Streetscapes/ East 80th
Street From Madison to Park Avenues; A Block With Rare Windows and
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Published: March 7, 2004, Sunday
THE block of East 80th Street from Madison to Park Avenues is one of the
most charming on the Upper East Side, a mix of row houses and
individually built town houses, with a dramatically modern church.
Although the block is not included in any historic district, it is
memorable for at least four reasons: two copper oriel, or projecting,
windows, and two unusual statues.
Most early development on the block occurred in one year, 1883. Many of
that year's brownstones are extant, but the most intact are those at 51
East 80th Street, designed by the architects Douglas and John Jardine
for the developer Edward Kilpatrick, and 52 East 80th, designed by the
architects Thom & Wilson for the developer Terence Farley.
The high ground and the proximity to Central Park made the block
desirable, and early row-house tenants were prosperous. They included
Henry Richter, a neckwear merchant, who lived at No. 52 until his death
Two other houses were singly built, also in 1883, at Nos. 64 and 66. Only
No. 64 survives largely intact, a brick and brownstone Victorian gem
with terraces, ironwork and knobby column capitals built for the
clothing manufacturer Isidor Kaufman and designed by Leopold Eidlitz.
Born in Prague, Eidlitz was among the most prominent 19th-century
architects in New York. He worked on the state capitol in Albany with H.
H. Richardson, and designed the old Temple Emanu-El at 43rd and Fifth
(no longer standing). The Kaufman house had a near mate at No. 66, also
designed by Eidlitz and built for Sigmund Oppenheimer, who was in the
meatpacking business. The Oppenheimer house was obliterated in a 1956
At the turn of the 20th century, a wave of remodeling spread over the
block, resulting in several essentially new town houses, including Albro
& Lindeberg's 1905 design for J. Langdon Erving at No. 62 and the new
1915 facade at No. 65 for the perfume merchant Francis R. Arnold.
No. 65's facade was designed by Katherine C. Budd, who practiced
architecture, wrote about design and at one time headed the Municipal
Art Society's Committee on Flowers, Vines and Area Planting.
Other alterations were more limited but have left distinctive marks. Just
after 1900, some row-house owners installed projecting oriel windows,
often clad in copper, and often at the level above the parlor floor.
Many people remember this block as ''the street of the copper window
bays.'' (The term bay is widely used to refer to any projecting part of
a house, but when the bay is carried out from the wall above the ground,
the technical term is oriel.)
In 1901, Louis Peiser, a doctor, had the builder John G. Robinson install
a projecting copper-clad oriel window in his house at No. 59; it still
survives, with delicate leaded glass. The next year, the Richter family
had the architect Frederick Zobel install a similar but more elaborate
oriel at No. 52, marked by casement windows in the French style and an
Although these are the only ones to survive intact, mid-20th century
photographs indicate there were other such additions on the block,
including a 1901 alteration to No. 54, since stripped and stuccoed.
These additions are rare; to have two survive across the street from each
other on the same block makes East 80th Street particularly memorable.
SEVERAL town houses filled in the block during the 1920's, including the
elegant neo-Federal house at No. 53 designed in 1926 by an architect
whose name is unknown. This is a classic example of a high-stoop
brownstone row house altered into a town house. If built new, the ground
floor would have been much higher, but because the alteration retained
the old floor beams, the main doorway takes a few steps down to the main
The block's most unusual house -- indeed, one of the most outstanding on
the Upper East Side -- is at No. 49, built for the banker Lionello
Perera in 1930 and designed by Harry Allan Jacobs, the architect of many
town houses in the period. An article that year in The New York Times
quoted Jacobs as saying that the design showed ''a modernistic spirit in
decorations as well as in materials, as representative of this
materialistic, artificial and practical age.''
The Perera house has lovely sandstone -- or perhaps cast stone -- on the
ground floor, the color of coffee with cream, with streaks of orange.
