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Thread: Lefcourt Colonial Building - 295 Madison Avenue - by Charles F. Moyer

  1. #1

    Default Lefcourt Colonial Building - 295 Madison Avenue - by Charles F. Moyer

    The Lefcourt Colonial Building - the view from Top of the Rock - observation deck atop GE building in Rockefeller Center.


  2. #2
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Gotta LOVE that blue terra cotta detailing ...

    More on the Lefcourt Colonial ( http://www.mcny.org/collections/abbott/a172.htm ) :



    PARK AVENUE AND 39TH STREET
    OCTOBER 8, 1936.

    ABBOTT FILE 172

    For six months in 1936, the "House of the Modern Age"--a prefabricated, modernist, all-steel, one-family home--stood on a Park Avenue "million-dollar" lot. "Fireproof, cyclone-proof, termite- and lightning-proof," † the house was designed by Chrysler Building architect William Van Alen and assembled by National Houses, Inc., at a cost of $10,000. It was one of many experimental houses built during the depression. On the same midtown site in 1934, the New York Committee of Better Houses in America and the Columbia Broadcasting System had commissioned a Georgian-revival house. By the time it was demolished a year later, 166,000 visitors had paid ten cents to see it. The Van Alen house fared even better: it attracted 110,000 visitors in only three months, from July 9 to October 9, 1936. On October 8, literally on the eve of its destruction, Abbott photographed the "House of the Modern Age." Her interest was inspired by Elizabeth McCausland, who in August had written a review about it.

    The photograph shows more than Van Alen's steel house. As in other photographs of Murray Hill, Abbott described the overshadowing of an elite residential neighborhood by office buildings. South of the "House of the Modern Age" was the Princeton Club (left), formerly the home of Frederic Jennings, an opponent of Murray Hill's commercial development. Across the street (center) was the eight-story Murray Hill Hotel, and surrounding these older structures was a cluster of new towers (from left to right): 10 East 40th Street (1928), 22 East 40th Street (1931), the Murray Hill Building (1925); the Lefcourt Colonial Building (1929), and the Lincoln Building (1930). Today, the "million-dollar lot" is filled with an office tower.

    † Elizabeth McCausland, "Experimental Steel House On a Million Dollar Lot," Springfield Sunday Union and Republican, August 16, 1936, p. 8.


    COPYRIGHT © MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

  3. #3

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    I don’t know what to think about this building, the fins at the top suggests it wants to be ethereal, but the fins are obelisks, so the effort is tied to ancient and authoritarian roots.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Neo-gothic?

    Apparently this building was originally inhabited by the American Trust Company, completed in 1930.

    And it seems that the tile / terra cotta work in the Lefcourt Colonial is from the Guastavino studios ...

    From the website for "The Guastavino Company's Architecture in New York City: Landmarks and Rehabilitation":

    http://www.arqyestudio.com/marloren/...Recordset1=250

    22 | Rafael Guastavino's Architecture in New York
    American Trust Company
    Nuevo Nombre / New Name: Lefcourt Colonial Building
    Dirección / Address: 295 Madison Ave. & 41st Street
    ¿Demolido? / Demolished: NO
    Arquitectos Originales / Original Architects Charles F. Moyer
    National Register? NO
    NY Landmarks Commission? NO

  5. #5
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Beware of NYC Real Estate -- it could kill you ...

    Some history on Abraham E. Lefcourt, the developer ( http://www.oldandsold.com/articles14/new-york-19.shtml ):


    Less fortunate was Abraham E. Lefcourt. Mr. Lefcourt earned his first dollar as a bootblack, grew up in the garment trades, succeeded there and went on to twenty or so skyscrapers, more or less with other people's money. For twenty years he averaged one skyscraper a year, in the course of which he destroyed more landmarks than any other New Yorker, among them the Spanish Flats in Central Park South, said to have been the city's first apartment houses.

