New York History, New York History, Architecture, Architecture
February 01, 2011

The Alwyn Court


The Alwyn Court, built in 1908 on 58th street and 7th avenue (one block south of Central Park) has one of the most ornate exteriors in the entire city.  Whether you consider it to be majestic or gaudy, it is one of the most interesting pieces of New York architectural history that the city has to offer.

The exterior was designed in the style of François I, the French king at the turn of the 16th century and whose symbol, the crowned salamander, can be seen above the entrance to the building.  The facade is covered with terra cotta ornaments, including salamanders breathing fire, urns, flowers, crests and much more.

The building is an example of the beginning of the wave of wealthy people migrating from the large Manhattan mansions to apartment buildings.  Marketed as "city homes for those with country houses", the building's apartments were created to be full homes within an apartment setting.

The apartments ranged from 12 to 34 rooms with music conservatories, billiard rooms, wine cellars, parquet floors, marble or carved fireplaces and plaster friezes.

However, in 1936, during the Great Depression, the large apartments were subdivided into 75 three, four and five room apartments.

While the exterior has remained largely unchanged, the interior has changed over time.  To put it lightly, I was a little surprised with the interior of this building, although perhaps it is because the exterior set such a high tone.  I half expected to see floating stone angels, flying salamanders and huge sculptures lining the halls.

Instead, what we get is the illusion of all of this, with plain walls painted by illusionist Richard Haas to mimic the look of carved stonework.

A truly amazing building. 

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