Friday, November 23, 2012

A Brutalized Marble Commercial Villa at No. 572 5th Ave.

In 1915 the Budd haberdashery was surrounded by equally high-end shops -- photo collection of the Museum of the City of New York
As the first years of the 20th century unfolded, Fifth Avenue above 42nd Street was changing.  While a few staunch millionaires remained in their brownstone mansions, most by now had moved north along Central Park, leaving their homes to be razed or remodeled beyond recognition into commercial structures.

Between 46th and 47th Streets on the east side of the avenue, the elaborate Beaux Arts style Windsor Arcade engulfed the block front.  On the west side the Chevalier mansion at No. 574 had been transformed in 1903 into a Northern Renaissance fantasy to house upscale retail shops.  Its next door neighbor at No. 572 had also become a commercial building.

In 1906 the area was called by The New York Times “the gilt-edged section of Fifth Avenue.”   Once the most exclusive residential neighborhood in Manhattan, it was now home to the most exclusive retail stores—jewelers, fine art dealers and high-end clothiers.  That year Henry A. Budd purchased the building at No. 572 for $350,000.

Budd was a partner in his father’s haberdashery, Samuel Budd—more familiarly known as “Budd.”  Samuel had come to New York City in 1861 at the age of 26 from New Paltz, New York, to start a men’s clothing business.    The store remained on Fifth Avenue at 24th Street for 45 years, earning a reputation as one of New York’s most respected men’s outfitters.  But now, with high-end retailers entrenching themselves further up Fifth Avenue, Henry Budd intended to establish a second store.

Budd patiently waited for the lease, held by confectioners Charles A. Dean, to expire in 1907.  In the meantime he commissioned architect Augustus N. Allen to draw up plans to renovate the structure.  The Times reported that Budd intended to “remodel it and open it as a branch store.”

And remodel it he did.

Drawing inspiration from Southern Italian villas Allen created a white marble fa├žade under a red-tiled Mediterranean sloped roof.  A three-story arcade rose gracefully to the fifth floor where three openings were separated by Corinthian pilasters, simulating a loggia.   A frieze of carved shields and the name “Budd” surmounted the impressive bronze store front fabricated by Estey Bros. Company.

The elegant men's store featured a bronze storefront -- Architectural Record June 1916 (copyright expired)
The new Budd store opened for business in 1907, catering to the same wealthy New Yorkers who had lived in the neighborhood a generation earlier.    The store was widely- known for its custom-made cravats which ranged in price from $1.00 to $6.00—upwards to $110 in today’s dollars.  An advertisement in the New-York Tribune touted “All the cravats sold by Samuel Budd are made in his own workrooms; the styles are original and the silks used in their manufacture are woven expressly in exceptional qualities under the supervision of his agents.  The patterns are the work of expert designers.”

Budd leased space above ground level to other high-end retailers.  K. E. Hanley Company was among the first tenants, sellers of women’s apparel.   On January 13, 1907 the store advertised a clearance sale of women’s suits “made up completed of foreign materials in fancy velveteens, in colors, and French Broadcloth.  The models are particularly exclusive and the workmanship throughout bears our well known stamp of superiority,” promised the ad.  The prices hinted at the wealth of the store’s clientele.  On sale some of the suits were priced at $62.50—about $1,100 today.

Shoppers on Fifth Avenue are dressed against the chill in 1915 -- photo collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Men’s tailors Schneider & Schmittlapp was leasing space on an upper floor by 1915.

Samuel Budd died in 1912 at the age of 77 after half a century of outfitting moneyed gentlemen.  Henry A. Budd continued the family business until 1933 when the Great Depression took its toll.   On June 7, 1933 the Mutual Life Insurance Company foreclosed on the building.  It would be the first of a rapid-fire string of turn overs of ownership.    In May 1943 Clarke G. Dailey purchased the property, selling it four months later to Frederick Brown.   Brown quickly turned a profit, selling the building a few weeks later, in November 1945.

The area remained the “Queen of Avenues” for several decades—the very term “Fifth Avenue” being synonymous world-wide with high-priced jewelry, clothing and artwork.   But by the end of the 20th century more tawdry businesses elbowed their way onto the Avenue and several airlines headquarters took over former retail buildings—often brutalizing the architecture with their modernizations.  And such was the case with No. 572 Fifth Avenue.   In the 1960s Irish International Airlines moved in, to be replaced by a two-story bookstore in 1971.  The upper floors were renovated to offices at the time.
The delicate panel carvings, the rope-twist detailing and the slender white marble columns hint at the lost elegance--photo by Alice Lum
Allen’s graceful Mediterranean villa lost its red tiled roof and the fifth floor windows were elongated, thereby losing the carved panels in the process that had created the loggia-effect.

The surviving traces of the Budd Building could indignantly be called "ruins." -- photo by Alice Lum
But the greatest insult occurred in July 2010 when a two-story storefront of polished black stone and blue neon was installed.   Today only traces of the Budd Building remain.  What was once a graceful white marble villa with a bronze storefront is the victim of brutal architectural vandalism masquerading as “improvement.”

1 comment:

  1. Shedding some tears over this building's current state knowing what it once was.