Thursday, August 17, 2023

Emery Roth's 1931 363 Seventh Avenue


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As early as 1872, a four-story flat house, or apartment building, stood at 363 Seventh Avenue on the northeast corner of 30th Street.  Half a century later, the neighborhood had greatly changed.  One block to the north was Pennsylvania Station.  And about three blocks away at Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, construction began on the new Empire State Building on March 17, 1930.

Three months later to the day, The New York Sun reported that Louis Kleban & Sons had bought the vintage flat house at 363 Seventh Avenue and the seven-story building next door.  The article noted, "The site is to be improved with a twenty-two-story office and showroom building by the new owners.  Emery Roth is the architect."

Born in Austria-Hungary in 1871, Roth was best known for his designing of apartment and hotel buildings, like the El Dorado currently under construction on Central Park West.  His Art Deco design for 363 Seventh Avenue showed subtle Gothic influences.  Its crisp lines rose to a mountainscape of setbacks, the corners of which were capped with geometric stone decorations.

photograph by acronson

The ornamentation of the lower floors is quintessentially Art Deco, with fluted entrance pilasters terminating in foliate capitals, and Art Deco versions of sunflowers and vines filling carved panels.

The building was completed in 1931.  Offices and manufacturers' showrooms filled the upper 21 stories, while the ground floor housed a restaurant.  Among the first tenants were the Orion Silk Company; Crowell Publishing Co., which published the Woman's Home Companion; and the Jewish Forum Publishing Company, Inc., publishers of the monthly magazine Jewish Forum.  

In 1932 perfumer firm Croxton, Inc. leased the fourth floor, and Judge John A. Bolles and Dr. Arthur Taft rented the eighteenth floor for the newly-formed United States-Kent School of Law.  Advertisements promised a "one-year course in law," and urged "Increase your earning power--become a lawyer!"

The headquarters of another educational institution, the School of Jewish Woman, was also in 363 Seventh Avenue.  Its classes were held at Congregation Shearith Israel on Central Park West.  In 1933 the school received an impressive endorsement.  On December 12, The New York Sun reported, "Prof. Albert Einstein has accepted the honorary chairmanship of the academic advisory board" of the school.

photograph by acronson

In the fall of 1933, the repeal of Prohibition seemed to be on the near horizon.  In preparation, reported The New York Sun on September 30, a group of grocers, beverage dealers and importers banded together.  The article said that at a dinner to be held on October 3, "an association of wine and spirits importers, provided the prohibition amendment is repealed, will be mapped out."  It went on to say, "The name of the Wine and Spirits Importers Association of New York has been chosen, with temporary offices at 363 Seventh avenue."

Despite the ongoing Great Depression, on October 13, 1934 The New York Sun reported that 363 Seventh Avenue was fully rented.  Legal firms and apparel companies were among the major tenants.  Among the fur and garment firms were the Rabbit Dealers Association, designer Teddy Ellis, and Lorie H. Kreitman, "new creations."  Attorney Edward Fillmore (counsel for the Associated Fur Coat & Trimming Manufacturers) occupied "a large suite," according to the article; the office of attorney Samuel Kheel, "head of the Penn Zone Association," was here; as were the offices of Levy, Gutman & Goldbert, and of attorney Irving Levine.

Along with the American Rabbit Dealers Association, other tenants associated with the fur industry here in the 1930s and 1940s included the American Fur Merchants Association, the Fur Dyers Trade Council, the Fur Manufacturing Industry, and the publishers of Fur Age Weekly.

No. 363 Seventh Avenue remained a stronghold for furriers into the 1970s.  Varriale Furs operated from the building in the 1960s and '70s, and Kaiser Furs was here as late as 1983.  The tenant list continued, however, to be varied.  

The former ground floor restaurant space was home to a Janet Leitner women's apparel store in the 1970s.  Prentiss Drug & Chemical Co. had offices on an upper floor in the mid-1970s, and the publishing office of The West Side Spirit, a neighborhood newspaper, was in the building in 1980.  In the early 2000s, the Irish Northern Aid Committee and the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) operated from 363 Seventh Avenue.  

photograph by acronson

Emery Roth's Art Deco high-rise may have little time left.  It is on the list of structures slated for redevelopment in the proposed Empire Station Complex around Penn Station.

many thanks to reader Andrew Cronson for requesting this post has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

1 comment:

  1. Note that the so-called "Empire Station Complex" has been renamed and drastically downsized in scope, with Vornado Realty scaling back its plans. So I strongly hope that this tower will remain standing for years to come.