UES068-01.jpg (73682 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Upper East Side

Vincent and Helen Astor House, now the Junior League of the City of New York  Landmark


Mott B. Schmidt


130 East  80th Street, Bet. Park And Lexington Aves.












Streetscapes/ East 80th Street From Madison to Park Avenues; A Block With Rare Windows and Unusual Statues 
Published: March 7, 2004, Sunday 

THE block of East 80th Street from Madison to Park Avenues is one of the most charming on the Upper East Side, a mix of row houses and individually built town houses, with a dramatically modern church. Although the block is not included in any historic district, it is memorable for at least four reasons: two copper oriel, or projecting, windows, and two unusual statues. 
Most early development on the block occurred in one year, 1883. Many of that year's brownstones are extant, but the most intact are those at 51 East 80th Street, designed by the architects Douglas and John Jardine for the developer Edward Kilpatrick, and 52 East 80th, designed by the architects Thom & Wilson for the developer Terence Farley. 

The high ground and the proximity to Central Park made the block desirable, and early row-house tenants were prosperous. They included Henry Richter, a neckwear merchant, who lived at No. 52 until his death in 1902. 

Two other houses were singly built, also in 1883, at Nos. 64 and 66. Only No. 64 survives largely intact, a brick and brownstone Victorian gem with terraces, ironwork and knobby column capitals built for the clothing manufacturer Isidor Kaufman and designed by Leopold Eidlitz. 

Born in Prague, Eidlitz was among the most prominent 19th-century architects in New York. He worked on the state capitol in Albany with H. H. Richardson, and designed the old Temple Emanu-El at 43rd and Fifth (no longer standing). The Kaufman house had a near mate at No. 66, also designed by Eidlitz and built for Sigmund Oppenheimer, who was in the meatpacking business. The Oppenheimer house was obliterated in a 1956 alteration. 

At the turn of the 20th century, a wave of remodeling spread over the block, resulting in several essentially new town houses, including Albro & Lindeberg's 1905 design for J. Langdon Erving at No. 62 and the new 1915 facade at No. 65 for the perfume merchant Francis R. Arnold. 

No. 65's facade was designed by Katherine C. Budd, who practiced architecture, wrote about design and at one time headed the Municipal Art Society's Committee on Flowers, Vines and Area Planting. 

Other alterations were more limited but have left distinctive marks. Just after 1900, some row-house owners installed projecting oriel windows, often clad in copper, and often at the level above the parlor floor. Many people remember this block as ''the street of the copper window bays.'' (The term bay is widely used to refer to any projecting part of a house, but when the bay is carried out from the wall above the ground, the technical term is oriel.) 

In 1901, Louis Peiser, a doctor, had the builder John G. Robinson install a projecting copper-clad oriel window in his house at No. 59; it still survives, with delicate leaded glass. The next year, the Richter family had the architect Frederick Zobel install a similar but more elaborate oriel at No. 52, marked by casement windows in the French style and an anthemion cresting. 

Although these are the only ones to survive intact, mid-20th century photographs indicate there were other such additions on the block, including a 1901 alteration to No. 54, since stripped and stuccoed. 

These additions are rare; to have two survive across the street from each other on the same block makes East 80th Street particularly memorable. 

SEVERAL town houses filled in the block during the 1920's, including the elegant neo-Federal house at No. 53 designed in 1926 by an architect whose name is unknown. This is a classic example of a high-stoop brownstone row house altered into a town house. If built new, the ground floor would have been much higher, but because the alteration retained the old floor beams, the main doorway takes a few steps down to the main floor. 

The block's most unusual house -- indeed, one of the most outstanding on the Upper East Side -- is at No. 49, built for the banker Lionello Perera in 1930 and designed by Harry Allan Jacobs, the architect of many town houses in the period. An article that year in The New York Times quoted Jacobs as saying that the design showed ''a modernistic spirit in decorations as well as in materials, as representative of this materialistic, artificial and practical age.'' 

