945 Fifth Avenue
Southeast corner at 76th Street

Block 1320 Lot 67

Watertank enclosure

Watertank enclosure of 945 Fifth Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

The 19-story rental apartment building at 945 Fifth Avenue on the southeast corner at 76th Street was erected by the Rudin family in 1949 on the former site of Temple Beth-El, an 1891 structure designed by Brunner & Tyron. The temple had merged in 1927 with Temple Emanu-El and two years later the merged congregation moved into a new structure on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 65th Street designed by Kohn, Butler & Stein with Goodhue Associates (see The City Review article).

In their fine book, "New York 1960, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Second World War and the Bicentennial," Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman wrote that "because there was no demand for Temple Beth-El's grandly domed building or its site, the structure stood unused until it was demolished in 1947, when the economy was at last robust enough to support a new building."

View from the northwest

945 Fifth Avenue viewed from the northwest

View from Met roof

View from Metropolitan Museum roof

The new building, which also has an address of 2-4 East 76th Street, was designed by Emery Roth & Sons and was described by the authors as a "straightforward composition rendered in beige brick above a two-story limestone base." "Its principal facade was distinguished primarily by a centrally located vertical row of recessed balconies and culminated in a series of upper-story setbacks, some with chamfered corners. At the top, the elevator machinery and the building's water tower were house in a spectacularly massed octagon."

skyline from Central Park

Skyline from Central Park

The watertank enclosure is the most dramatic on Fifth Avenue as it rises in two setbacks with oculi on the first and it conjures to a certain extent the aesthetics of Mayan temples or battleship leviathans.



The building has a canopied entrance, a doorman, windowed kitchens, windowed baths, and protruding air-conditioning units, but no roofdeck and no sidewalk landscaping. The entrance is contained in a two-story recess.

For more information on this building check its entry at CityRealty.com

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