By Carter B. Horsley
Erected in 1912, this apartment building was
converted to a cooperative in 1958. The 13-story building contains
30 apartments and has a finely detailed, light-beige brick facade
with a landscaped sidestreet entrance.
The handsome building presently on the site,
however, pales with what was originally planned. It is now missing
balconies at the 6th and 10th floors and has an inconsistent fenestration.
The Dudley Construction Company hired the architectural
firm of Howells and Stokes in 1910 to design an Italian Renaissance-palazzo-style
apartment building occupying the entire frontage on the west side
of the avenue between 82nd and 83rd Streets.
"A more impressive firm would have been
hard to find. While John Mead Howells was skilled and socially
well connected, his partner. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, was even
more prosperous and well known. Stokes was an advocate of improved
housing for the working classes (in 1900, he had been appointed
by President Theodore Roosevelt to a commission on tenement houses)
and he would later produce the massive six-volume compendium The
Iconography of Manhattan Island," wrote Andrew Alpern in
his fine book, "Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan, An
Illustrated History," (Dover Publications, Inc., 1992), which
devotes an entire chapter to this site.
The proposed building would have 54 apartments
including three duplexes and three triplexes each with their own
street entrances. The building, Alpern continued, was planned
with large arched entrances on the avenue and the two sidestreets
and a deep service drive. Each entrance would provide elevator
service to only two apartments per floor and the roof was designed
to include not only a recreational area and children’s playground
but also laundry and drying facilities. Apartments were to have
fireplaces and wainscotting and no long corridors. In addition,
Alpern wrote, the building planned to provide additional storage
rooms for the residents in the basement both in the building and
under the sidewalk.
The prospectus called for sale prices of $24,000
to $52,000 with average maintenance charges ranging from $245
to $420 per month. It mentioned that the soon-to-be-constructed
Lexington Avenue Subway would add to the convenience of the building’s
location, noted Alpern.
Two years later, however, the plans were scaled
back and redone by J. E. R. Carpenter, one of the most prolific
and influential residential architects of his generation, in collaboration
with D. Everett Waid. Carpenter’s other Park Avenue buildings
include 550, 580, 625, 630, 635, 640, 655, 812, 950, and 1050.
His Fifth Avenue buildings include 810, 825, 907, 920, 950, 988,
1030, 1035, 1060, 1115, 1120, 1143, 1150, 1165 and 1170 as well
as 2 East 66th Street.
Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas
Mellins in their book, "New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism
Between The Two World Wars," (Rizzoli International Publications,
Inc., 1987), suggest that Waid "may have been responsible
for the building’s gentle aesthetics achieved by the use
of warm brick, laid with deep mortar joints."
"As actually built, 960 occupies half
the original lot with a more conventional luxury apartment house
of 12 stories. This structure was designed with two apartments
to a floor, but most of these have since been cut in half,"
Alpern wrote. The redesign by Carpenter and Waid used long halls
in the apartment layouts.
The building, which has a doorman and a landscaped
sidestreeet entrance, but no garage and no health club, is close
to several schools including P. S. 6 on Madison Avenue, one of
the city’s top-rated public schools. The express subway station
is a few blocks away at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, but
a more important attraction for this building is that the major
entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is two blocks to the
west and this neighborhood is one of the most desirable in the