The stone around the main door is carved into low relief Art Deco
Typical of Jacobs's sophisticated details is a course of bricks set
upright -- called a soldier course -- but with each at an angle, in what
is usually described as a sawtooth pattern. The entire run is bedded and
capped with thin slabs of terra cotta. The soft, weathered oxidation of
the Art Deco metal of the front door, perhaps nickel-plated bronze, is a
The 1940's and 1950's saw half a dozen of the old brownstones stripped of
their ornament or completely destroyed. In 1966, the Manhattan Church of
Christ had Eggers & Higgins design their new building on a double lot at
No. 48. Faced with ribbed concrete in an off-center arrangement, the
facade has a great central matrix of epoxy with embedded chips of
Early renderings and photographs indicate that lighting was an essential
part of the design; some show the concrete portion dark, outlining the
stained glass lighted from inside, and others show the stained glass
dark, the facade raked by concealed lighting. The architecture critic
Paul Goldberger, in his 1979 book, ''The City Observed: New York,'' said
the design was ''surprisingly successful,'' the ''sort of attempt to
rise above the ordinary that is all too rare in New York.''
At No. 60, a Terence Farley brownstone that was altered to a simple
Georgian style in 1929, the architect Charles M. Thomas is working on a
gut renovation, converting the building from apartments back to a
single-family residence. He said that the owner is an artist and that he
is making a studio on the top floor.
THREE years ago, Garrow Kedigian, an architect and interior designer,
moved into one of the top-floor apartments of the Kaufman house, No. 64,
designed by Eidlitz. ''This building is unique,'' Mr. Kedigian said of
its Victorian design. ''It's got that H. H. Richardson look, and I was
inspired by the whole block, especially the two statues.''
He was referring to two unusual figures, one in front of No. 51 and the
other in front of No. 52. At No. 51, there is a standing, nearly nude
figure of a woman, apparently made of iron; across the street, at No.
52, there is a giant head of a woman in modernistic style.
The house with the standing figure was owned for many years by Willard B.
Golovin, an advertising executive, who died in the fall of 2001. A man
answering the telephone at the building said that a relative of his wife
had installed the sculpture, but he referred further queries to his
wife. A second call was answered by a woman who identified herself as
Ripley Hathaway but refused to discuss the statue.
The house at No. 52, one of the two with a copper oriel window, was owned
until 1998 by Jerry Hammer, a theatrical producer, who now lives in
Beverly Hills, Calif., but left the statue when he sold the house. Mr.
Hammer said that in the 1960's he was riding in a limousine with the
developer Zachary Fisher, who motioned to the old Ziegfeld Theater, at
54th Street and the Avenue of the Americas, and said he was going to
demolish it for a new office building.
Mr. Hammer said he pointed to a limestone head on the front of the
building and asked Mr. Fisher for it as a joke. ''Then,'' he said,
''about four months later, I hear noises outside, and it's a truck with
a crane, and a head, and they ask me where I want it.''
Published: 03 - 07 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section 11 , Column 2 ,
Copyright New York Times.
Mary Harriman, daughter of Union Pacific
Railroad titan and financier E. H. Harriman, was a nineteen-year-old
Barnard College student in New York City in 1901, but she had much
more on her mind than "coming out" teas and dances.
It was a time of great social change in New
York as thousands of immigrants arrived each day at
Ellis Island, coming to America to find work in the often unsafe and
spirit-crushing conditions of Industrial Revolution factories and
sweatshops. These new Americans were arriving so quickly and in numbers
so great that tenement housing in immigrant neighborhoods was crowded
far beyond capacity.
As her friend and classmate Nathalie
Henderson recalled in 1950, Mary felt that the 85 young women making
their debut that year "had the opportunity and the responsibility of
making an important contribution to the New York City community . . .
[to] do what we could do to improve conditions, and that we should head
While Mary and Nathalie
were studying for their Barnard entrance examinations, they attended a
lecture given by Louise Lockwood about the growing Settlement Movement
and the work of Jane
at Hull House in Chicago. Mary was
impressed with the College Settlement in New York City, where college
graduates and students lived among the immigrant population to learn
their problems and needs, and she determined that the debutantes of
their year would produce an "entertainment" to raise funds to benefit
the settlement house.
