455 Central Park West

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455 Central Park West, New York City, NY

455 Central Park West
455CentralPark-NYC-WestFacade.jpg

A rendering of the landmark buildings in front and the tower residences behind
Building Information
Architect Charles Coolidge Haight
Number of Units 99
Number of Floors 25
Year Built 1887
Construction Method Concrete
Type of Roof PMR
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455 Central Park West, New York City, NY
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning R - 8
Title of Land Condominium


Contents

Background

The New York Cancer Hospital became possible when public interest was aroused following the death of President Ulysses S. Grant from throat cancer in 1885. In the year of Grant's diagnosis, John Jacob Astor III, Elizabeth H. Cullum, John E. Parsons, Thomas A. Emmet, Joseph W. Drexel and other prominent New Yorkers laid the cornerstone for the New York Cancer Hospital. It was the first hospital in the United States devoted entirely to the care of cancer patients.

New York Cancer Hospital - c.1900

In the early 1920s, it became the General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. In 1955, it then outgrew the outdated Central Park West facility and became what is now the present day Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

After the hospital moved out, it served many purposes. It was converted into a notorious nursing home in the 1950s and was eventually abandoned in the 1970s. The building fell into decrepitude frequented only by homeless people and vandals, laying dormant for almost three decades. Over the years, many developers made attempts to re-purpose the old building but it was not until Chicago based MCL Companies arrived in the picture in March 2000, with some generous financing and high hopes.

Ground was broken to create luxury condominiums within the old structures, but progress was halted following the events 9/11. The work stoppage became an financial issue until Columbia University bought several entire floors to house senior faculty and visiting dignitaries. Construction could then resume and by early 2005, the old building, which had become a land mark in 1976, was completed and assumed the new name of 455 Central Park West.[1]


Location

It faces Central Park. In some minds, that's impossible to beat. There are few better places in the world to live.

455 Central park West seems to be far enough away from the main crush of Midtown and yet, near enough to join in if desired. The building is situated near the north end of Central Park just six blocks from Morningside Park, should Central Park ever become "ordinary".

As seen from Central Park

As well, a brief stroll along West 106th Street brings the Hudson River Park into view and the river beyond it.[2]

More ardent walkers can cross Central Park to Fifth Avenue and explore the Museum Mile, a stretch of Fifth Avenue that houses nearly a dozen famous museums including the Museum for African Art, El Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, The Jewish Museum, and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institution). The list continues with the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, the world famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and of course, MoMA - The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Although not exactly at the doorstep, there are still many eating places near enough that are filled with gastronomical delights. From 600 feet away and a third of a mile (which is under 1800 feet) from 455 Central Park West, are a wide selection of restaurants covering many ethnic origins.[3]


This very bike-able area is also home to many land marks and historical sites. The National Register of Historic Places lists over 100 places just between 59th to 110th Streets, including 455 Central Park West. Time and space prevents listing them all, but here are few highlights: the Apthorp apartments, the Barbizon Hotel for Women (now called Barbizon 63), the Andrew Carnegie Mansion, the Dakota, and the nearby Dorilton. So much history in such a small area.[4]

Construction

455 Central Park West consists of 16 apartments in the very distinguished, low-rise, older buildings, sometimes referred to as the "castle" by residents in the neighborhood, due to the French Renaissance "Chateau-esque" style of its architecture. The 25 story red brick tower houses 83 units.

The majestic entrance

The residential tower was designed by Rothzeid Kaiserman Thomson and Bee on the northwestern part of the site. RTKB Architects, Perkins Eastman Architects and Victor Caliandro were the architects involved in the new tower and restoration of the original buildings.[5]

MCL Companies obtained the property in March of 2000 and was the renovation developer. The original design was lauded by architectural and medical circles alike. It was considered a marvel for both architectural allure and medical innovation with a design that was emulated by many other hospitals in other parts of the country and the world.

The circular designs of the circular turret-like structures housing the wards was believed to encourage freer air flow and promote cleanliness by preventing the trapping of bad air. Also, the round edges of the room were more conducive to cleanliness. The circular ward was advantageous to the nurse on duty as she had an unobstructed view of all the patients on the ward while in the center of the room.

