Adlon

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200 West 54th Street, New York City, NY

Adlon
Adlon-NYC-Exterior.jpg

The 1912 Adlon
Building Information
Developer Adlon Construction Company
Architect Blum Brothers
Number of Units 128
Number of Floors 12
Year Built 1912
Construction Method Concrete
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200 West 54th Street, New York City, NY
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning C6-6
Title of Land Cooperative


Contents

Background

In 1912, the Adlon was built, another fantastic architectural gem from the Blum Brothers, resplendent with Art Nouveau shields and squares, recalling details from the Arts and Crafts era. It took its name from a famous hotel in Berlin, at the time, called Hotel Adlon.

The Adlon in 1912, with the Aljomor right behind it
Edward Blum must have worked overtime on this design while brother George handled more of the business end of things. Although both brothers were educated as architects at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, office scuttle-butt that surfaced decades later about life around the Blums, suggested that Edward was the flighty one and George, the serious one.

The Adlon's history is inextricably linked with a 13 story apartment building built simultaneously right behind the Adlon, called the Aljomor. This fancy name was a morph of the three main investors, Joseph Graf, Morris Goldstone, and Alexander Pincus, using the first letters of each man's first name.

The Adlon and the Aljomor were joined on July 6, 1919, when both buildings were purchased by developers Bing & Bing for $1.5 million, in a big real estate deal that The New York Times said, “That the realty market is on the boom was shown conclusively by the volume and importance of last week’s transactions”, writing about the combined buildings now referred to as The Adlons. The combined buildings now contained 142 apartments and ten retail stores.

The Adlon today
Shame and scandal, it seemed, were the de rigueur over the course of Adlon's life. It was home to many stars, both from stage and silent film. Conway Tearle, for instance, a star of stage and screen (both silent and talkies) was living at the Adlon with his second wife (he had four) and was under contract with Lewis J. Selznick, and earning $2000 a week. That's about $20,000 a week in "today" dollars. His first wife heard about the deal and and wanted more than the $25 a week he was paying her for alimony. She sued for $65 a week. Tearle's attourney complained that the actor's former wife was trying to ruin him (Conway) ... [1]

Look for more stories in the Trivia Section of this page.

Meanwhile, in 1989, the con-joined Adlon had fallen into to disrepair through neglect and time. It had just been converted into a cooperative and pieces of the copper and cast stone had fallen away. By 1999, the owners realized they had a gem on their hands and took it upon themselves to repair the façade replacing the missing bits and cleaning up the rest.

This 100 year old treasure has survived many construction purges in Mid-town while standing as a prominent reminder of fine architecture detail of days gone by, one that bucked the Beaux Arts trend of residential buildings of the time and displayed Arts and Crafts styling and Art Nouveau details.



Location

Like theater? Residents of Adlon cannot get much closer to the famed Theater District of Manhattan than actually being in Times Square. As it is, Adlon is only a few short New York City blocks from Times Square and just a quick stroll over from Broadway itself. Carnegie Hall is only two blocks up towards Central Park, just four blocks away.

Adlon sits on 7th Avenue which runs one way southbound from Central Park at the north and ties into Broadway at about 45th Street, essentially the top of Times Square. That's about a seven to ten minute walk from the building. Not far to go for New Year's Eve festivities.

Some of the baked treats from Fluffy's Cafe
A map showing little flags pinning restaurants and other places to eat completely obscures the location of the Adlon - there are so many options. Fluffy's Bakery & Deli, a Condopedia favorite, is diagonally across the street. There's a nice little Irish pub directly facing Adlon, so your after-work libation should be easy to come by. Also in the neighborhood, are wine bars, cafés, and The Three Monkeys, a bar used regularly by audience members as a holding area prior to a taping of the David Letterman Show at the Ed Sullivan Theater around the corner.

It's surprising how many grocery shops there are in an area where many corporations have head office, where retail stores of Fifth Avenue have flagship locations, and many advertising corporations hang out their shingles on Madison Avenue. Of course, numerous condominiums and cooperatives have been situated in this area, so naturally, motivated New York entrepreneurs would provide grocery options.

Schools? Well, not as close as in some other neighborhoods, although a quarter of mile is only about 1300 feet and that's where PS 35 High School is, on about 8th Avenue and West 52nd Street. PS 212 is about a third of a mile. The nature of the neighborhood attracts schools of other disciplines as well, such as arts schools, music schools, and a choir school, basically, in the shadow of Carnegie Hall. Students definitely need to "practice, practice, practice".

Horse carriages, pedicabs, biking, rolling ... whatever form of motion is chosen, Central Park, perhaps the most famous urban park around, has multiple ways in which to explore.[2]

Construction

The colored cast stone and motley brickwork of Adlon

Developers, Alexander Pincus, Joseph Graf, and Morris Goldstone wanted a 'fire-proof' building at 54th Street and 7th Avenue. They brought in the Blum Brothers to design a first-class building for them.

The evolution of the neighborhood from smaller tenement housing units to a neighborhood with larger capacities, such as the joint venture Adlon and the Aljomor, was inevitable. Population densities were increasing in the Mid-town area quickly, and more housing was needed.

The Blums put on their 'first-class' thinking caps and came up with The Adlon, taking a name from a famous Hotel in Berlin at the time. Conventional construction in that era followed Art Deco styling, at least the ones that weren't monolithic "boxes". The maverick Blums steered their creations more to the Art Nouveau style borrowing freely from Arts and Crafts influences.

