By Carter B. Horsley
One of the city's grandest and most prestigious
apartment buildings, this 12-story limestone palazzo has only
one apartment per floor.
Designed by Starrett & Van Vleck for Fred
T. Ley and Company and erected in 1916, this magnificent and finely
detailed building is one of the stateliest, and most expensive,
apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue and was the residence of Governor
Alfred E. Smith, who enjoyed nightly walks in the Central Park
Zoo just across the avenue.
Each apartment has a 44-foot-long gallery,
five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, 7 servants' rooms and
five fireplaces and large entertaining areas.
The facades are broken into five sections by
four prominent stringcourses and the centers of the east and south
facades have large balustraded balconies. The Fifth Avenue corner
has a rounded column quoin and the building has lush sidewalk
landscaping and a very handsome, canopied entrance flanked by
Because of Central Park views, its small number
of units, its palatial apartments, and its location close to midtown
and on a quiet sidestreet, this is one of the supreme residential
addresses in the world. It has a concierge and a doorman but no
The building replaced the Progress Club.
In an article in the April 24, 2008 on-line
edition of The New York Observer Max Abelson wrote that Asher
B. Edelman told him in an interview about a rumor that he had
once been rejected by the building's board that had turned away
people such as Steve Wynn and Ron Perelman.
Mr. Edelman told Mr. Abelson that he "never
actually made an offer," but offered the following commentary:
“At the time, I was between marriages,
it was in the 80s, and I looked at an apartment at 820 Fifth.
I knew more or less all the tenants of the building, and the president
of the building....So I told him to ask among the tenants, because
I didn’t want to ask, whether they thought I would get into
the building. And Mrs. Wrightsman, who I knew, she said, ‘You
know, I like Asher very, very much, but we just turned down Freddie
Koch - Freddie, you know, very out-there gay, and was very out
- there gay in those days; it should make no difference to them,
but they are who they are - ‘we just turned him down, and
we told him that to be in this building you had to be married
with a family, or at least married, so if we took Asher in between
marriages, it would cause us potentially some problems, so if he is ready to get married, we’re sure he would get
into the building, but if he’s not ready to get married,
then we would have to stay no until he got married.’ It was fine, I understood
completely the risk.”
Mr. Abelson's article added that Mr. Edelman
"never moved in to 820 Fifth, but he did own Vincent Astor’s
old apartment at 120 East End Avenue, long before he got his current
townhouse. Is the former raider sorry that his old 10,000-square-foot
Astor apartment wasn’t on Park or Fifth Avenue? 'My co-op
was 800 times nicer than that,' he said."