pergola, supported on the front by elaborately carved gaines. The windows are everywhere rectangular in design, with simple frames; those on the ends of the wings are doubled; those elsewhere are single. At each end of each wing, on the entrance front, is a doorway, instead of a window, which admits to a side porch contained within the outer lines of the house.  Both entrance porch and terraces are enclosed within paneled railing boxes, which are repeated above the porch, where they enclose a terrace at the level of the second floor. The brick base of the building is hidden behind a low-growing hedge, while further relief is found in an abundance of bay trees and pots and jars of foliage and flowering plants and gaily planted boxes standing on the terrace steps and above the porch. One can not look for trees so close to the shore, and relief from the sun is obtained by awnings attached to the porch. 

"Shorelands"   The Wings Form an Open Court at the Entrance Front Where the Solid White of the Housed Is Very Agreeably Relieved by Plants and Flowers

A great double door, completely glazed and with side windows which extend to the floor, admits to the central hall. This is a spacious apartment opening onto the ocean side of the house.

The Spacious Hall Is Paneled in Oak, Above which Is a Plain While Frieze.   At Each End Is an Arcade of Elliptical Arches

 At each end is an arcade formed of low elliptical arches, of which the middle one is much the widest, supported on wood columns. A high wainscot of paneled oak is carried completely around the room; the upper wall is finished with a plain white surface. The ceiling is white and beamed, with large panels. The mantel is under the arcade to the left. It has brick facings within oak columns supporting a frieze, below which is a relief. On the right the entire wall is filled with a series of glazed doors, curtained, separating the hall from the dining room. There are handsome Oriental rugs on the hardwood floor. The curtains at the windows are red damask, and the furniture, for the most part, is covered with red leather and velvet. The stairs to the upper story rise on the entrance front and are carried across the entrance doorway by the platform. The walls of the upper hall are covered with a diapered pattern.

Library Is a Mission Room in Various Tones of Green

On the left of the hall is a passage that leads to the library, situated in the furthest wing of the house and on the entrance front. It is charmingly furnished in the Mission style. The prevailing color is green; the hardwood floor, the rug, the wainscot, the upper walls, the wood of the furniture, the velvet curtains at the windows, the beams and panels of the ceiling, are all in beautifully harmonized shades of green. The chairs are covered with a reddish brown leather; the wainscot supports a shelf, and a handsome copper electric chandelier desends from the center of the ceiling.

The Drawing-room Is Pink and White : the Furniture Includes Some Fine Old Pieces of Great Variety

Behind this room, but not connected with it, being entered by a separate door from the hall, is the drawing room. This is a sumptuous apartment in pink and white, very beautifully developed. The walls have a low wainscot of wood, painted white, and picked out with bands of green. Above they are covered with white watered-silk paper, with the same green bands in the corners and margins, thus forming large panel-like divisions. The cornice is white and richly detailed, and the ceiling is without ornamentation. The wood mantel has facings and hearth of light mottled buff Roman brick. The color of the room is supplied by the rug, the furniture and the curtains. The rug is in two shades of pink. The curtains are of white net with applique borders of pink flowers and green leaves. The furniture is covered with white velvet decorated with a similar pattern in green and pink; a curtain of the same fabric hangs over the entrance doorway. The grand piano, in one corner, has an exquisite cover of light-colored brocade. There are some fine pieces of old furniture in the room, which is lighted by side lights. 

The Dining-room, Designed in the Dutch Style, Is Oak and Blue

The dining-room is on the opposite side of the hall, and overlooks the ocean; it has windows on three sides, two of which directly face the water. It is beautifully designed in the Dutch style. The color scheme is blue and white. The walls are iencasedwith a high paneling in natural oak, which reaches to the tops of the doors: it carries a shelf on which are placed a number of blue and white pieces of pottery, a couple of fine Wedgwood plaques, a Delia Robbia relief, and other ornaments. All these stand in relief against the frieze of plain pale blue. The ceiling is beamed, with panels of light blue. There is a blue and white rug on the hardwood floor, and the oak furniture has covers of blue leather. The mantel, which supports a paneled overmantel, has facings of dark buff Roman brick. The side of the room which adjoins the hall is, as has been stated, completely filled with glazed doors, over which are blue and white curtains. The curtains at the windows are of blue velvet.