Mary saw an untapped
resource among her friends, and she seized the opportunity to
revolutionize the experience of young women being introduced to society.
With the debutante system already in place, Mary recognized a
self-perpetuating supply of volunteers who "with organized and combined
effort" could "put to good use the opportunities afforded them by the
advantages of time and means."
Mary and Nathalie brought together eight
additional young women, and that group of ten established a Statement of
Purpose: that each year's group of young women would be organized to
contribute to the community. Eighty young women joined the first year,
eager to expand their own lives by becoming involved in improving social
conditions in their city.
The Statement of Purpose noted that "the
settlement movement is one of the broadest and most efficient of the
times, to aid in the solution of a great city," and they named their
group The Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements. The
New York College Settlement on Rivington Street on New York's Lower
East Side was designated as the beneficiary for the first year, chosen
because it served "irrespective of church or creed" and was "one of the
most deserving efforts in the city to further the growth of the
The simple yet brilliant proposal that they
would be "aided by as many" of the previous years' volunteers "as may be
sufficiently interested" has led to the exponential growth of the League
from ten young society women in 1901 to hundreds of thousands of women
in 295 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the
United Kingdom who serve their communities for often ten to twenty
years. The New York Junior League today is made up of 2,800 trained
volunteers, more than three-quarters of whom are employed, who donate
over 120,000 hours of service to the community each year.
Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch upon the 50th
anniversary of the New York Junior League:
"Yes, I remember that we met at Mary
Harriman's home and cooked up together the plan to develop girls'
interest and helpfulness in the growing work in the Settlements. This
was a period when it was not so easy as it is today for girls to be
independent and to be in touch with the reality of poverty or disaster.
But to help means, first of all, to understand, and there can be no
understanding without participation. The band of young women who were
pioneers in the Junior League have been true to their youthful desire to
share their lives with others. And today one finds them and their
like-minded successors in every field of social welfare and education,
independent as voters and with a growing concern, I believe, for
international good will."
After the first year's benefit for the
College Settlement, League members wanted to become directly involved in
the Settlement Movement. Mary Harriman called upon
Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, a young woman who, as a student at
Boston College and Radcliffe, had become a protegée of Father C. N.
Field, the English clergyman of the Tractarian Movement. Father Field
had brought to Boston the Tractarians' philosophy of working in the
neighborhoods of the poor to improve living conditions and to promote
social and spiritual welfare. Mrs. Simkhovitch continued this work in
New York City, founding
Greenwich House in 1902,and serving as its director until 1948.
In 1903, a shy young friend of Mary
Harriman's joined the New York Junior League.
Eleanor Roosevelt first entered public life when she became involved
in settlement work in New York City with the Junior League.
In her 1947 autobiography, This is My
Story, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, "I had grown up considerably during the
past year and had come to the conclusion that I would not spend another
year just doing the social rounds . . . I began to work in the Junior
League. It was in its early stages. Mary Harriman, afterwards Mrs.
Charles Cary Rumsey, was the moving spirit. There was no clubhouse; we
were just a group of girls anxious to do something helpful in the city
in which we lived."
Eleanor Roosevelt and her friend Jean Reid
worked with youngsters at the
Rivington Street Settlement House on New York's Lower East Side.
Jean played the piano, and Eleanor kept the children entertained by
teaching calisthenics and dancing.
Twenty-two Junior League volunteers were
teaching art, calisthenics, dancing and singing to children in the
settlements. Within a few years their efforts expanded to other
settlement houses including
Greenwich House and
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
reminisced that when he first began to court Eleanor, she surprised him
with an invitation to visit the settlement house where she worked as a
Junior League volunteer. She showed young Franklin a side of New York he
had never seen before, and he credited Eleanor's activism as the
inspiration that awakened his social consciousness and led to their
lifelong partnership and commitment to social change.