When I first started my decorative painting business 13 years ago, I compiled a list of the buildings that I loved the most and wanted to work in. In a nutshell, it was the five towered apartment buildings of Central Park West, which I’ve been photographing since I first moved to New York. I love them for their architecture, their elegance, their perch on the edge of Central Park, and for the incredible apartments I knew lay beyond the impenetrable lobbies with their vigilant doormen.
So far I’ve made it into four of these buildings, some repeatedly, but the Century, below, still eludes me, and not just because it’s hard to get a clear shot of it.
The Century is the furthest south on Central Park West, between 62nd and 63rd Streets, and was designed by Irwin S. Chanin, who also designed the gorgeous Chanin Bulding on 42nd and Lexington, not to mention the next building on our list, the Majestic. The Century and the Majestic were actually the first New York residential buildings designed in the style of office buildings. The five towered buildings I love were all built between 1928 and 1932, just in time for the Great Depression.
Heading north up the avenue, the next one is The Majestic at 72nd Street, across the street from the infamous Dakota. Here are a couple of pinhole photos:
The buildings were all given exotic, European-sounding names to attract attention. Little known Majestic factoid: some former heads of the Luciano/Genovese crime family lived here, and Vincent “The Chin” Gigante shot Frank Costello in the lobby but didn’t manage to kill him.
On a happier note, here’s a winter pinhole of the Majestic (that hulking black mass on the left) next to the third towered building, the San Remo.
Below, the gorgeous San Remo on her own as an Instagram photo on a beautiful spring morning. The San Remo sits between 74th and 75th Streets and was designed by the famous Emery Roth. This is one of the most expensive prewar buildings on the West Side.
San Remo, you beauty! Shot from the east side of the lake in Central Park, using the Old Camera app in cyanotype mode.
Moving on to the Beresford at 81st Street, which was also designed by Emery Roth with three copper-topped octagonal towers. The Beresford is one of my all-time favorite buildings in New York. As an exercise in comparison, I shot it first with a Diana camera, then using Instagram, and finally Old Camera. My favorite is the Diana shot, no surprise.
The final apartment building is the El Dorado between 90th and 91st Streets, designed by Margon & Holder with our old friend, the extremely busy Emery Roth. Here’s an Old Camera shot, taken from the bridle path in Central Park, followed by a pinhole photo.
And we’ll end with a sunrise Instagram photo, taken on a recent walk around the Reservoir. All of these buildings line up along the edge of Central Park to create a beautiful skyline of prewar New York.
If you’d like to read more on the topic, here’s an article from the NY Times, and each building has its own Wikipedia entry.