Turin Drama Not Found on the Big Screen

  Last modified on September 29th, 2018

Central Park West possesses some of the most diverse architecture on a single avenue in all of NYC. And it can also pride itself as having been the setting for such films as 1968’s psychological horror, Rosemary’s Baby (the Dakota) and 1984’s comedy classic Ghostbusters (55 CPW). But was the avenue ever home to devil worshipping cults, mysterious deaths or ghost “busters” in real life? Not quite, but it did come somewhat close to achieving such infamy in the Turin, located at 333 CPW on the corner of 93rd street. And interestingly, the drama began almost at the same time as the building’s inception and culminated (for the time being!….) as recently as July 2014.

Built in 1909 and designed by architect Albert Joseph Bodker, The Turin was constructed in an Italian Renaissance palazzo style with three deep courtyards designed to provide its apartments with an abundance of air and light. It is adorned with arched windows on the 1st and ninth floors and features a rusticated limestone base, a second-story beltcourse, and a beige brick body that is abetted with spandrels and medallions with carved faces. The center courtyard also features and glass marquee above its entryway. Unfortunately, the building’s original rooftop cornice has since been removed (probably due to erosion over time). Although “short” for a building on the avenue at only 12 floors, the Turin’s apartments are quite large, and are comprised of mostly 2-to-4 bedrooms, ranging from 1,000 to over 3,000 square feet. Famed architecture critic, Andrew Alpern, described the Turin in his famed 1975 NYC apartment bible, New York’s Fabulous Luxury Apartments, in a positive yet critical review, saying “Strong lines and good proportion distinguish 333 from its newer neighbors…. Six large apartments per floor, all of the long hall variety. The entrance to the suite is a the end of a narrow corridor leading to the living and dining rooms. The only advantage to be gained from this rather dismal arrangement is that the sleeping rooms are well removed from the entertaining spaces. Open cage-work elevator shafts with elaborately grilled cabs have long since been replaced.” Along with several other neighboring buildings on the avenue, including the aforementioned Dakota, the St. Urban, the Prasada, and Harperley Hall, the Turin is one of the oldest buildings facing Central Park, predating most of 5th Avenue by more than a decade. Yet despite the building’s architectural prestige, it is probably far less known for its own storied residential history.

    • As early as 1911, the Turin was “in the news” when tenant Meyer Jonasson, a retired cloak manufacturer, took his own life by shooting himself in the heart as he lay in bed. The irony of this final act was that Mr. Jonasson was severely ill with heart disease.
    • Fast forward to the 1950s and 1960s: according to a February 1995 New Yorker profile of the building by Jane Kramer, both the Turin’s then-residents as well as the building’s dilapidated condition were on everybody’s radar. When tenant Roz Roose moved in with her children, the Turin was, to New Yorkers, a Park-facing residential complex, but to Washingtonians, it was akin to the Kremlin. Ms. Roose, notable for her prior Communist leanings, found herself in excellent company, including London Daily Worker journalists, Bruce and Alexander Cockburn. She, almost singlehandedly, bandied together her likeminded neighbors with lavish entertainment (amid its shabby living conditions). Known as “the building”, it was said of the Turin’s progressive minded residents that you could enjoy the most dazzling social life without ever leaving home.
    • When another famous tenant, famed film critic, Pauline Kael, took up residence in a Park-facing 12th floor apartment in the late 60s, she found herself a lone wolf amid her leftist neighbors, as she did not heed Roz Roose’s Communist sales pitch. (She was said to have found her social gatherings “convivial” (PC for boring), and steered clear of her political-doyenne neighbor.) According to Kramer, Pauline “hated that kind of thing… she was the least pretentious person.”
    • The Turin also boasted two other well-known residents, actors William Hurt and Marlee Matlin (his girlfriend and co-star in Children Of A Lesser God), who shared his Central Park West abode for a number of years in the mid-to-late-‘80s. Interestingly, Hurt’s breakout film, Body Heat, opposite Kathleen Turner considered by many to be a classic remake of another classic, 1944’s Double Indemnity was panned by none other than former Turin resident, Kael (she called it “insinuating, hotted-up dialogue that it would be fun to hoot at if only the hushed, sleepwalking manner of the film didn’t make you cringe or yawn.”) Just as she had gone against the grain of her politically rowdy neighbors, she was just as likely to do with her sharp film critic’s pen.
    • Capping the list, however – if it seemed as if there were a “lull” in interesting characters that call(ed) the Turin home – NYC real estate aficionados would have had to look no further than former NPR correspondent and noted Wiccan priestess, Margo Adler. Although Ms. Adler passed away in July 2014 at age 68 following a long battle with cancer, her life story was both diverse and mystifying. The granddaughter of Austrian psychotherapist and Freud collaborator, Alfred Adler, she was Berkeley and Columbia graduate as well as a Harvard fellow. Upon joining NPR in 1979, Ms. Adler covered topics ranging from war, culture, the 9/11 aftermath, drugs, AIDS, even the Klan to name a few. However, the most fascinating façade of her persona (probably) was her well known leadership role in modern Pagan communities in New York. Before becoming a Wiccan priestess, Margot had grappled with the unexpected death of her “very healthy” husband from cancer. This life event seemed to have put her on a spiritual path for answers, and she immersed herself in hundreds of vampire novels, which she admitted “started out as a meditation on death and mortality.” Though her husband was not so inclined in the same existential extent as she was, her loss spurred her to embrace the occult even further, and she wrote three books covering her muses: Drawing Down the Moon and Heretic’s Heart (covering Paganism) and, most recently, Out For Blood (touching on society’s vampire fascination). At present, there is no word on Ms. Adler’s estate or if her Turin residence is market-bound.

Needless to say, life at 333 CPW today is seemingly more prosaic than its earlier notoriety would lead you to believe. After significant refurbishment and renovation in the 1980s, it evolved from a rundown crowded rental to one of the most prestigious co-ops along the avenue, albeit with a bit more lenient admission requirement than some of its neighbors further south. And though its past residents may not have been “conjuring up the devil”, it probably came as close to a cult status as anything in NYC’s residential archives. Actors, writers, political activists, and mystical/spiritual icons all added color to the rich history of the Turin, elevating its status to something much more than just a turn-of-the-century Italian palazzo fronting Central Park.

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