The Billiard Room Is Paneled in Green, with Rough Plastered Walls

The billiard-room is in the same wing on the front of the house. The walls have a wainscot of green stained oak in upright boards; above are panels of rough plaster with  intersecting circles, the whole being crowned with a shelf. There are numerous pictures above, chiefly hunting scenes. The plain cornice corresponds to the wood used below. The ceiling is plain, with three central lights depending from the center over the table. The floor is stained green. The furniture is of oak, covered with green leather. The buff window curtains have bands of green with billiard ornaments on the lambrequins.

The Sunken Garden Lies Below Brick Walls Surmounted with a Handsome Balustrade

"Shorelands": Marble Statues at the Base of the Steps to the Sunken Garden

On the south side of the house is a portico in two stories; a long flight of steps descends from this to the sunken garden which has been built on this side. It is also reached by steps from the entrance and ocean front, and is a true sunken garden, contained within bricked walls, surmounted by a paneled balustrade. Marble statues stand at the base of each of the side steps. There is a fine old well head in the center, and the surrounding space is laid out with panels of grass and borders of flowers. The walls are covered with vines and partly screened with hedges.

While the house sets well back in its surrounding land, it is still a considerable distance from the ocean. The ocean front has a long porch, below which is the tennis court. The buildings are completed with the bathing pavilion, which is designed in harmony with the other structures and which is directly in the center on the extreme ocean edge. It is a gracious two-story structure, with an upper belvedere, or observatory, a fine outlook pleasantly arranged.

"Shorelands" in 1920
"Shorelands" twenty years later. Stable is gone. Note the shoreline recession, beach pavilion is gone.

"Shorelands" in 1947

"Shorelands" in 1953, the house is gone.

"Shorelands" in 1979

Todays view showing a 1993 build. The lodge survives with additions.

Henry Seligman

Seligman was a senior partner in the prestigious investment banking firm of J. & W. Seligman & Company, founded in 1864 by his uncles and his father, Jesse. The Seligmans established themselves as one of the pre-eminent German-Jewish families in the United States and became known as “the American Rothschilds.” Henry Seligman was also influential in financing railroad construction in the American West as well as serving as a director for several major industrial and artistic organizations across the United States.  In his book "Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York", Stephen Birmingham said the Seligmans "virtually invented" international banking in the United States.

Henry and Adelaide(Walter) Seligman purchased property in Elberon, New Jersey, a popular summer retreat for German-Jewish families(The Jewish Newport). C.P.H. Gilbert received the commission, and his “improvements” for their summer house included “a large residence, stables, gardener’s cottage, bathhouses, &C. The couple also had a townhouse in new York City, also by Gilbert and a villa called “Casa Mia” in Palm Beach, Florida. For their Spanish style Palm Beach house they retained architect Marion Sims Wyeth. 

Addie Seligman was a double Seligman, having married, first, Joseph Seligman's son David, and, upon his death, his first cousin, Henry. All through the twenties her parties, in her houses in Elberon, Palm Beach, and in East Fifty-sixth Street, were celebrated. She had a butler, De Witt who she liked to say "set the standard for a whole generation of German Jewish families. He was stationed at the foot of the stairs, and arriving guests learned to fear his look of icy disapproval.

Henry died in 1933 and Addie in 1936.

Elberon, New Jersey

ELBERON is a continuation of Long Branch on the south, practically belonging to it although not within the corporation limits. The ground was purchased of Benjamin Wooley by Lewis B. Brown (from whose initials and name Elberon was formed) being an area of 100 acres. This plot was laid out with much taste, many improvements being added to a naturally attractive site, the result being one of the most complete  and elegant resorts on the Jersey coast. Among the handsome residences of this place is the Francklyn Cottage, rendered famous as the refuge to which President Garfield was brought, and where he was lulled into his final sleep by the murmur of the sea. General Grant's former summer home is also at Elberon. The ground at Elberon is higher and more rolling than at the resorts directly on the sea and thus gives the place a distinct topographical character. Source