The unique variety of architecture along Central Park West would captivate nearly anyone. The rich collection of buildings was constructed from the late 19th century to the 1940s. Some of the styles featured include Renaissance Revival, Art-Deco, Beaux Arts, Second Empire Baroque, and Neoclassical. The aesthetically pleasing buildings along Central Park West offer residents and visitors an experience like no other. The neighborhood features some of the most famous and extraordinary residential buildings in New York. And some of the most stunning Upper West Side apartments are located on Central Park West.
A monumental example of Neo-Renaissance influence is the Beresford, at the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street. The massive square structure resembles a 19th century citadel and opens on its west side to a courtyard and fountain at its center.
Constructed by Emery Roth, The Beresford’s most distinctive features are the three towers that jut out from the building’s corners. The towers have large arched windows and pyramid roofs that are lit with bright lanterns at night. The structure’s façades manifest Neo-Renaissance influence in the orderly spacing of the windows, the façades’ overall uniformity, and the terra cotta trim.
High above the street, the Beresford’s walls feature late-Renaissance sculptures, including winged cherubs and rams’ heads. Door frames on the building feature relics of Renaissance style portrayals, such as acanthus leaves that support an angel playing a horn. Homage to Renaissance sensibilities and modern urban lifestyles, the Beresford is among the finest buildings in New York.
Moving to a building that more represents Italian Renaissance tendencies, the Turin, at 333 Central Park West, is an elegant structure, although not as indelible as the Beresford. The multi-paned bay windows and ornate terra cotta bounding the arched windows mimic the Italian style. The first two stories of the building are traditional limestone base, topped by a protruding belt course. Moving higher, the beige brick above the first two stories is decorated with terra cotta as well. The Turin is relatively short compared to its neighbors, at only 12 stories.
The Dakota, one of New York’s most famous residences, includes elements of English Victorian, Gothic, and French Renaissance architecture. Located at 1 West 72nd Street, this Henry Hardenbergh building is reminiscent of a stately English manor, although its large, square build shows it is a genuine product of New York.
The floor plans of the apartments are in the French style of the 1880s, with all the major rooms connected. The layout enables guests to stroll about the apartment more easily and allows staff to move about more discreetly.
The Dakota’s exterior walls are light colored sandstone accented with darker bricks at the corners. Iron railing surrounds the Dakota’s 7th floor and the bottoms of the bay windows in the turrets. The railing features Gothic horned beasts biting into the iron, and helmeted male faces surveying the street.
The building’s steep gables (the triangular portions of the façade between the two sloping portions of roof) derive from German Renaissance architecture and further distinguish the Dakota. The finials (stone or metal structures that sit atop gables for emphasis) also show German Renaissance influence. The finials, railings, and darker bricks lend a polished looked to the already splendid building.
The San Remo
Just two streets north of the Dakota sits one of the most famous residences in New York, the San Remo. A splendid example of Neo-classical construction, the building’s two towers rise into the sky and maintain a glorious impression that separates it from its neighbors. The 27 floor towers are topped with English Baroque mansions.
Baroque architecture, which gained great popularity in the 17th century in Europe, emphasizes audaciousness and splendor with sweeping curves, columns, domes, and statues. The mansions are right at home – their bold columns and statues literally top off the San Remo’s glory.
But just to be sure no one would mistake the San Remo as modest, the mansions are topped with structures that represent the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. The Choragic Monument, built in Athens, Greece in 335-334 B.C., originally commemorated an award winning dramatic performance. In this case, the structures commemorate a quite dramatic architectural feat. Eight foot urns and finials surround the monuments, and copper finials that contain bright beacons cap them.
The north tower of the San Remo features one apartment per floor, typically measuring 2,500 square feet. In the south tower, the apartments are duplexes of about 6,000 square feet. This would make them among the most spacious apartments on Central Park West. The twin tower design proved so pleasing, several other famous buildings mimicked the style, including the Eldorado, the Majestic, and the Century.
It’s easy to understand why so many celebrities have owned apartments at the San Remo.
55 Central Park West
Turning south just a few blocks sits 55 Central Park West, one of the neighborhood’s first Art Deco buildings. Most prominent during the 1930s and 1940s, Art Deco architecture features geometric forms like spheres and rectangles arranged in symmetrical patterns. Art Deco structures emphasize modernity and show construction’s break from the previous decades’ embrace of Renaissance and Baroque style architecture. The bricks at the lower portion of the building’s exterior are shaded purple, but lighten to yellow as the building rises.
The façades feature vertical stone patterns that rise progressively from the first floor to the third as they approach the building’s entrances. Above, the top five floors recede until the central portion on the side facing the park juts skyward. The receded spaces on the top five floors include terraces, and in between each window and on the small tower stand uniquely placed stone finials that lend a sober grandeur to 55 CPW.
The building is not only famous as a glimpse into the neighborhood’s architectural history. It also served as the home of characters in Ghostbusters! In the film, the top of the building featured a Mesopotamian temple designed to conjure an ancient Sumerian demi-god who would initiate the apocalypse.
Although its architects planned for the building to represent modernism, the Ghostbusters crew thought it an appropriate structure to facilitate an ancient evil summoning. Perhaps the crew thought the building looked sinister, or maybe they simply thought its position at the edge of Central Park would allow them to take the best shots. I wonder if they knew that 55 CPW is actually rumored to be haunted? In any case, 55 Central Park West compliments the neighborhood by contrasting some of the older styled buildings. And the Ghostbusters crew was right to believe it would look great on film coupled with Central Park and the local skyline!
Heading further south to 62nd and 63rd Streets, you’ll find The Century, 25 Central Park West. The large curved structures on top of the buildings two towers are some of its most notable aspects. At the center of the towers’ façades, there are four sets of vertical windows spanning the towers’ height. As a nice contrast, the corners of the towers feature long, horizontal windows that wrap around this prewar condo.
This might be the most architecturally exciting and diverse place in the world!