Architect Charles C. Haight had designed the Downtown Club in 1886 and the General Theological Seminary in 1887-1890. Architectural elements within the New York Cancer Hospital include stone columns, arched Gallery, Paneled rooms, antique French stone floors, gold-leafed and plaster walls. The big, broad towers gave the hospital the character of a French chateau and was accented with English Gothic trim.

The chapel great room has a 28 foot vaulted ceiling supported by arched beams finished in the same manner as the ceiling. The building became an official New York City landmark in 1976.

Layout and Features

An original ward layout which has given way to circular rooms

Residents of 455 Central Park West are treated with a roof top deck, health club, and a children's playroom.

40 of the units in the tower were purchased by the Columbia University for faculty housing and they, with the rest of the units provide studio, one, two and three bedroom layouts. Some of the tower residences have terraces and balconies. One of the Penthouse units features four bedrooms and also a separate area for maid's quarters.

Many of the apartments in the older low-rise portion of the building have round rooms which present some very interesting floor plans.[6]

Here are some fabulous interior views of one of the luxury condominium apartments at 455 Central Park West:

Floor Plans

More than 30 floor plans exists for 455 Central Park West, both within the original hospital section and within the tower. Here are a few examples:

Amenities

Being part of a land mark structure may have a few inconveniences such as no balconies and some distance to shopping and subways, but other numerous building amenities have been provided for residents of 455 Central Park West. Here are a few:

  • Children's playroom
  • Health club with fitness center, gym, and pool
  • Community Recreation Facilities
  • Cold Storage
  • Live-in Superintendent
  • Storage
  • Doorman
  • Parking
  • Swimming Pool
  • Concierge
  • Full Service Garage
  • Roof deck and garden
  • Great views of Central Park
The lobby with the concierge on duty
The lap pool at 455 Central Park West
A sample of one of the kitchens

Bylaws

455 Central Park West Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No
Barbecues No


  • Pets are permitted
  • No age restrictions seem to placed on ownership within the building
  • Without balconies, using a barbecue would be impractical
  • Rentals are permittted

Sustainability

Architect Charles C. Haight had a vision that round hospital wards would be cleaner for a hospital environment. Not exactly the type of 'green' thinking that modern construction has embraced, but certainly a step in the right direction.

The renovation and conversion to condominiums at 455 Central park West has gathered five awards, including a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from New York Landmarks Conservancy and Best of 2004 Project of the Year: Adaptive Reuse Award from New York Construction.

Some other ways residents can contribute to a greener environment include:

  • Participate In New York City's recycling program
  • Wash clothes in cold water
  • Walk, bike, or use transit to conserve gas
  • A low flow shower head and faucet aerator are inexpensive methods to conserve water
  • Use environmentally safe cleaning products and soaps[7]

Trivia

  • In 1891, a contractor was blasting for a new entrance to Central Park across the street. The force of the charge was miscalculated and the resulting explosion broke almost every window in the nearly new hospital. The force of the blast hurled huge rocks through the roof of the hospital narrowly missing hospital staff and patients. Miraculously, no one was injured.[8]
  • In the 1950s, the complex was converted to the Towers Nursing Home. It was run by Bernard Bergman, who, after a series of investigations, went to prison in 1976 for Medicaid fraud. The investigations concluded that there was wide spread patient abuse and that the financial records of the nursing home operations were not in order.
Marie Curie's notebooks are still radioactive
  • Radiation treatment for cancer got its start in the early 20th century. In the steel vault of The General Memorial Hospital, as the New York Cancer Hospital was then called, was the world's largest accumulation of radium in the world, four grams. The 20th century brought new techniques in cancer treatment, including radiation. In 1921, Marie Curie visited what had been renamed the General Memorial Hospital to see the steel vault where the hospital kept its four grams of radium -- at the time the largest accumulation in the world, according to The New York Times. Her escort, Dr. Edward H. Rogers, assured The Times that there is no case on record of anyone being injured in health by radium. At the time, not much was known about the effects of radioactive exposure. She died in 1934 because of radium poisoning.

References

  1. Wikipedia - New York Cancer Hospital
  2. Wikipedia - Museum Mile
  3. Walk Score
  4. Wikipedia - National Register of Historic Places listings in Manhattan from 59th to 110th Streets
  5. City Realty - Review
  6. City Realty - Review
  7. World Watch Institute
  8. Christopher Gray - Streetscapes


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