Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Emery Roth's 295 Central Park West

image via rudin.com

Most of Central Park West's Victorian and Edwardian residential hotels and apartment houses were replaced by jazzy Art Deco towers in the 1920s.  One dowager holdout, however, the New Windsor Apartments at the southwest corner of 90th Street, survived through the Great Depression.  But that would soon change.

On November 17, 1938, The Sun reported that the Northwest Realty Corporation of which Samuel Rudin was president, "has purchased 294-295 Central Park West, the seven-story New Windsor Apartments...for a consideration of $115,000."

Rudin hired the architectural firm of Emery Roth & Sons to design the 19-story-and-penthouse replacement building.  The firm's streamlined Art Moderne design relied on form rather than ornamentation.  The shoulder-high granite water table that girded the base of the building rose up to form a monumental, two-story stepped entrance frame.  Emery Roth & Sons gently rounded the building's corners, the windows wrapping the sides.  A series of setbacks provided terrace space to the upper floors.

Emery Roth & Sons created the decorative bandcourse between the first and second floors in brick.  image via  landmarkwest.org

An advertisement in the New York Post on June 24, 1941 promised the "20-Story Apartment Masterpiece" would be ready for occupancy on August 1.  Compared to some of the pre-Depression buildings along the park, the size of the apartments were modest--ranging from "1-1/2 to 5 rooms" with either one or two baths.  The management's brochure stressed that 295 Central Park West "provides livability in small apartments to a remarkable degree."

The advertisement boasted of the "Norge hermetically sealed rollator refrigerators," while the brochure pointed out amenities like "modern steel casement windows, specially equipped with fresh air ventilators...A radio outlet in each living room...Venetian blinds in all rooms and bathrooms," and "Special soundproofed partitions between apartments assure the utmost quiet."

On August 9, the New York Post noted, "The special requirements of the professional man have been met in the scientific planning of the six doctors' suites in the new apartment building at 295 Central Park West."  Samuel Rudin announced that four of those suites had been leased to physicians who also took apartments in the building.  He also noted, "The building is now 84 per cent rented and 24 families have just moved in."

The relatively small apartments are seen in this typical floorplan.   from the collection of the New York Public Library

The building filled with professionals.  Among the initial residents were Mitchel and Eda Leventhal.  In January 1944, Mitchell partnered with Herman Lipin to form SOSY, for the "buying, selling, and generally dealing in luggage, hardware and other merchandise."  Three years later, the Times Record of Troy, New York reported that the couple and five other investors had purchased the Boardman Building in that city.

Resident Milton Davis had set up a business just before moving into 295 Central Park West.  In 1940, with World War II raging in Europe, he and Charles Davis (presumably a relative) formed the Coat Corporation of America.  Their only client was the U.S. Government for "the manufacture of Army clothing," according to The Daily Argus.

Five years later, despite their contracts with the Government having totaled about $12 million (equal to about $195 million in 2024), the Davises were in trouble.  On July 31, 1945, The Daily Argus reported that they "entered pleas of nolo contendere to an indictment charging a conspiracy to file a false statement with the renegotiation Board of the Army Quartermaster Corps."  Isaiah Matlack, chief of the New York Office of the War Frauds Division of the Department of Justice, had accused them of stating their 1942 profits amounted to $37,000, "whereas government investigation disclosed the profits totaled around $200,000."  The Davises were charged $30,000 in fines.

Residents of the two penthouse apartments enjoyed wrap-around terraces.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

Living here in 1949 was Herbert X. Blum.  He had formerly been president of the Self-Service Laundry Operators, a chain of coin-operated laundromats, and was now a vice-president.  Like Milton Davis, his shady operations landed him in court.  On July 12 that year, the Nassau Daily Review-Star reported that State Attorney General Nathaniel Goldstein had charged him and his partners with price-fixing and extortion.  They attempted "to drive the [lower priced independent operators] out of the 25 million-dollar-a-year industry by subsidizing price-war competition."  The attorney general estimated "the combination's price-pegging policy added four to five million dollars a year to the cash-and-carry laundry costs of New York housewives."

image via zumper.com

Davis and Blum were exceptions, of course, to the generally respectable residents of 295 Central Park West.  Living here in 1964 were Marjorie G. Levy and her daughter Jane.  On June 21, 1964, the Herald Statesman reported that Marjorie would serve as office manager on the staff of the Encampment for Citizenship at the Fieldston School in Riverdale."  The article noted, "Her daughter, Jane Levy, attended the encampment as a student in 1958.  Now a teacher in the New York City school system, Miss Levy will attend the New York University Human Relations Seminar in Puerto Rico this summer."

Another resident at the time was Peter Schwab, who was equally involved in social causes.  A former Peace Corps member, he was now an instructor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  On November 4, 1965, the Riverdale Press reported that he would appear in a lecture series with Senator Abraham Ribicoff titled, "The Image of Man."  Schwab's topic was "The New Frontiers of Man."

The most celebrated resident at the time was Dr. Robert C. Weaver.  Born on December 29, 1907, he was described by The New York Times as a "portly, pedagogical man who wrote four books on urban affairs," Weaver was an important figure in the civil rights movement in the 1930s and '40s.  He repeatedly urged, " "Fight hard and legally, and don't blow your top."

In 1933 Weaver was appointed an aide to Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.  "He later served as a special assistant in the housing division of the Works Progress Administration, the National Defense Advisory Commission, the War Production Board and the War Manpower Commission," according to The New York Times.  He was a member of what was loosely termed Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet."

Dr. Robert C. Weaver, Office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Weaver became national chairman of the NAACP in 1960, and was approached by President John F. Kennedy for advice on civil rights.  In 1961 Kennedy appointed him administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, which would later become H.U.D. 

Dr. Weaver and his wife Ella would have to leave their apartment at 295 Central Park West and move to Washington in 1966.  President Lyndon B. Johnson elevated H.U.D. to a Cabinet position, making Weaver the first Black person appointed to the Cabinet. 

In 1974 Dr. Harold C. Martin resigned as chancellor of Union College in Schenectady, New York.  On July 8, the Schenectady Gazette reported, "Dr. and Mrs. Harold C. Martin have left their home on Union College campus to reside at 295 Central Park West in New York City, and in Rome, Italy."  The couple maintained a summer home in Rensselaerville, New York.

Exactly how much time they couple spent at 295 Central Park West is unclear, since Martin just had been appointed the president of the American Academy in Rome.  His tenure there was short, however.  He resigned in 1976 and was made a Dana Professor at Trinity College.  Following Dr. Martin's retirement in 1982, the couple moved permanently to Rensselaerville.

image via elliman.com

Rather amazingly, 295 Central Park West has never been converted to a co-op or condo, and remains a rental building.  Perhaps even more amazingly, it is still owned and managed by the Rudin family.  The dignified Art Moderne structure is one of the lesser known designs by one of America's chief 20th century apartment architects.

many thanks to reader Lowell Cochran for suggesting this post
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1 comment:

  1. This building also is famous of nice tenants live there for last few decades but management changed strategies since give up of good reputation for higher rents, therefore a lot of them moving out.
    Jack Rudin the great person and previous owner won’t be happy to see that happening.