Seeing Double on Broadway - 221 W 82nd & 222 W 83rd St

If you happened to be walking on Broadway between 82nd and 83rd Street and glance up at the two buildings on the east side of the street, you can rest assured that you are not seeing double. These buildings, 221 West 82nd Street and 222 West 83rd Street, are twin buildings.

222 West 83rd Street and 221 West 82nd Street - Looking East on Broadway

222 West 83rd Street and 221 West 82nd Street - Looking East on Broadway

As the 1920’s brought a building boom to the Upper West Side, the developer Sam Minskoff, a former plumber, was on his way to becoming a prolific NYC developer. Architect, Emery Roth, whose very first building design, the Saxony, built in 1900 and located just down the street at 250 West 82nd, was also earning accolades for his work. Minskoff, having already worked with Roth, once again commissioned him to work on what would become the first of a two building project.

Similarities of the Front Entrances - 221 W. 82nd is a Condop and 222 W 83rd is a Rental Building

Similarities of the Front Entrances - 221 W. 82nd is a Condop and 222 W 83rd is a Rental Building

The first of the two, located on 82nd Street, was named the Myron Arms, and the second, built a year later on 83rd, was called Jerome Palace. Both were named after his sons. Myron, Jerome and a third son, Henry, would eventually take over the family business of Sam Minskoff and Sons and in the 1970’s would oversee the construction of what Broadway theater lovers would come to know as the Minskoff Theater.

Can you spot the differences?

Can you spot the differences?

Key features of the Italian Renaissance inspired designs of the two buildings include the use of granite, limestone, brick and terracotta. Each of the buildings are topped with a setback penthouse floor. There are some slight variations between the two, so the next time you are passing by, look up and see if you can detect the differences.

To learn more about how Sam Minskoff and Emery Roth began their working relationship read this: http://www.chestercourt.com/about-us

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Pamela Ajhar

The Randel Bolt in Central Park

Last week I went on a Central Park scavenger hunt in search of a Randel bolt. What is a Randel bolt, you ask? Well, first, we must go back in time to 1807, when the Common Council of the City of New York asked the State to appoint three Commissioners to assist in the planning of the city’s development; this would become the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. John Randel Jr, a young man from Albany was hired to survey and map the island of Manhattan. He was responsible for the creation of the grid that would become the blueprint for the streets and avenues of the city as we know them today.

The Bridges Map (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

The Bridges Map (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

For the next ten years, Randel and his team took on the painstaking task of marking every one of the more than 1,500 planned intersections that would run from North (now Houston) Street to 155th Street. They were said to have been pelted with artichokes and cabbages; arrested by the sheriff for trespassing; sued for damages after pruning trees; and attacked by dogs sicced on them by property owners irate at the prospect of streets being plowed through their properties (NY Times). They placed wooden stakes at each of the intersections of the surveyed north-south avenues and east-west streets. Afterwards the men replaced the stakes with approximately 1,550 three-foot high marble monument stones. Where they encountered bedrock or a boulder, an iron bolt was installed instead (98 in all).

Surveyors Monument - ca. 1807 Collection of The New-York Historical Society, 1908.33

Surveyors Monument - ca. 1807
Collection of The New-York Historical Society, 1908.33

As the plan progressed, New Yorkers became more vocal about the need for a public park. On July 21, 1853, the New York State Legislature enacted into law the setting aside of more than 750 acres (which would later expand to 843 acres) of land central to Manhattan Island to create Central Park. The planned park would eliminate 153 of the rectangular city blocks from the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan.

A detail from the Randel Map

Now back to my scavenger hunt. So what became of all of those monuments and bolts put down by Randel and his crew some 200 years ago?. Most became rubble or were dug up and discarded. The New-York Historical Society possesses two of the marble monuments in its collection. Up until 2004, there were no known markers in any of their original locations. That was until a geographer by the name of Reuben Rose-Redwood and a surveyor, Lemuel Morrison, made the amazing discovery of an iron bolt embedded in a low rise of gray schist located in the park’s southern section. The information for the exact location of this bolt is vague, but I followed a few hints I found on-line and was able to locate the bolt myself. 

Randel bolt in the right foreground

Randel bolt in the right foreground

In 2014, a few more discoveries were made, bringing the total of original grid markers to 6, which now includes 4 Randel marble monuments and 2 iron bolts. For the fully story of how these discoveries were made and for some really great information about the grid, read the January 2016 article by Marguerite Holloway published in the New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/unearthing-the-city-grid-that-would-have-been-in-central-park

The t mark on the top aligns with the planned grid. The bolt is located where sixth avenue and 65th Street would have intersected.

The t mark on the top aligns with the planned grid. The bolt is located where sixth avenue and 65th Street would have intersected.

For a very thorough explanation of the history of the grid, some really cool graphics, maps and interactive tools, visit the Museum of the City of New York’s website “The Greatest Grid” http://thegreatestgrid.mcny.org/greatest-grid/interactive-1811-plan

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Pamela Ajhar