January 15, 2018

TUDOR CITY and the LINCOLN BUILDING

Above, a 1930 ad pitched to workers in the newly opened Lincoln Building, extolling the merits of Tudor City. This is the second in a series ‒ we reported earlier on a similar plea to Chrysler Building desk jockeys. 

The Lincoln Building story, in bullet points: 

✪  Set at 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, the 53-story structure is designed in the same neo-Gothic style as Tudor City. Costs $30 million to construct, accommodates 12,000 workers. Opens March 1, 1930. 

✪  Named not after Abraham Lincoln, but more pragmatically after two key tenants, the Lincoln National Bank and the Lincoln Storage Company (both, however, named after Honest Abe).

✪  In 2010, it undergoes a renovation and name change to One Grand Central Place, a nonexistent address if there ever was one. Currently, One Vanderbilt ‒ the monolith soon to be the second tallest building in town ‒ is rising directly across the street from One Grand Central Place.

42nd Street entrance, 1941. Photographed by the Wurts Bros.

Showing Tudor City's proximity to the Lincoln Building.

January 13, 2018

PICTURE OF THE DAY

A vintage automobile in place for a Doctor Who episode filmed in Tudor City, 2012.

More details about the episode here.

January 11, 2018

"Who on Earth is Fred F. French?"

Following up on our last post about the French Company's Fifth Avenue headquarters, we fast-forward to 1997, when the building turns up in a celebrated novel, Underworld, by a celebrated author, Don DeLillo (White Noise, Libra). The book is of especial interest to this blog since it actually asks the question "Who on earth is Fred F. French?"

Set over the second half of the 20th century, Underworld is "an aria and a wolf-whistle" to that era, according to one observer. Its far-flung cast of characters includes historic figures such as Frank Sinatra, Lenny Bruce, Jackie Gleason, J. Edgar Hoover. . . and Fred F. French.

French makes three cameo appearances in the novel. The first occurs when two fictional characters, Rochelle and Klara, are sightseeing in Manhattan with Klara's mother.
. . . they stood outside a skyscraper on Fifth Avenue, it was probably 1934 and the Japanese were entrenched in Manchuria and they looked up the face of the building and walked through the polished lobby and it was the Fred F. French Building, which intrigued the girls because who on earth was Fred F. French, and Klara's mother, who knew things, who worked for a social service agency and studied child psychology, who followed world events and worried about China, who planned these outings systematically, did not have a clue to the identity of Fred F. French, and this intrigued the girls even more, intrigued and amused them, they were thirteen and fourteen and everything amused them.

Fred French becomes a running joke between them. They ride home after sightseeing on the Third Avenue El. . .

. . .looking out the train windows into tenement apartments on both sides, hundreds of film-flickering lives shooting past their eyes forty feet above the street, and Rochelle might see an undershirted man leaning tousled out his window and, Maybe that's Fred F. French, she'd say, he's had a streak of bad luck, ha ha. . .

Several years later, boy-crazy Rochelle is petting with Bob in the backseat of a car, with Klara similarly engaged in the front seat.

. . . And at the all-crucial moment Rochelle Abramowicz looked over the boy's shoulder into the eyes of Klara Sachs and said to her, thoughtfully, What do you think the F stands for?
   And Klara said, What F?
   And Rochelle said, The F in Fred F. French.
   This was a good thing to say, maybe it was the best thing anyone had ever said, then or now, under the circumstances, and it made them friends again.

Underworld is not only a bestseller, but also a National Book Award nominee and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

January 9, 2018

The FRENCH BUILDING, or Mesopotamia in Manhattan


We venture a little far afield from Tudor City today for a look at the Fred F. French Building at 45th & Fifth. Built by our founder, Fred French, it rises in 1926-27, concurrent with the first two units of Tudor City, No. 45 and The Manor. The French Company was having a busy year. A bullet-point bio of the building, below.

38 stories, 429 feet high.

➤ Plans filed in 1925, work commences May, 1926, opens Oct. 24, 1927. Building is part of a '20s skyscraper construction boom in Midtown East, spurred by the opening of Grand Central Terminal in 1913.

➤ Designed by H. Douglas Ives (architect of Tudor City) and John Sloan, who are inspired by the art and architecture of the ancient Middle East, particularly Mesopotamia. Their fanciful design overlays ancient ornamentation on a moderne slab. It's the only Babylonian art deco skyscraper in town.

➤ Corporate headquarters of the French Company, which occupies the entire 12th and 14th floors. Fred French is so pleased by the result that he has it illuminated after dark with floodlights hidden in the setbacks.



It's best known for the spectacular glazed ceramic frieze at the top of the building, depicting a rising sun (symbolizing Renewal) flanked by winged griffons (Watchfulness) and a pair of beehives (Industry). French was very much involved with the choice of symbols in this mural. Too bad it's so high up it can be seen from the street only through binoculars.

The building's setbacks are modeled after Assyrian ziggurats, and trimmed with limestone, enameled brick and vivid polychrome terra cotta. 
However, the lobby of the French Building is equally extravagant, and open to the public. Above, a crystal-and-bronze chandelier, and below, a honey of a mailbox.

1930s advertising

The manned elevator bank in 1937. Photo by the Wurts Bros.

The building is designated a New York City landmark in 1986 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Today, the ground-floor marquee tenant is clothier Tommy Bahama, whose flagship shop includes a bar and restaurant. Ah, modern retailing!

January 5, 2018

Tudor City on Film: THE TICK

We can't get enough of The Tick, the Amazon Prime superhero series that shot a scene on Tudor City Place last April. Today, screen grabs from the finished product, but fasten your seat belts ‒ the sequence features some mighty spectacular special effects.

To recap, the Tick is a tongue-in-cheek superhero prone to bad puns. His powers are rather vague: he's very strong and his costume is bullet-proof, but he can't fly and is a bit on the dim side. His sidekick, Arthur, dresses like a moth.

The Tudor City sequence turns up in Episode Six, wherein the Tick and Arthur have collared Ramses, one of many villains in the show.



Ramses, the Tick and Arthur on Tudor City Place.
Ramses cleverly manages to escape by crawling away, unnoticed by the oblivious Tick.
At The Manor, Ramses and his henchman take aim at a bus coming down the street. . .
. . . a hopelessly lost Q90 bus, apparently taking the scenic route to Queens.
The villains hit their target, and the bus explodes into flames. . .
. . . and careens across the Tudor City Bridge, crashing through the fence. . .
. . . and dangling precariously over 42nd Street, about to tip over.

The Tick to the rescue! He steadies the bus so that all its passengers escape safely. 
But soon the Tick's tuckered out, and the bus topples over onto 42nd Street.
The crowd is awed by the tragic scene.
Even the Tick is speechless, for once. 


See our earlier post about the location shoot here.

January 3, 2018

INSIDE the HOTEL TUDOR, 1940


Today, a peek inside the Hotel Tudor via a 1940 brochure, at left. Its introductory copy reads:

The Hotel Tudor overlooks the East River. All of the 600 cheerful outside rooms have either a shower or tub bath or a combination of both. They are charmingly decorated with colonial maple furniture and are fully equipped with Venetian blinds, casement windows and innerspring mattresses.

Guests of the Hotel Tudor may choose between the newly air-conditioned Cocktail Lounge and air-conditioned Bar where tasty snacks, sandwiches and full course meals are served throughout the day. There is also a fine Private Dining Room accommodating up to 50 persons. Room Service is available from 7 AM to 2 AM.