The Perera house has lovely sandstone -- or perhaps cast stone -- on the ground floor, the color of coffee with cream, with streaks of orange. The stone around the main door is carved into low relief Art Deco designs. 

Typical of Jacobs's sophisticated details is a course of bricks set upright -- called a soldier course -- but with each at an angle, in what is usually described as a sawtooth pattern. The entire run is bedded and capped with thin slabs of terra cotta. The soft, weathered oxidation of the Art Deco metal of the front door, perhaps nickel-plated bronze, is a treat. 

The 1940's and 1950's saw half a dozen of the old brownstones stripped of their ornament or completely destroyed. In 1966, the Manhattan Church of Christ had Eggers & Higgins design their new building on a double lot at No. 48. Faced with ribbed concrete in an off-center arrangement, the facade has a great central matrix of epoxy with embedded chips of stained glass. 

Early renderings and photographs indicate that lighting was an essential part of the design; some show the concrete portion dark, outlining the stained glass lighted from inside, and others show the stained glass dark, the facade raked by concealed lighting. The architecture critic Paul Goldberger, in his 1979 book, ''The City Observed: New York,'' said the design was ''surprisingly successful,'' the ''sort of attempt to rise above the ordinary that is all too rare in New York.'' 

At No. 60, a Terence Farley brownstone that was altered to a simple Georgian style in 1929, the architect Charles M. Thomas is working on a gut renovation, converting the building from apartments back to a single-family residence. He said that the owner is an artist and that he is making a studio on the top floor. 

THREE years ago, Garrow Kedigian, an architect and interior designer, moved into one of the top-floor apartments of the Kaufman house, No. 64, designed by Eidlitz. ''This building is unique,'' Mr. Kedigian said of its Victorian design. ''It's got that H. H. Richardson look, and I was inspired by the whole block, especially the two statues.'' 

He was referring to two unusual figures, one in front of No. 51 and the other in front of No. 52. At No. 51, there is a standing, nearly nude figure of a woman, apparently made of iron; across the street, at No. 52, there is a giant head of a woman in modernistic style. 

The house with the standing figure was owned for many years by Willard B. Golovin, an advertising executive, who died in the fall of 2001. A man answering the telephone at the building said that a relative of his wife had installed the sculpture, but he referred further queries to his wife. A second call was answered by a woman who identified herself as Ripley Hathaway but refused to discuss the statue. 

The house at No. 52, one of the two with a copper oriel window, was owned until 1998 by Jerry Hammer, a theatrical producer, who now lives in Beverly Hills, Calif., but left the statue when he sold the house. Mr. Hammer said that in the 1960's he was riding in a limousine with the developer Zachary Fisher, who motioned to the old Ziegfeld Theater, at 54th Street and the Avenue of the Americas, and said he was going to demolish it for a new office building. 

Mr. Hammer said he pointed to a limestone head on the front of the building and asked Mr. Fisher for it as a joke. ''Then,'' he said, ''about four months later, I hear noises outside, and it's a truck with a crane, and a head, and they ask me where I want it.'' 

Published: 03 - 07 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section 11 , Column 2 , Page 1 

Copyright New York Times.

Mary Harriman, daughter of Union Pacific Railroad titan and financier E. H. Harriman, was a nineteen-year-old Barnard College student in New York City in 1901, but she had much more on her mind than "coming out" teas and dances.

It was a time of great social change in New York as thousands of immigrants arrived each day at Ellis Island, coming to America to find work in the often unsafe and spirit-crushing conditions of Industrial Revolution factories and sweatshops. These new Americans were arriving so quickly and in numbers so great that tenement housing in immigrant neighborhoods was crowded far beyond capacity.

As her friend and classmate Nathalie Henderson recalled in 1950, Mary felt that the 85 young women making their debut that year "had the opportunity and the responsibility of making an important contribution to the New York City community . . . [to] do what we could do to improve conditions, and that we should head the way."