    Touched by the Napoleonic complex, he named eight or nine of his buildings after himself, Lefcourt National, Lefcourt Normandie and so on, until the midtown areas were spotted with Lefcourt this and Lefcourt that. He even had his own bank. In a single year he had $50,000,000 worth of buildings under way. Fortunately he hired good architects; his works remain and are worthy. In one instance, by erecting a Seventh Avenue clothing center, a $7,000,000 grouping between Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh streets, he definitely changed the industrial geography of Manhattan.
    So far this runs like an Horatio Alger tale, but alas, misfortune closed in on him early in the depression, when a stormy meeting of creditors and share-holders alleged fraud and demanded prosecution. This was soon followed by the sale of Lefcourt Realty Corporation to the General Realty and Utilities Corporation, at which time nine skyscrapers changed hands. It was disclosed that these nine buildings had lost $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 within the year.

    One of these buildings, the Lefcourt Normandie, occupied the site of the famous old hotel before which Abraham E. Lefcourt had shined shoes as a poor boy. Buying and improving that site had been his most satisfying triumph. After it went, one can understand how the proprietor had no further interest in life. Within two years he was dead, at the age of fifty-five, leaving an estate of $2,500, as against a will drawn in 1928 which disposed of properties then reckoned as worth $100,000,000.

  6. #6

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    blue terra cotta detailing complementing nicely the airconditioners in top floor windows...

  7. #7
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Abraham E. Lefcourt also built The Brill Building, one of the iconographic buildings of Times Square. It was originally named after Lefcourt's son, Alan B. Lefcourt, who died in a car crash before the later-named Brill was completed.



    A brass bust of Alan B. Lefcourt can be seen on the facade, which also shows a smaller bust of Abraham (top left):




    Some info on Lefcourt's "Brill Building" ( http://www.brillbuilding.com/history.html ) :

    On Friday, October 4, 1929, 25 days prior to Black Tuesday, page one of The New York Times informed readers "Tallest Building to Rise in Times Square Area; Lefcourt Will Erect 1,050-Foot Skyscraper." Lefcourt, Abraham E., better known as A.E., began his career in the needle trade then shifted gears to become the most prolific real estate developer in New York in the 1920's.

    Lefcourt subleased the site from old time garment retailers Brill Brothers (Sam, Max D., Maurice and Sidney) who were subleasing on 21 year renewal terms from the old Knickerbocker family Percy R. Pyne Estate, consolidated to the Ruspyn Corp. Financial setbacks forced Victor Bark, Jr., the project's architect, to scale back plans for a 10 story and penthouse store, bank and office building deposited to the NYC Department of Buildings on March 4, 1930.

    The building was then known as the Alan E. Lefcourt Building, named after A.E.'s son who died in a car crash in late 1929, and was planned as the headquarters for Lefcourt Sr.'s five-branch Lefcourt Normandie National Bank & Trust Co. The building's folklore says the bronze busts adorning the roof's parapet at the Broadway front door are son Alan and father Abraham.

    During construction, the A.E. Lefcourt empire collapsed and soon after the building was opened in 1931, the Brill Brothers foreclosed on Lefcourt, and assumed the building. Lefcourt died under a cloud of suspicion, "suddenly" and a broken man, on November 14, 1932. The Times dubbed him "one of the greatest builders in history since Louis XIV and Sir Christopher Wren."

    By 1932, The Brill Building came into being. Brill Brothers Men Store quickly assumed Jos. Hilton & Sons south store as the anchor outlet for the four mens' stores, with The Turf Restaurant following 10 years later. The brothers hired real estate powerhouse Cushman & Wakefield to fill the building's upper floors with bank-like tenancies. Unfortunately the first class office space market was flooded by the newly opened Rockefeller Center and Empire State Building, so blue chip firms looking for space were few and far between.

    The envisioned ground floor retail bank outlet was leased out to the Trans-Lux Movie Corporation for a twin newsreel theatre. In 1938, the theaters were ripped out and remodeled for Jack Dempsey's 4th restaurant space. The deathblow for the bank building was when the intended second floor-trading floor was leased out to the Paradise Catering Corporation for a 1,000-seat nightclub; eight clubs followed suit ending the hope for bank-like tenants until 1974. Iacta alea est. So long suit and tie, hello Broadway hustler!

