I was recently on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, making my way from the 86th Street subway stop over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when I passed by this building on East 84th Street. I noticed the architectural details on the exterior of the building, and stopped to take a closer look.
I was struck by how elaborate the details were on these decorative vertical panels that line the outside of the building like columns. When you take a close look, as I did below, it’s amazing to think how much time and effort (and cost) must have been put into these, which serve no functional purpose but certainly give a very sophisticated and classical appearance to this building only steps from Park Avenue. I wanted to learn more … scroll down to find out some history of this building.
I learned that this building is a 10-story apartment building which was designed by Emery Roth and built in 1917. It was converted to a cooperative in 1954, and has 34 apartments. These decorative elements are described as “sandstone pilasters,” and looking for an explanation of what that means, I learned that “… in classical architecture, a pilaster is an architectural element used to give the appearance of a supporting column, with only an ornamental function. It consists of a flat surface raised from the main wall surface, usually treated as though it were a column.”
A little more on Emery Roth: he was born in 1871 in what is now considered Slovakia, came to the United States with his family when he was 13, and got his start in architecture with an apprenticeship as a draftsman in the Chicago offices of Burnham & Root in 1893. He later moved to New York, working with Richard Morris Hunt before starting his own firm. In the early 20th Century, he designed and created a vast collection of apartment buildings and other structures throughout NYC, 47 of which are listed here. It’s pretty amazing when one sees what kind of impact he had on architecture in New York City. Here’s a site that showcases some other buildings with the angle of “Top 10 Residential Buildings designed by Emery Roth.”