While Mary and Nathalie were studying for their Barnard entrance examinations, they attended a lecture given by Louise Lockwood about the growing Settlement Movement and the work of Jane Addams at Hull House in Chicago. Mary was impressed with the College Settlement in New York City, where college graduates and students lived among the immigrant population to learn their problems and needs, and she determined that the debutantes of their year would produce an "entertainment" to raise funds to benefit the settlement house.

Mary saw an untapped resource among her friends, and she seized the opportunity to revolutionize the experience of young women being introduced to society. With the debutante system already in place, Mary recognized a self-perpetuating supply of volunteers who "with organized and combined effort" could "put to good use the opportunities afforded them by the advantages of time and means."

Mary and Nathalie brought together eight additional young women, and that group of ten established a Statement of Purpose: that each year's group of young women would be organized to contribute to the community. Eighty young women joined the first year, eager to expand their own lives by becoming involved in improving social conditions in their city.

The Statement of Purpose noted that "the settlement movement is one of the broadest and most efficient of the times, to aid in the solution of a great city," and they named their group The Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements. The New York College Settlement on Rivington Street on New York's Lower East Side was designated as the beneficiary for the first year, chosen because it served "irrespective of church or creed" and was "one of the most deserving efforts in the city to further the growth of the Settlement movement."

The simple yet brilliant proposal that they would be "aided by as many" of the previous years' volunteers "as may be sufficiently interested" has led to the exponential growth of the League from ten young society women in 1901 to hundreds of thousands of women in 295 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom who serve their communities for often ten to twenty years. The New York Junior League today is made up of 2,800 trained volunteers, more than three-quarters of whom are employed, who donate over 120,000 hours of service to the community each year.

Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch upon the 50th anniversary of the New York Junior League:

"Yes, I remember that we met at Mary Harriman's home and cooked up together the plan to develop girls' interest and helpfulness in the growing work in the Settlements. This was a period when it was not so easy as it is today for girls to be independent and to be in touch with the reality of poverty or disaster. But to help means, first of all, to understand, and there can be no understanding without participation. The band of young women who were pioneers in the Junior League have been true to their youthful desire to share their lives with others. And today one finds them and their like-minded successors in every field of social welfare and education, independent as voters and with a growing concern, I believe, for international good will."

After the first year's benefit for the College Settlement, League members wanted to become directly involved in the Settlement Movement. Mary Harriman called upon Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, a young woman who, as a student at Boston College and Radcliffe, had become a protegée of Father C. N. Field, the English clergyman of the Tractarian Movement. Father Field had brought to Boston the Tractarians' philosophy of working in the neighborhoods of the poor to improve living conditions and to promote social and spiritual welfare. Mrs. Simkhovitch continued this work in New York City, founding Greenwich House in 1902,and serving as its director until 1948.

In 1903, a shy young friend of Mary Harriman's joined the New York Junior League. Eleanor Roosevelt first entered public life when she became involved in settlement work in New York City with the Junior League.

In her 1947 autobiography, This is My Story, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, "I had grown up considerably during the past year and had come to the conclusion that I would not spend another year just doing the social rounds . . . I began to work in the Junior League. It was in its early stages. Mary Harriman, afterwards Mrs. Charles Cary Rumsey, was the moving spirit. There was no clubhouse; we were just a group of girls anxious to do something helpful in the city in which we lived."

Eleanor Roosevelt and her friend Jean Reid worked with youngsters at the Rivington Street Settlement House on New York's Lower East Side. Jean played the piano, and Eleanor kept the children entertained by teaching calisthenics and dancing.

Twenty-two Junior League volunteers were teaching art, calisthenics, dancing and singing to children in the settlements. Within a few years their efforts expanded to other settlement houses including Greenwich House and Hartley House.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminisced that when he first began to court Eleanor, she surprised him with an invitation to visit the settlement house where she worked as a Junior League volunteer. She showed young Franklin a side of New York he had never seen before, and he credited Eleanor's activism as the inspiration that awakened his social consciousness and led to their lifelong partnership and commitment to social change.