By Carter B. Horsley
This is one of the most impressive smaller
luxury apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue. Erected in 1926, the
15-story, limestone-clad structure was converted to a cooperative
in 1956 and has 25 apartments.
Designed in Italian-Renaissance-palazzo style,
the building has a very elegant, canopied entrance with attractive
The building was originally designed by I.
N. Phelps Stokes as an 8-story building because the city had recently
changed its zoning for the area to limit buildings to a height
of only 75 feet.
This finely detailed building has an unusual
and interesting "bird-cage" rooftop watertank enclosure,
shown above. It also has very nice sidewalk landscaping.
The city’s first Zoning Resolution, enacted
in 1916, permitted buildings to rise 150 feet along Central Park
on the avenue, by in 1920 the Real Estate Board of New York, the
City Club and the Fifth Avenue Association successfully campaigned
to lower that height limit to 75 feet.
"Many property owners viewed this portion
of the zoning law as an unwelcome invitation to real estate speculation
and chaotic physical change," noted Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory
Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins in their important book, "New
York 1930, Architecture and Humanism Between The Two World Wars,"
Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., (1987).
"An amendment to that effect was enacted
in November 1921, only to be immediately challenged by other landholders
and real estate speculators, including Vincent Astor, as well
as by J. E. R. Carpenter, who had begun to serve not only as an
architect but also as a developer of apartment houses. In 1923
the decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of
New York to overturn the seventy-five-foot restriction and return
to the 150-foot limit was upheld by the Court of Appeals, clearing
the way for the nearly complete reconstruction of Fifth Avenue’s
park blocks, a reconstruction that would begin barely ten years
after the completion of the last great mansion, Delano & Aldrich’s
house for Willard Straight of 1914 [on the northeast corner at
94th Street]....Only one apartment house was built under the seventy-five
foot restriction: Henry Otis Chapman’s 952 Fifth Avenue of
1923, which rose only eight stories on a previously vacant site."
The change in zoning back to the 150-foot limit
led the developers of 956 Fifth Avenue to hire Nathan Korn to
redesign the building and add six more stories. Korn was the architect
also of 944 Fifth Avenue (see The City Review
This building’s site was once occupied,
according to Jerry E. Patterson in his book, "Fifth Avenue,
The Best Address," (Rizzoli International Publications, 1998),
by a very large, domed building with a broad front flight of stairs
designed by William Arnold Brunner and Thomas Tryon in 1899 for
Temple Beth-El, which eventually merged with Temple Emanu-el,
which is located on the northeast corner of 65th Street and Fifth
This is one of the most desirable areas of
Fifth Avenue because it is beside one of the loveliest sections
of Central Park and is removed from the heavy cross-town traffic.
It is close to major museums and the art galleries and fashion
boutiques of Madison Avenue.