By Carter B. Horsley
In 1950, this imposing, 20-story cooperative
apartment building replaced the Thomas Fortune Ryan mansion of
1895 designed by William Schickel & Company and an adjoining,
colonnaded garden that was the former site of the Charles T. Yerkes
mansion, which had been designed by R. H. Robertson in 1896.
By then, "Millionaires' Row" had
already been substantially decimated by other post-war demolitions
that were inexcusable, though economically understandable, actions
in a city that did not pass a landmarks law until the 1960's.
Imagine, if you will, if most of the great mansions, and the Ryan
fortune was one of the city's greatest, had remained and the new
high-rise residential construction pushed to Madison Avenue or
For residents of the 159 cooperative apartments
here, of course, the question is moot as they are delighted at
their wonderful views from broad balconies at this super location.
Well, perhaps, not all of them as many of the balconies have been
enclosed over the years, compromising the architectural integrity
of the original design by Sylvan Bien as well as raising difficult
questions about how this building complies with the city's zoning
since the enclosed balconies add considerable and very valuable
interior space to the building. (Another building that also had
many of its balconies enclosed is 1056 Fifth Avenue (see The
City Review article).
This beige-brick building is strongly modeled
with a setback central fašade flanked by wings that stretch
to the building line. The solid-wall balconies, which project
from the fašade as well as recess within it, give the building
a robust horizontal emphasis, which is in keeping with its continuity
with the existing streetwall and cornice lines. The watertank
is handsomely enclosed in a simple, perforated enclosure that
is consistent with the rest of the building. The building has
a three-story limestone base with a handsome dark polished stone
entrance surround, discrete air-conditioners and sidewalk landscaping.
For more information on 860 Fifth Avenue check its entry at CityRealty.com