By Carter B. Horsley
This 13-story cooperative apartment
building has frontages on both West End Avenue and Broadway but
its entrance is mid-block on 105th Street.
It was designed by Schwartz
& Gross, the architectural firm that designed many of the
best buildings on the Upper West Side. The building is most notable
for its very fine carriage entrance.
The 1997 restoration of Straus
Park, at 106th Street and West End Avenue, according to an August
23, 1998 "Streetscapes" column by Christopher Gray in
The New York Times, "came just at the start of the
hoopla surrounding the Broadway musical and Hollywood movie based
on the sinking of the Titanic."
Mr. Gray provides the following
interesting commentary about the site's history:
"The park wasn't part
of the hoopla, but it could have been. Isidor and Ida Straus,
to whom the park was dedicated in 1915, died together on the ship
in 1912. The Strauses had a country home at 105th and West End;
after they died the park was built, and their home was demolished
and replaced by a blockwide apartment house. In the early 1800's,
downtown New Yorkers built country houses on the Upper West Side,
where the river views and breezes made the area a summer resort.
The area had been fairly rural through the 1860's. One of the
last rural houses went up in 1866, on what was later the northeast
corner of 105th Street and West End Avenue - at the time most
of the area's streets were delineated only on maps....The house
was built by Matthew Brennan, a volunteer fireman who became a
city official and allied himself with William M. (Boss) Tweed.
In 1872 The New York Times, which had begun to expose the
Tweed Ring in 1871, said that Brennan, then Sheriff, had collected
$150,000 in fees for escorting 5,627 prisoners to prison, when
in fact there had not been more than 340 prisoners. ''Who Would
Not be a Sheriff?'' The Times headlined indignantly.Brennan
soon became Tweed's jailer, and when a Tweed associate, Henry
Genet, escaped, Brennan was sent to jail himself for a month for
dereliction of duty. He returned to his house on 105th Street,
and continuing difficulties brought on an attack of apoplexy.
Although Brennan was supposed to have become rich, he had mortgaged
his house, and his 1879 obituary in The New York Tribune said
that ''he died a poor man.' The
Brennan house went through several owners until 1884, when Isidor
Straus bought it. Straus had been born in Bavaria in 1845 and
came with his father, Lazarus, a peddler, to the United States
in the 1850's. Around 1870 Isidor took over the china department
of R. H. Macy & Company, becoming a partner in 1888. With
his brother, Nathan, Isidor also created the Abraham & Straus
department store in Brooklyn. When
Isidor and Nathan became sole owners of Macy's in 1896 Nathan
built a comfortable town house at 27 West 72d Street, then the
most fashionable street on the West Side. But Isidor apparently
felt comfortable in his 30-year-old building even though it looked
odd surrounded by a new wave of brownstones and small apartment
houses. Isidor was living in this house when he and Nathan conceived
Macy's move from 14th Street and Sixth Avenue to 34th Street and
Broadway, accomplished in 1902. In 1910 the census taker recorded
Isidor Straus, 65, living in the house with his wife, Ida, 61,
and their coachman, George Harris, 30. Isidor and Ida Straus were
on the Titanic on April 14, 1912, when the ship hit the iceberg
that sank it. Many passengers who survived saw Mrs. Straus, who
was urged to take her place in a lifeboat, decline and rejoin
her husband....on May 8 the 105th Street house was banked all
the way around with floral pieces for Isidor Straus's funeral,
followed by a public memorial service at Carnegie Hall.
Ten days later the Straus family
sold the property to Harry Schiff, a developer. He finished the
Clebourne apartment house, at 924 West End Avenue, on the site
in September 1913. The Straus house had been one of the last of
the country houses to survive. The peculiar trapezoidal shape
and great breadth of 924 West End make it well known in the area.
At the same time, plans for a memorial to Isidor and Ida Straus
were moving ahead."
"On April 15, 1915,"
the article continued, "Straus Park, the triangle bounded
by Broadway, West End and 106th Street, was dedicated with one
of the most evocative pieces of sculpture in the city. Designed
by the architect Evarts Tracy and the sculptor Augustus Lukeman,
the park was centered on ''Memory,'' a reclining female figure
in bronze, eyes downcast into a triangular sheet of water.
The figure rests on a slightly
curved plinth of granite, with another, larger plinth in the rear
forming a bench and inscribed with a biblical phrase from II Samuel:
''In their death they were not divided.'' The Times reported
that the Straus family wept aloud during the tributes. Most memorial
sculptures try to endow their subjects with grandeur; this one
is exquisite in its understatement."