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336 Central Park West

Southwest corner at 94th Street

336 Central Park West

336 Central Park West

By Carter B. Horsley

This  maroon-bricked building at 336 Central Park West at 94th Street displays one of the most graceful and unusual cornices of the city.

The 15-story building was erected in 1929 and converted to a cooperative in 1971. It has 103 apartments.

It was designed by Schwartz & Gross, one of the city's most active architectural firms specializing in apartment buildings before World War II. The firm also designed the Brentmore at 88 Central Park West and most of its designs were more conventional, though still attractive. They were particularly active on Park Avenue with buildings at: 470, 525, 885, 888, 910, 911, 930, 941, 970, 983, 1045, 1070, 1095, 1125 and 1165 Park Avenue.

View from the southeast
View from the southeast

This is one of several very interesting buildings in a pleasant stretch of Central Park West in the 90s. It has protruding air-conditioners and inconsistent fenestration, as well as two small curved balconies above its canopied and landscaped entrance.

It is two blocks south of a subway station and the cross-town bus service at 96th Street.

View from the southeast

View from the southeast

Like a blooming rare orchid, the top of this pre-war building across from Central Park just flares and flares.

Cornices are protruding rooftop elements that cap a building's fašade composition. They are horizontal exclamation marks that 'separate a building from the sky', from a pedestrian point of view. They are the pronounced precipices that form very important accents, especially since in an urban setting, where most buildings are built to uniform street walls, are often seen from severe angles rather than directly.

Entrance

Entrance

Although many fine cornices in the city are well-detailed, often mirroring Italian Renaissance, they generally are straight-edged. Some have curved fašades beneath them and some have scalloped forms. Here, the architects have created a gently undulating roofline of great grace.

Norval White, Elliot Willensky and Fran Leadon wrote of this building in their fine book, The A.I.A. Guide to New York City: "This 16-story apartment house is crowned with terra-cotta reminiscences of Egyptian-styled cavetto cornice (Art Deco Egyptian, not the Egyptian Revival of the 1840s). The tapestry brick enriches the viewer’s experience closer to eye level.” 

Peter Salwen’s excellent book, Upper West Side Story: A History and Guide, perhaps offers a better description:

“[It] was Central Park West’s earliest Art Deco building, with variegated ‘tapestry’ brickwork and vaguely Egyptian motifs (possibly stylized papyrus plants) in the flared terra-cotta trim and crowning water tower.”

Wavy top

Top of the building is extremely interesting and wavy

The combination of the fašade's rich dark color, and the rather delicate detailing of the cornice, is surprising and spectacular. The most famous Egyptian-style building in the city was the Tombs, a jail and court building, now demolished, in Lower Manhattan. Of existing buildings, the Pythian condominium building on 70th Street east of Broadway is full of Egyptian-style elements in a quite bold, even gaudy, manner. Here, however, the motif is quite muted and one wonders what would be the visual effect if the cornice "papyrus" was covered in green-glazed terracotta.

The building has a full-time doorman, a live-in superintendent, a laundry, a children’s playroom, storage and two separate wings with 24-hour manned elevators.

Apartment 17D is a one-bedroom unit with a 22-foot-wide living room that opens onto an 11-foot-long dining room and an enclosed and windowed kitchen. The apartment has three large terraces, one is 38 feet long, one is 31 feet long and the third is 28 feet long.

Apartment 9F is a two-bedroom unit with a 12-foot-wide entry foyer next to a 17-foot-wide chef’s kitchen, a 17-foot-long staff room, a 14-foot-long den/media room and a 27-foot-long living/dining room.

Apartment 4F is a two-bedroom unit with a 14-foot-wide entry foyer that leads to a 23-foot-wide living room, a 19-foot-wide dining room, an 18-foot-wide kitchen and a 13-foot-long staff room.

Entrance

Entrance

This building, which has protruding air-conditioners and inconsistent fenestration, has two small curved balconies above its canopied and landscaped entrance. "The tapestry brick enriches the viewer's experience close to eye level," authors Willensky and White noted. The two-story white stone entrance surround is a bit puzzling since it does not pick up the wavy papyrus motif of the rest of the building.

The building was erected by Edgar Levy in 1929.


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