While in the planning stages of Adlon, the south lot was acquired by the developers, so the Blums were asked to design a companion building for that space. Alexander, Joseph, and Morris eponymously named the second building Aljomor, deriving the exotic sounding name from the first few letters of each of theirs.

Adlon's intricate copper work
Upon completion, the building appeared to have lots of terracotta detailing but actually, no terracotta was used. The ornamentation came through cast stone and used many colors. The top two floors were decorated with copper pilasters surrounding the windows with arched frames and copper lined the underside of the roof overhang which was larger than most.

Designs in the copper and the cast stone have references to Celtic and fashionable Secessionist details. Throughout the building, there are exaggerated shields, tiles, squares, and various other geometric shapes.[3]

The Blum Brothers avoided the traditional red brick other builders used favoring browns, beige's and even white bricks for some projects. Varying the brick colors gave the façades a mottled appearance which from afar, looked liked a rich warm tapestry. Coupled with the stone work of many colors, this building is a fine example of attention to detail.

The Adlon has a great cornice and roof overhang intricately detailed with copper and cast stone of various colors. It's likely that the large overhang prevented water from drenching the façade too badly during its lifetime, but the building did decline up until the time it was converted to a cooperative in 1989. It was seriously deteriorating by the time the board started restoring the fantastic façade in 1999.[4]

The Adlon was missing some pieces of cast stone. These were meticulously replicated and replaced and other parts were repaired or restored. It's over a hundred years old now. It will stand for some time to come.

Layout and Features

One of the renovated kitchens

Well, the Adlon does not have a parking garage as not many people had cars in 1912. No matter ... everything is at Adlon's doorstep.

The apartments themselves are typically one to three bedroom versions with several variations. The ceilings are tall, many adorned with crown moldings giving the sense of spaciousness.

Residents are greeted by the doorman and there is a concierge service available. If problems arise, the superintendent lives in the building.

The neighborhood itself is perhaps the biggest amenity of the Adlon.[5]


Floor Plans

More than 40 floor plans exist for Adlon. Here are some samples:


Amenities

  • Doorman
  • Intercom
  • Concierge
  • Architecturally distinguished
  • Decorative facades
  • One block to subways
  • Three blocks from Carnegie Hall
  • Five blocks from Central Park
  • Many restaurants and skyscrapers nearby
  • Great, flaring cornice

CONS

  • No roof deck
  • No garage
  • No sidewalk landscaping


Bylaws

Adlon Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes



  • Pets are allowed
  • Rentals are permitted

Sustainability

Improvements to the Adlon have been ongoing over the years. Each step owners take during renovations help to lessen the building's impact on the environment and keeps running costs lower.

Plumbing, electrical, and heating and ventilation systems have all been updated through the use of modern appliances, requiring less power, low-flow faucets and other fixtures, reducing the amount of water used, modern electrical upgrades, further reducing power use and making the building safer.

Residents will also become a part of New York City's recycling program, said to be the most ambitious in the country. The Department of Sanitation services pick up from about three million homes, businesses and schools.

The 'tag-line' on the DSNY states, "Whether you live, work, or visit NYC - Recycling is the Law." [6]

Trivia

Some more history about the Adlon.

  • With its location, the Adlon attracted many theatrical types. Vera Maxwell and her mother, from the Ziegfeld Follies, actor DeWolf Hopper, and Jean and Helen Raymond, sisters who were popular actresses at the time, all lived in the building.
  • Mrs. Jane Hathaway became 'friendly' with the Russian Prince, Nicholas Vladaovich Engalitcheff, apparently too 'friendly', according to Princess Engalitcheff. She sued for divorce. One of Mrs. Hathaway's servants added her statement to the court's inquiry of the case saying, "The Prince was in the habit of calling on Mrs. Hathaway in the afternoon. He never remained to dinner.”
  • Mickey Mantle had an apartment here.
  • Mrs. Estelle Allison lived in the building at the time. For the wartime effort, she employed boy scouts to sell little paper dolls dressed up in Allied uniforms.The Scouts went on buses and were posted at elevated train platforms. "Fannie dolls", they were called, sold for 15 cents each. A commendable effort ... had the boys actually been Scouts. A prosecutor, District Attorney Swann, witnessed the 'Scouts' in action on a Fifth Avenue bus and became suspicious. He visited Mrs. Allison and told reporters, "I also found that Mrs. Allison has not furnished a satisfactory statement of her activities.”
    • Busted!
  • Flash forward to 1936. John Cook and Leon Furman, both in their early thirties, transformed a four room apartment into a casino on the 12th floor. When discovered, a raid was made by plainclothes detectives in 1937. They found liquor, champagne, and chips with values of $25 to $500. There were also three telephones with headsets use to relay bets to horse races in New Jersey. A "hands-free" operation before it was even fashionable.
  • Renato Bellini lived here in the 1950s. Bellini was a composer and a voice teacher.
  • So did Carol Burnett.[7]

References

  1. Daytonian - The 1912 Adlon Apartments -- No. 200 West 54th Street
  2. Walk Score
  3. Street Easy
  4. Daytonian - Blogspot
  5. City Realty
  6. Department of Sanitation - New York City
  7. Daytonian Blog


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