October 20, 2017

2,976 Frigidaires

April, 1929 advertisement
The first electric refrigerator is sold in the United States in 1913. Soon thereafter, inventor Alfred Mellowes modifies the appliance significantly and forms the Guardian Frigerator Company to manufacture it. This company is acquired by the General Motors Corporation in 1918 and renamed Frigidaire. The rest is history. GM's automotive mass-production techniques are applied to its manufacture, and by 1929, one million units have been sold. 

Among these are 2,976 refrigerators purchased by the French Company for Tudor City. The Frigidaire ad above touts this order, calling the complex "the largest apartment development the world has ever known." The initial order, in 1927, was newsworthy enough for an item in the New York Times, below.
As previously noted in this blog, Fred French was keen on outfitting the complex with brand-name products. And Frigidaire was happy for the cross-promotional opportunity, no doubt supplying the appliances at a volume discount.

October 18, 2017

Tudor City Artifact: The BULLHORN that Saved the Parks

Today, an ├╝ber-artifact in the saga of Tudor City, the actual bullhorn used by John McKean to alert residents of the impending demolition of the parks in 1980. (Read the backstory here). More specifically, this bullhorn is an AmpliVox Perma Power PA system, made by a company founded in 1952 that's still in business today.

Local resident and Tudor City Greens VP David Reiff has kindly shared it with this blog ‒ the bullhorn was given to him by McKean's family after McKean's death in 1993.  As Tudor City artifacts go, this one's hard to beat for historic value.

October 16, 2017

ART DECO Tudor City

One doesn't think of art deco when it comes to Tudor City, but there is one moderne structure that breaks from the overall Neo-Gothic look of the enclave ‒ the Hotel Tudor, opened in 1930. Its multiple setbacks and decorative details are in the art deco style, yet its red-brick facade unifies it with the rest of Tudor City.

Above, the Hotel Tudor's 42nd Street facade.
Fancy raised brickwork lends some jazz to the enterprise.
Within, the original cocktail bar (above) and main lounge (below) are decidedly moderne. 
Photographed in 1936 by the Wurts Brothers.

Even the advertising fonts get a deco spin, below.

The hotel changes hands and the public spaces are refurbished many times over the years. The landmarked exterior, however, still exudes subtle deco charm.

October 14, 2017


1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton posing on a Windsor Tower penthouse terrace with the UN in the background, photographed by David Bailey. For more about this storied fashion photo shoot, check out our earlier post here.

October 12, 2017


Proving yet again there is no subject too arcane for this blog, here is the strange-but-true story of Slumnest, a memorably named dwelling that was the brainchild of architect/resident Theodore A. Meyer.

Meyer is one of a wave of upper-class pioneers in the 1920s seeing potential in the industrial wasteland along the East River (Sutton Place and Beekman Place are founded by similar gentrifiers around this time). In a letter to the New York Times regarding a proposed 14th Street power plant, Meyer lays out his vision for the river:
We must not abandon our East River waterfront to the 'greatest power plant in the world,' any more than to the greatest slaughterhouse in the world or the greatest leather tannery in the world, or any other greatest nuisance in the world. . . The East River should be one of the most beautiful waterways in the world. It should be bordered by parks.
Around 1920, Meyer puts his money where his mouth is and purchases a brownstone for his own use near the northwest corner of Prospect Place and E. 41st Street (current site of No. 2). The building is four stories tall, 17 feet wide, and 75 feet long, one of the many rundown tenements and rooming houses clustered together on Prospect Hill. He dubs the house Slumnest, an arch reference to its location, remodels it into two duplex units, and likes the result. He buys three adjoining properties at 348-350-352 E. 41st Street (today the 3 Hs), planning to do the same.

Arrow indicates Slumnest's approximate location. View looks west from Prospect Place down 41st Street, with the 2nd Avenue El at bottom center. Prospect Hill Apartments at far right. Photo circa 1926.
By some quirk of fate, pictures of Slumnest's interior survive, published by Good Furniture Magazine in February, 1922. Good Furniture describes Meyer's refurb as "singular," while dismissing the neighborhood as a group of "shabby buildings owned by landlords who permit their property to fall to ruin." 

Slumnest's interior, with Good Furniture's original captions, below.
The furnishings throughout are spare, no doubt because of the house's 17-foot width.
The living room and sunshiny kitchen comprise the ground floor.
Colonial furniture is having a vogue at the time. Stairwell leads to two upstairs bedrooms.

Slumnest proves to be a short-lived endeavor. All of Meyer's properties are acquired by the French Company during the great Tudor City land grab of 1925 and eventually demolished. Meyer's hopes of developing a residential colony on Prospect Hill are dashed, trumped by Fred French's much bigger vision of the same idea.

October 10, 2017

Tudor City Notecard GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the enclave's 90th birthday, Tudor City aficionado Brian Thompson is graciously offering a set of privately printed notecards gratis to readers of this blog.

The notecards, above, depict Tudor City history through vintage photographs, captioned on the back. Pick up your free set at Gatherings Floral Design, the florist in No. 5. Ask for Barbara. Tell her Tudor City Confidential sent you. Supplies are limited!