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Thread: Demolished/Destroyed

  1. #121
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown

    Default Navarro Flats

    When Spain Reigned on Central Park South



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    THERE was only one developer who could give Edward Clark, the builder of the Dakota apartment house, a run for his money. That was José Francisco de Navarro, the Spanish-born entrepreneur of wide accomplishments and appetites, including real estate.

    His gigantic eight-building Navarro Flats complex, built on Central Park South in the 1880s, is long gone, but it was just as famous in its time as the Dakota — if for all the wrong reasons.

    Born in Spain in 1823, Mr. de Navarro graduated from the Spanish Royal Naval Academy and came to the United States to teach at a Jesuit college in Maryland. After a few years, teaching gave way to railroad investments, then insurance, and by the 1870s he had a number of successful enterprises, like providing $283,000 worth of water meters to the Tweed ring, as well as collaborating on a public market with Boss Tweed himself.

    In the early 1880s, the advent of co-op apartments attracted a new kind of builder. Previously, developers had either built and held for investment, or built for sale to a new owner, being paid after the fact. With the new co-ops, the developer began collecting money upfront from future tenant-shareholders, who provided a new source of investment funds.

    In 1882, Mr. de Navarro began a project twice the size of the Dakota, which was then in midconstruction. His was not one apartment house but eight in a mammoth complex facing Central Park. They took up the westerly end of the block bounded by 58th and 59th Streets, and Sixth and Seventh Avenues, a site that was 425 feet long and 201 feet deep.

    Although first called the Central Park Apartments, they soon became known as the Navarro Flats or, sometimes, the Spanish Flats.

    The buildings, each 13 stories tall, were named the Madrid, the Cordova, the Granada, the Valencia, the Lisbon, the Barcelona, the Saragossa and the Tolosa.

    The sales brochure for the apartments, most of them seven-bedroom duplexes, listed them at $20,000 for corner units and $15,000 for those with only one exposure. Maintenance was $100 to $200 a month.

    The architect, Hubert & Pirsson, staggered the floors so that the principal rooms, facing the street, had extra-high ceilings. It’s a comment on the times that the apartments had only two bathrooms each.

    There were some particularly large apartments, about 7,000 square feet, with a library measuring 19 feet by 22 feet, a drawing room 17 by 39, a billiard room 18 by 24, and a dining room 16 by 31. “Not 10 houses in New York” have such a scale of entertaining rooms, said The Real Estate Record & Guide.

    Unlike the cool beige brick and stone of the Dakota, the Navarro Flats buildings were hot-red brick set off against a wild cliff of stone-trimmed arches, turrets, gables and other features — an arrangement that Scientific American called “most unsatisfactory” in 1884. There were some Moorish details, but the buildings were also described as both Gothic and Queen Anne in style.

    The construction chronology is hazy, but it appears that the westernmost two buildings were completed in early 1884, the next two in 1885 and the last four several years after that.

    Mr. de Navarro was regularly reported to be involved in lawsuits and troubled business affairs, but in 1884 he filed plans for apartment complexes at 86th Street and Madison Avenue, and at 81st Street and Central Park West. That year, The Record & Guide said that the Navarro Flats “must have proved very profitable.”

    By 1885, however, the publication reported that there had been few sales and that there was “little doubt that the venture will prove to be the reverse of profitable.”

    The project required a second mortgage — and a third, which Mr. de Navarro could not get. The scent of failure was death to further sales or credit, and the mortgage holders were suing by 1886.

    In November 1888, The New York Daily Tribune reported the cost of each building as $2 million, and the complex was sold at auction, with at least two of the buildings still incomplete. The original shareholders lost their equity — or, as The Tribune put it, they had bought only “castles in the air.”

    The spectacular failure of the Navarro Flats put a damper on the nascent co-op movement, which suffered from its failure for years.

    Not that any stigma attached itself to living at the Navarro Flats. In 1890 the writer and reformer Carl Schurz lived in the Lisbon; Mary Mapes Dodge, the author of “Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates,” lived in the Cordova; and Percy Chubb, the insurance executive, lived in the Valencia.

    Court battles relating to the project followed Mr. de Navarro at least to 1902, when disappointed stockholders won a suit against him for $950,000. That suggests he still had enough money to pay, and indeed in the mid-1880s he had organized a successful cement company, which seems to have occupied much of his time until his death in 1909.

    Beginning in 1926, Mr. de Navarro’s towering vision was sold off piecemeal, and the apartment buildings were replaced by the New York Athletic Club, the Essex House and the Hampshire House, leaving not a trace of those castles in the air.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


    The Central Park Flats (aka Navarro Flats) in 1891:

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    From 1903 ...

