By Carter B. Horsley
This handsome apartment building was erected in 1908 by
William J. Taylor who also built 925 Park Avenue and the two buildings, which
have multi-level units, "are the oldest luxury apartment buildings to
survive on Park," Christopher Gray wrote in the July 12, 1998
"Streetscapes" article in The New York Times when the building
installed new windows.
Mr. Taylor, who also built 563, 823 and 829
Park Avenue, along with 140 West 57th Street and 130 East 67th
Street, told The Real Estate Record & Guide, according
to Mr. Gray, that ''we do not promote schemes'' but rather only
help out ''when a few friends get together,'' like helping in
the organizing of a private club.
The building was designed by Pollard & Steinham and Mr.
Gray characterized it as "chaste and classical, with columns flanking the
doorway and buff brick walls frame by a limestone base and top."
"By the early teen years of this century," Christopher
Gray wrote, "professional developers spotted the moneymaking possibilities
in building for profit instead of out of friendship and the club-type apartment
houses were soon superseded by more conventional projects. These later
buildings were often more efficiently planned and, after the long siege of
Depression struggles, it was usually the older co-ops that went into
foreclosure, as did 863 Park
Avenue in 1940. Most of the duplexes were divided
at that time, but the building was reconverted to a co-op in the 1950's."
Many of the original units were multi-level and the building
is unusual in that its Park Avenue facade has
many bricked-up windows.
The building has a moat on the 77th Street where the elevation falls
considerably from west to east. It has a nice rusticated base and cornice and
an impressive five-step-up entrance to leads to a lobby with a two-step-up
It is directly across 77th Street from Lenox
that in the early part of the 21st Century changed the facade of its north
building on Park Avenue from pink to
Mr. Gray noted that the new windows were "handsome,
with muntins patterned after the originals and buff color," but added that
"they also have the new, manufactured character that is out of synch with
the observable age of the building, and the glass has that ghostly reflectivity
that comes with modern double-glazing."
Mr. Gray responded to a query from Sylvia Steinbrock about
the building's many bricked-out windows on the Park Avenue
side because she could not "believe that these were actually windows that
were later obliterated, nor can I believe the architect originally designed the
building this way."
Mr. Gray wrote that "In designing 863 Park Avenue in 1907, the architects
Pollard & Steinam chose to establish a regular, evenly spaced grid of
windows - or blind windows - over the entire facade. The building was split
between large duplex units on the Park Avenue
side and smaller simplex units on 77th
Street. The simplex units - with smaller rooms -
required a fairly close spacing of windows, and this pattern was extended to
the duplex section. Where there is a single blind opening on Park
Avenue, it is a bedroom floor, and where there is a pair of blind
openings, they cover the fireplace on an entertaining floor. The top floor,
with four blind openings, marks a specially designed apartment. A regular
pattern of fenestration was a fairly strong convention at this time. Although
some buildings like 131 Riverside
Drive (Neville & Bagge, 1910) defied it, most
others observed it, like 535 Park
Avenue (Herbert Lucas, 1911). By the 1920's, there
was a freer approach and most architects were unworried by asymmetrical
fenestration, as at 770 Park
Avenue (Rosario Candela, 1930)."