July 5, 2020

Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co.

A look back at the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company, supplier of Tudor City's original bathroom fixtures. Their circa-1927 tubs, sinks and commodes were nothing if not durable ‒ many are still in use in the colony today.

Founded in 1875, the company became a powerhouse following its merger with nine independent manufacturers in 1899. Standard Sanitary soon led the bathroom fixture market worldwide, owing to innovations like built-in tubs, one-piece toilets and combination faucets (mixing hot and cold water through one tap). The company was a natural choice for Fred French, who didn't skimp on Tudor City's details, outfitting the enclave with top-of-the-line products like Frigidaires, Murphy beds and Gorham coffee pots.

The Tudor City installation was impressive enough for Standard Sanitary to feature it in its advertising: 

Zooming in on details pertinent to Tudor City; the building pictured at left is No. 25, the complex's Fourth Unit.

Standard Sanitary remains in business today, with a more modern moniker: American Standard.

July 1, 2020

RESIDENTS: Andre de Dienes

In this episode of accomplished Tudor City residents of yore, meet André de Dienes, noted photographer and former resident of Windsor Tower.
de Dienes out west, circa 1945.

Hungarian-born de Dienes (1913-1985) arrives in New York in 1938, finding work as a freelance fashion photographer for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. He rents an apartment in No. 5, and a photo studio on E. 58th St. 

Disenchanted with the fashion scene, he yearns to photograph the great outdoors ‒ especially nude women against the great outdoors ‒ and in 1945 leaves New York for California to do just that. 

There he meets a 19-year-old model named Norma Jeane Baker. They hit it off, and he hires her to take a month-long car trip and be photographed against the great outdoors. He takes lots of pictures (which would one day make him lots of money), and though the model refuses to pose in the nude, she agrees to sleep with him; the affair ends when the trip does. Not long after that, she lands a bit part in a movie and changes her name to Marilyn Monroe. 

In the years that follow, de Dienes makes his living as a pinup photographer, continuing to occasionally photograph Monroe. Over time, her gradual disintegration alarms him; he knew her when, after all. Later, he would bitterly state that "her success was a sham, her hopes thwarted." Her photos were "smiling, radiant ‒ and utterly misleading." 
Marilyn Monroe at 19, photographed by de Dienes.

More Hungarian photographers drawn to Tudor City: Martin Munkacsi, André Kertész, and the infamous George Senty.

June 28, 2020

THEN AND NOW: Graffiti Edition

Included in New York's Phase 2 recovery is graffiti removal, happy news indeed, and last month’s vandalism to No. 45 and the granite wall beneath it on 42nd Street is gone. A then-and-now comparison, below.
May 7, 2020, southeast corner of No. 45
June 23, 2020

May 7, 2020, 42nd Street wall beneath No.45
June 23, 2020

A shout-out to the boards and shareholders of No. 45 and The Manor for underwriting the cleanup, particularly Michael Gribin and Konrad Wos, who spearheaded the project. Graffiti removal was permitted starting June 22nd, and the blight erased on the 23rd because of their efforts. Well done!

June 24, 2020

Strange But True: UN BAZOOKA'D

Daily News front page, December 12, 1964
World politics landed at Tudor City's doorstep with the opening of the United Nations in 1952, and decades of dignitaries, motorcades and dissenters followed. Today, a look at a notorious protest, one of the "wildest episodes in UN history" according to the New York Times.

The story begins on Friday, December 11, 1964, as Che Guevara, Cuban Minister of Industry, was denouncing US global aggression in an address at the UN General Assembly. It was the height of the Cold War, and Guevara's appearance had drawn angry crowds of Cuban exiles to the front of the building. 
At the same time, across the East River in a vacant lot in Long Island City, a bazooka [encircled above], loaded with a high-explosive shell and aimed at the UN, was fired as Guevara spoke.
The shell missed its target by 200 yards, landing in the East River, sending up a huge geyser of water and rattling the windows of the General Assembly. This didn't rattle Che Guevara, however, who continued his tirade. 

Afterward, when informed of the incident, he remarked it "has given the whole thing more flavor." 
Above, two editions of the Sunday Daily News with different headlines, but the same story: the rocket launcher had been traced to Cuba. This news proved to be false; it was later established that the bazooka was a German-made, World War II‒vintage weapon, purchased for $35 on Eighth Avenue. 

In the end, three anti-Castro Cuban exiles confessed to the failed attack, claiming their motive was a "misguided sense of patriotism" ‒ they never intended to hit the UN, merely to embarrass Guevara. Charges against them were eventually dropped on a technicality.

The bazooka left its mark on the UN: thereafter, the drapes in the General Assembly remained closed during sessions (to protect attendees from potential flying shards of glass). This custom was finally rescinded last year, and the drapes are now open, a nod to "transparency and openness" in the famed chamber.

June 21, 2020


The one constant in New York City real estate is change, a case in point being First Avenue in the 40s, once a gritty slaughterhouse district, now a boulevard of classy glass towers. When seen against Tudor City's Neo-Gothic architecture, these modernist skyscrapers supply some striking ‒ verging on magical ‒ juxtapositions.

The latest neighborhood arrival is 685 First Avenue, on 40th Street just south of Windsor Tower. Say what you will about the building (above and below), there's nothing wrong with its reflective glass wall.

The Cloister water tower and its high-tech neighbors.

        The Manor ignores the skyscraper boom to the north by facing south. 

A view from No. 45's roof.

June 17, 2020


Looking west from 42nd and First, then and now. 

Circa 1935
Looking west down 42nd Street from First Avenue, the view is dominated by the mammoth 42nd street tunnel. Erected in 1880, it would stand until the late 1940s, when it was demolished and replaced by the Tudor City Bridge.

A more streamlined approach to the traversing the street, the Tudor City Bridge is so minimal that it's barely visible, obscured by a stoplight, traffic signs and foliage.

June 14, 2020


At left, the front page of the Daily News on July 27, 1927. The headline references the tentative settlement made between the IRT subway line and its about-to-strike workers, thanks to an intervention by the city's mayor, Jimmy Walker.

Tudor City's ad agency saw an opportunity and sprang into action. The following day, July 28, 1927, the advertisement below ran in the Times. While there was nothing new about the sales pitch ‒ the joy of walking to work versus the agony of mass transit ‒ the message got an up-to-date spin with the transit strike settlement.
Tudor City had yet to open ‒ that would be two months later ‒ but its advantages were already quite clear. The colony was "near everything" with "famously efficient service" and "Park Avenue standards at better rentals." How could it miss?