    Printed on border: "A most imposing pile of intensely substantial buildings. Elaborated Spanish architecture, with Moorish arches, numerous balconies, grand entrances, and highly ornamented facades. Unsurpassed interior appointments. Apartments, single and double floor. Built for the wealthiest classes. Eight independent buildings. Built by Navarro, on co-operative plan. Owned by the James Jennings McComb Estate."

  2. #122


    I really don't know why I'm amazed when people want to tear buildings like this down in the name of "progress".

  3. #123
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Far West Village, NYC


    In this case, good gave way to good (NYAC, Hampshire & Essex Houses), so there isn't the sting as there is in the many cases of something bad or mediocre replacing something good.

  4. #124


    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    Ornament and Crime

    Ornament and Crime is an essay written in 1908 by the influential and self-consciously "modern" Austrian architect Adolf Loos under the German title Ornament und Verbrechen. It was under this challenging title that in 1913 the essay was translated into English: "The evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects", Loos proclaimed, thus linking the optimistic sense of the linear and upward progress of cultures with the contemporary vogue for applying evolution to cultural contexts.

    In the essay, Loos's "passion for smooth and precious surfaces" informs his expressed philosophy that ornamentation can have the effect of causing objects to go out of style and thus become obsolete. It struck him that it was a crime to waste the effort needed to add ornamentation, when the ornamentation would cause the object to soon go out of style. Loos introduced a sense of the "immorality" of ornament, describing it as "degenerate", its suppression as necessary for regulating modern society.

    The essay was written when Art Nouveau, which Loos had excoriated even at its height in 1900, was about to show a new way of modern art. The essay is important in articulating some moralizing views, inherited from the Arts and Crafts movement, which would be fundamental to the Bauhaus design studio and would help define the ideology of Modernism in architecture.
    Loos was quite a bigot. In Ornament and Crime, he talked about how the "savages" (indigenous cultures around the world) use heavy decoration patterns, and we don't want to be savages now, do we? He also stated that only criminals would ever get a tattoo, and just like a tat is an undeniable symbol of a dimwit criminal, beautiful ornamentation is a sign of a dimwit architect. Good thing they stripped Metropolitan Life Tower of its beautiful "dimwit architecture" ornamentation, right?

  5. #125


    i am trying to post pics of the world trade centers but they dont show up

  6. #126

  7. #127


    Hey Capitol... do you have permission to post all these pics you've been bombing this site with-
    without giving credit to the photographers?

  8. #128


    Dramatic. Especially the arial shots looking straight down, plus the satellite shots. What you must do when you post others' pics, is copy&paste the name of the owner or site they came from, or type the owners' name right at the top or bottom of the pic. If they're yours, there's no need to do that.

  9. #129


    Hey, do you mind with all the pictures? We figured it out in one post.

    And you should cite the sources of these pictures, as none of them are yours.

  10. #130


    Moderator edit: Deleted 27 repetitive posts.

    Capitol21: Please see the 2nd PM I sent you. Also check Forum Rules of Conduct in Forum Issues. Any questions, contact me via PM.

  11. #131
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    New York City


    It's terrible that so many of these majestic buildings were razed. What a shame

  12. #132

    Default beware of mixing satire and architecture criticism

    Quote Originally Posted by LeCom View Post
    Loos was quite a bigot. In Ornament and Crime, he talked about how the "savages" (indigenous cultures around the world) use heavy decoration patterns, and we don't want to be savages now, do we? He also stated that only criminals would ever get a tattoo, and just like a tat is an undeniable symbol of a dimwit criminal, beautiful ornamentation is a sign of a dimwit architect. Good thing they stripped Metropolitan Life Tower of its beautiful "dimwit architecture" ornamentation, right?
    Needless to say, Loos' racial ideas were not shocking for his time. I recently re-read this essay, and read some recent articles that revisit it. The points to take away are that his tone was actually intended as bitingly satirical and his target was very specifically Viennese Art Nouveau, not architectural ornament in general. He was using darkly humorous rhetoric to make a point about what he saw as the pointlessness of trying to invent a new ornamental language.

  13. #133


    does that link work?

  14. #134


    Moderator edit: deleted 4 additional posts.

    Capitol21: I had sent you another PM explaining what you are doing wrong in this thread (and others). In effect, you are hijacking the thread discussion.

    Stop posting WTC photos here.

    I'll send you a PM describing the format of including a link to the owner of photos that you decide to post in this forum.

  15. #135
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    New York City


    Quote Originally Posted by GordonGecko View Post
    It's terrible that so many of these majestic buildings were razed. What a shame
    I keep asking myself and I think I said it here before. Could we have kept these buildings and built new buildings in other locations?

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