    From its opening day, the building operated as an entertainment mercantile building. It's niche in that market later became the music publishing business and its related fields. Some refer to it as Tin Pan Alley, though purists know the famed district was only West 28th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway.

    Interestingly, the first tenants were primarily theatre agents, managers and representatives. The only music-related companies were Earl Carpenter and Taps D. Schornstein Orchestras. Vaudeville agencies joined movie production, detective bureaus, publicity and advertising, a lawyer, a dentist and a podiatrist, as Cushman & Wakefield -- which was not pursuing white-collar businesses -- created a building identity.

    Then, through the Runyonesque impending chaos, pioneer hillbilly music publisher Ralph S. Peer moved his Southern Music Publishing Company in and became the first music pusher of many. From that day in 1932, till the Brill's walked away from the building in 1974, over one thousand small-to mid-sized music publishers walked the halls of this ten story plus penthouse building. To be sure, many of the companies claiming to be publishers stayed in business only long enough to get a telephone number. Others just existed on the stationary that was never paid for. Others used the lobby as their offices.

    The leaders of the music publishing industry located themselves in the confines of prestigious Rockefeller Center. The Brill had many tenants like Barton Music, Inc. that had up to 17 companies identified on the door to their 408 square foot office -- Frank Sinatra was one of the names ablazing.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    More on the travails of Lefcourt / Brill ( http://cinematreasures.org/theater/13922/ ) :


    Trans-Lux Modern Theatre

    1619 Broadway (The Brill Building)
    New York, NY 10019

    Status: Closed/Demolished
    Screens: Twin
    Style: Unknown
    Function: Unknown
    Seats: 371
    Chain: Trans-Lux
    Architect: Thomas W. Lamb
    Firm: Unknown

    This was the second Trans-Lux to open in Manhattan, and probably the city's very first purpose-built "twin cinema". It occupied what had been intended for retail space in the new Lefcourt (soon Brill) Building on the west side of Broadway between 49th and 50th Streets. The Trans-Lux had two small auditoriums (with 210 and 161 seats), each with its own boxoffice and turnstile entrance, and sharing a wide marquee. It first opened on May 16th, 1931, with one auditorium showing mostly newsreels and the other presenting only shorts and cartoons. The programs lasted about 45 minutes, with an admission charge of 25 cents at all times. The patented Trans-Lux Rear Projection System was used.

    In the wake of the Depression, the twin cinema failed to prosper. Its weekly operating "nut" of $6,500 required an attendance of 26,000 just to break even, and that number soared to 43,333 when cut-throat competition among Broadway theatres forced a price cut from 25 cents to 15 cents. The Trans-Lux struggled on until 1937, when boxing champion Jack Dempsey and his millionaire business partner, Jack Amiel, became interested in the site for a branch of the nearby Jack Dempsey's Restaurant (Eighth Avenue and 50th Street, opposite Madison Square Garden). All of the Trans-Lux's facilities were removed from the space, which was converted into Jack Dempsey's Broadway Bar and Cocktail Lounge.

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Love those spikes on The Lefcourt Colonial Building! Neat building.

    Thanks for a reminder!

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Pics of 295 Madison / Lefcourt Colonial Bldg.: SLIDESHOW from the NY TIMES.

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    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    I've got some decent pics of this building. I'll locate them and put some up tomorrow. I'm so very sad at what is being done to the ground floor.

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    I know Moinian is planning on gutting the original art-deco lobby. Maybe he already has. We need some archival photographs of the original. I haven't been able to find any.

    Here are some images from a CR site:



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    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    Thumbs down Yikes.

    Looks like the weight of the building has nothing to rest upon.

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    Now I'm even more horrified, because not only is the base stripped down with the gorgeous cast iron frieze removed, but look at the midsection.
    Compare this photo, where detailing abounds on the midsection, to the rendering which shows the diamond pattern stripped off and everything flattened!!


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    Lets hope that it was just to small to render?!

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