May 23, 2018


The lobby of Prospect Tower, No. 45, then and now.

On opening day, No. 45's lobby included two archways, one leading to the on-premises restaurant, the other to a cozy, fireplace-equipped waiting room.

91 years later, the archways remain intact, along with the waiting room, its painting, fireplace, chandelier and leaded glass still in place. The former hallway to the restaurant, however, has been re-purposed into a front desk ‒ and package room behind the curtains. 

The chair has been replaced by No. 45's debonair deskman, Franklin Cruz, a definite improvement.

May 21, 2018

Building Spotlight: CHURCH OF THE COVENANT

Today, the finale our series profiling each building in the Tudor City Historic District. We conclude with one of the enclave's oldest structures, The Church of the Covenant, a Presbyterian house of worship opened in 1871.
The church in 1934, wedged between
 The Woodstock and Hotel Tudor.

Its architect, J. Cleaveland Cady, designs a red-brick Victorian Gothic structure, consisting of two buildings ‒ a chapel and a parish house ‒ sharing a common wall.  (Cady is then at the beginning of his career, but goes on to design such famed edifices as the American Museum of Natural History and the original Metropolitan Opera House).

The parish house is enlarged in 1927 in an Elizabethan style with half-timbered walls, meant to harmonize with the rising Tudor City around it.

There's one final, more radical renovation in 1950, when the road outside is lowered 17 feet, part of the regrading of 42nd Street. A staircase and new entrance are added.

Details: a wooden entrance door with decorative hinges, a copper steeple, a pitched dormer.
In 1950, when 42nd Street is lowered, a granite base is added, along with a flight of bluestone steps. The entrance is moved from north side to the west side of the building. Above, the alterations being made, and below, an early drawing of the finished product.

May 19, 2018


A photo made at the corner of 41st St and Tudor City Place in 1947, when the Empire State Building could be clearly seen from this intersection.

May 17, 2018

30th Anniversary of HISTORIC DISTRICT #52

New York Times headline, May 18, 1988

30 years ago today, on May 17, 1988, Tudor City was designated a Historic District by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The commission calls this "city within a city" a "pioneering venture in private urban renewal" that's "much more than an assemblage of significant buildings in a 'medieval' style. Tudor City is a highly successful attempt to modernize that style."

NYC's 52nd historic district includes thirteen buildings constructed by the French Company:

The Cloister, opened fall 1928
Essex Houseopened Oct 6, 1929
Haddon Hallopened Jan 1, 1929
Hardwicke Hall, opened Jan 1, 1929
Hatfield Houseopened Jan 1, 1929
The Hermitageopened fall 1928
Hotel Tudor, opened Oct 1, 1930
The Manoropened Sept 30, 1927
Prospect Toweropened Sept 30, 1927
Tudor Gardens, opened 1956
Tudor Tower, opened summer 1928
Windsor Toweropened Jan 1, 1930
Woodstock Toweropened May 1, 1929

Six additional buildings, predating Tudor City, are also landmarked: the 1871 Church of the Covenant, four rowhouses from 1870, and the 1926 Prospect Hill Apartments. Most significantly, the enclave's two private parks are included in the historic district, preserving them from future development. There's a collective sigh of relief throughout the community.

Read the entire Tudor City Historic District Designation Report here.

May 15, 2018


Manhattanhenge ‒ the solar event and street party ‒ is coming to the Tudor City Bridge soon.

This phenomenon, when the sunset is perfectly aligned with the east-west streets of Manhattan's grid, occurs twice a year (although there are also two days when a half sun alignment can be equally dramatic). The Tudor City Bridge happens to be one of the best vantage points in the city. More background here.

May 11, 2018


Today, a deep dive into 8 Prospect Place, a long-gone yet very significant building in the history of Tudor City.
8 Prospect Place, around 1927.
A four-story rowhouse constructed in the 1870s, it remains a single-family dwelling for the next fifty years, despite the growing industrialization along the East River that sends the neighborhood into decline and residents fleeing. In 1925, the building is purchased by one Joseph P. Zurla for $27,000.

Two years later, Fred French's agents sweep through the area, buying the entire stretch of Prospect Place in preparation for Tudor City ‒ except for No. 8. The agents offer Zurla $50,000 for the property, which he turns down, with subsequent offers up to $120,000 also refused. (Zurla holds out for $150,000, which French refuses to pay). So the larger lot ‒ the current site of No. 2 ‒ remains undeveloped.

Then the Depression hits, and virtually all new construction in Manhattan ceases. The idea of obtaining the property cools. Zurla makes alterations to the house, turning it into seven apartments. Fred French remakes part of the vacant lot into tennis courts, a publicity bonanza, if not a financial one.

Both French and Zurla die in 1936. World War II intervenes, stalling any thought of future development. After the war, the French Company finally purchases the property from Zurla's heirs for a sum "very close to the original purchase price." Prospect Place is renamed Tudor City Place in 1947. The hold-out is demolished around 1954, and the construction of No. 2 begins. It opens in 1956.

Above, 8 Prospect Place in a view looking east, with No. 5 looming behind it. Below, a closer view of the house, circa 1930.

The bright side of the stand-off is that it gives Tudor City tennis courts for 20 years. This eastern view shows the courts, along with No. 5 and hold-out No. 8.