Thursday, February 1, 2024

George Fred Pelham Jr.'s 1940 1150 Park Avenue


photograph by Deansfa

George Fred Pelham, Jr. came from a line of architects.  His grandfather was George Brown Pelham, in whose office George's father learned the trade before opening his own office in 1890.  George Jr. joined that firm in 1910.  

Two years after his father's death, Pelham was hired by the 1150 Park Avenue Corporation to design an apartment house on the southwest corner of Park Avenue and 92nd Street.  The builders had acquired the site from the Brick Presbyterian Church two years earlier.  According to The New York Sun, the church corporation "reserved an easement for light and air over the southern ten feet of the site."  That worked out for both parties--assuring the proposed apartment building sustained views, ventilation and natural light.

Pelham filed the plans on July 17, 1939.  The New York Sun reported that construction of the "eighteen-story and penthouse apartment house" would cost $800,000--just under $17 million in 2024.  "There will be six suites on a floor from the second to ninth stories; five on each floor from the tenth to fifteenth; three each on the sixteenth to eighteenth floors, and two penthouse suites."  The first floor would house four doctors' offices and ten maids' rooms.

from the collection of the Columbia University Libraries New York Real Estate Brochure Collection 

Pelham's Art Moderne design relied on form rather than ornament.  Sitting on a granite base, the red brick structure rose to setbacks that provided terraces to certain upper-floor apartments.  Perhaps the most striking element of Pelham's design was the chamfered corners that allowed for dramatic, triptych windows.

The Great Depression was waning, but was by no means over.  Nonetheless, apartments in 1150 Park Avenue rented quickly.  With construction still ongoing, on May 19, 1940 The New York Times reported that more than four months before renting was to officially start, 60 percent of the apartments had been leased.

An advertisement on August 24, 1940 in The New York Sun called 1150 Park Avenue, "an outstanding example of modern apartment house construction."  Tempting potential residents with snob appeal, it said, "This latest addition to New York City's smartest avenue was designed to please 'particular' people who desire luxurious moderate rentals."  Rents started at $1,400 for a three-bedroom suite--around $2,433 per month by today's conversion.

from the collection of the Columbia University Libraries New York Real Estate Brochure Collection 

The 1940 real estate brochure touted, "Each [apartment] comprises a complete home, whether it be a three room apartment or a five room unit with powder room off the foyer and two master bedrooms each with its private bath."  It concluded, "Altogether, 1150 Park Avenue may be said to express the Apartment Standards of the Future in one of the most perfect locations of To-Day."

Among those who signed leases during construction were Albert W. Barker, of the Transamerican Broadcasting & Television Corporation; and Maurice S. Diamond, curator of Near Eastern Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A year after the first tenants moved in, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, drawing the country into World War II.  Phillip W. Haberman, Jr., a lawyer, left 1150 Park Avenue to serve in the Intelligence Division of the Eighth Air Force in England.  His wife Helen more than filled her time in his absence.  On March 7, 1943, NY P.M. said, "Mrs. Haberman is an account executive and copywriter for the William Douglas McAdams Advertising Agency, and also handles hotel reservations for the Times Square Service Men's Center."

An astounding "four-way exchange of apartments" took place in 1946.  On September 6, The New York Sun reported on an unbelievably complex coordination of leases and relocations.  Henry L. Harris was with Goldman, Sachs & Co.  He and his wife left their apartment here to move to 145 Central Park West.  That apartment had just been vacated by Jerome Tanenbaum, who moved to 1095 Park Avenue, the former apartment of Leon Spilo, executive vice-president of Clairol, Inc.  The Spilos were moving into the apartment vacated by Arthur Garson of the Lovable Brassiere Company, who had just signed a lease on the Harris apartment at 1150 Park Avenue.

Among the Garsons' new neighbors would be the Frederick Schuyler Krags.  A year before the dizzying exchange of apartments, the Krags' daughter, Joan Patricia, had married William A. Pond Phillips, Jr.  They had a short distance to go for the wedding.  On November 9, 1945, The Rye Chronical reported, "the ceremony was performed quietly Saturday afternoon at the [Brick] Presbyterian Church."  Joan had attended the Rye Country Day School and Penn Hall Junior College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the succeeding decades, 1150 Park Avenue would continue to be home to professionals.  Living here by the 1960s was trial lawyer Samuel J. Siegel and his wife Daisy.  Born in 1880, he graduated from City College and New York Law School.  Siegel practice law until his retirement in 1969 at the age of 88.

Another interesting resident at the time was Dr. Joseph Turner who lived here with his wife, the former Henrietta Bythiner.  Born in 1892, during World War I he had served as a captain in the army Medical Corps.  Upon returning to New York, in 1919 he was appointed superintendent of the Eagleville Sanitarium, a tuberculosis institution.  When the Second World War broke out, he served as a consultant on civilian defense.  The well-rounded Turner "had an extensive knowledge of art and often lectured on the subject," according to The New York Times on July 7, 1973.

Also living at 1150 Park Avenue at the time were George W. Phillips and his wife Margaret.  Phillips was a partner in the law firm of Cutting, Phillips & Hall.  Admitted to the bar in 1904, he initially represented several racing associations.  Only a year into his practice, according to The New York Times, he "represented August Belmont Sr. in acquiring the land that is now Belmont Park."

The building was converted to a cooperative in 1973.  

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

  1. Great building! I wish you would do a piece on the Brick Presbyterian Church next door.