August 13, 2018

ANATOMY OF A ONE-ROOM APARTMENT, 1928

Hatfield House one-room apartment


Today, a look at what a Tudor City one-room apartment came equipped with, circa 1928.

Designed as living rooms that can be easily transformed into bedrooms, the apartments are cleverly planned to make maximum use of limited spaces. Beds fold into walls, pantries are hidden behind folding doors, and so on.

The apartments are targeted toward young, upwardly mobile types who are impressed by the name-brand furnishings ‒ Frigidaires, Murphy beds, Fenestra casement windows, Standard bathroom fixtures ‒ and don't mind the small dimensions. They aren't home that much anyway ‒ they're living in Manhattan during the Roaring Twenties, after all.


Above, a 1928 blurb. Below, specific features.
Murphy beds, which fold up into a narrow closet, become a signature feature of Tudor City apartments (and the subject of many jokes). Above, a twin-bedded unit, with one bed down and the other up. 

The service pantry ‒ a 1920s take on a modern wet bar ‒ offers a sink and a small Frigidaire, but no heating elements. The idea is that hot food can be ordered up from the downstairs restaurant via room service. How convenient!

Ventilation is an important feature of the design, hence the Fenestra casement windows which can be angled to catch the breeze, along with front-door ventilators (above right) with movable louvres. Later deemed a fire hazard, these ventilators have been sealed up for decades.

Bathrooms sport white subway-tiled walls, checkerboard floors and radiators. . .

. . . and are also equipped with a Standard commode, pedestal sink, and cast-iron tub glazed with enamel.  

Original details: a glass doorknob and a ceiling light fixture.

August 9, 2018

RESIDENTS: Leon Gordon

Resident of the Day is Leon Gordon, a renowned portrait painter and tenant of No. 5, one of many artists drawn to Tudor City. Here is his life, in bullet points:
Gordon painting film star Dorothy Gish, 1920

❀  Born in Russia, 1889, immigrates to America where he studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. Clearly talented, he quickly finds work doing illustration and portraiture.

❀ Makes his name in 1930 with a commission to paint America's Twelve Greatest Women for Good Housekeeping magazine. He goes on to do portraits of many significant figures of his time ‒ among his sitters are Calvin Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill and Willa Cather.

❀  Takes a studio for his burgeoning business in the Beaux Arts Building overlooking Bryant Park. In 1938, the studio catches fire (destroying a lot of his work) and he relocates to a penthouse studio in Windsor Tower.

❀  Gives an interview to Tudor City View for an article entitled GORDON GETS THE BIG ONES  ‒  WIELDS FAMOUS BRUSHES FOR FAMOUS SITTERS. Some questions and answers: How does he get his famous subjects to relax? "A fairly active line of conversation." What does he think of Tudor City? "I've been surprised by my contentment here. . . The river view and Long Island vista are wonderful, soothing, refreshing from the hub-bub of the city streets. . . The Tudor City management is to be congratulated upon what it has done in the heart of this busy city."

❀ He apparently cuts quite the colorful figure in the community. Below, an item from Charles Driscoll's column, New York Day by Day, October 3, 1938.

Gordon dies of a sudden heart attack in 1943, aged 54. He leaves behind some beautiful work, samples below.
Elegant Party, 1929

Elegant Man in Mirror, 1930

August 7, 2018

ANNIE LEIBOVITZ Shoots the TUDOR CITY SIGN

Annie Leibovitz, big-time celeb photographer, and the larger-than-life Tudor City sign seem made for each other. Today, a look at their inevitable meeting.

It takes place in 2011, when Leibovitz is hired to shoot four pictures for Macallan Whisky, the luxury Scottish distiller. Her pictures are meant to inspire four single-cask whiskys, and are part of Macallan's ongoing Masters of Photography series, pairing notable shutterbugs with limited-run brown liquors.

One of Leibovitz's images ‒ entitled "The Skyline" ‒ is set on No. 45's South Roof, and features Scottish actor Kevin McKidd (of Grey's Anatomy and Trainspotting fame) as its model. Below, the photo, along with its description from the Macallan website.

THE SKYLINE   Tudor City, on the East side of Manhattan, is not only famed as the first residential skyscraper complex in the world but is renowned for some of the finest city skyline views worldwide. As dawn broke over the city, Kevin is seen on the iconic building sign feeling heroic, on top of his game and glorying in a glass of The Macallan as his just reward for his endeavours. At this moment, the master of his craft being photographed by the master of photography, Annie Leibovitz.


The Tudor City sign on a bottle of whisky.


The bottle comes in a lavish presentation box (at left) that includes a signed, gallery-sized print of "The Skyline." Only 285 bottles are made, retailing for $2,750 apiece.

So what does it taste like? Some helpful notes via Macallan: Nose: Intense, dried fruits, ginger, nutmeg and clove. Palate: Ginger and cinnamon spice with rich dried fruits. Finish: Medium to long finish, smooth.

Below, some outtakes from the roof shoot.




See a video of Annie Leibovitz at work here. The Tudor City sequence starts at 3:07.

August 3, 2018

DETAILS: Stained Glass Edition

Introducing a new series, Details, that will zoom in on examples of hidden-in-plain-sight local beauty. We begin with some window panes on No. 25, Tudor City's stained-glass Valhalla. Today the windows of the pre-school, they originally lined the Coffee House.

Much of Tudor City's stained glass depicts symbolic heraldic figures, and this selection includes a knight (symbol of protection), a pair of shields bearing a falcon (power) and Tudor Rose (England), along with a grapevine (fertility).


More Coffee House stained glass here.

August 1, 2018

Tudor City Artifact: FRED FRENCH CORRESPONDENCE

Today's artifacts are from the collection of the late Brian Thompson: a letter written by our founder, Fred F. French, along with an attached photograph. We always imagined French as the stern, industrious type, but these documents reveal his lighter, self-deprecating side.

The letter is written to one R. Douglas Morrison, of Monterey, California on October 10, 1934. Morrison and his wife were distant relations whom French was friendly with.

The letter concerns the recent ceremony held for the opening of French's latest project, Knickerbocker Village, a low-income planned community on the Lower East Side. One of the speakers is Al Smith, former Governor of New York, who compliments French effusively. A photographer catches the moment, and that picture is the subject of the letter.

The letter, enlarged for readability, below.

[Cordelia was French's wife.]

Above, the photo enclosed with the letter, with Al Smith at the microphone gesturing toward Fred French (second from right, with the bald pate and bemused grin).