42nd Street & Tudor City Place

27 Sep

In looking back through these I see my whole point here, I guess, is to try and show how every thing’s connected, or at the very least (or is it most?) to point out why one should never be bored, in NYC especially.  I’ve said as much before but a map of New York City is pretty much a map of my own curiosity – each street an almost endless tangent to run down.  Just look at something and wonder, and then find out the answer to one question you might have about it and then see how many questions that answer brings up.  It’s a great way to keep busy.  It’s just unfortunate that one can’t be paid a lot, a lot of money for doing it…..or even just one a lot of money.  Or how about a really nice Italian dinner?  An egg sandwich?  Some skittles?

Tudor City gave me that thrill the other day, and just in time to counter, or maybe enhance, those first stirrings of fall weather nostalgia.  By which I mean that feeling of nostalgia – that hopeful, hopeless, hands in jacket pockets and a runny nose feel – that fall weather brings.  The kind that makes you want to walk around the West Village listening to Nico’s “Chelsea Girls.”  What is it about a nip in the air that makes our emotions feel that much more complex?  We seem so much more complicated when we’re wearing a coat; pop the collar, wrap it hurriedly around you as the wind blows and understand you’re an adult.  Tudor City had that feel for me: that fall like sense of coming home, the day already dipped in shadows.

In writing about Grand Central Station I mentioned how West 42nd Street (far west especially) feels liminal and how the East Side feels like a bastion or rock – a truly settled residential neighborhood.  Although it wasn’t always like this.  When Tudor City went up in the 1920s (1925-1928) it was perhaps not too far off from the glass and steel condos dotting the west side today – a force of change amidst the slaughterhouses and power plants of the east side of Manhattan: a sort of liminal space itself.  Tudor City’s very lay-out gave evidence of its surroundings: intentionally looking inward, upon itself and its suburbanesque lawns, cut-off from the area around it.  It had its own north-south running street: Tudor City Place (apparently pre-dating Tudor City, with the earlier name of Prospect Place, from Prospect Hill that it ran along) and the fact that it was on a bluff above the East River and its industry, only added to the separation.

That separation was the intention of its developer, Fred F. French, who saw Tudor City as a rival to the coming suburbs: a place for city dwellers (not millionaires, he emphasized) who might otherwise desire to get out to greener pastures.  The “tulip gardens, small golf course ((!) – no longer there), and private parks,” were built for them.  You could pretend it was the suburbs (maybe) and then walk a few avenues over and be in Midtown.  And there was room for everyone; Tudor City was the biggest single residential project yet attempted in Manhattan, with roughly 3000 apartments and 600 hotel rooms. 

It wasn’t just Tudor City’s size that made it revolutionary but the way that it was financed as well.  Following the dictates of Fred French’s influential “French Plan,” Tudor City was more of a co-investment between its tenants and its owner (the Fred French company) than the average development, with land being turned over to its investors/tenants at actual cost, not padded with construction or real estate expenses.  As French himself put it, “the entire net profits from the operation of a building should be devoted towards repaying the investors, together with 6% cumulative dividends,” before the company received any profit.  Or as he put it more succinctly  “making small profits on a large business as opposed to large profits on a small business.”  Now I’ll admit, I can’t quite penetrate the finer details on this kind of thing, but I’m trying!  Honestly the older I get it’s this kind of minutiae that excites me the most, because honestly, I’m pretty sure it’s how the world actually works.

And speaking of excitement, how about those tangents that I mentioned earlier.  You know, the way that everything is maybe connected?  Minutia aside my one question or tangent about Tudor City (if I had to pick just one) would have to be the Tudor Dynasty itself from which the complex takes its name (referenced in its Tudor Revival design by H. Douglas Ives).  The Tudors reigned over England from 1485, when Henry VII defeated Richard III at Boswell Field, to 1603, when Elizabeth I died childless and the Stuart dynasty began.  Man, that sentence right there alone excites me: how much you could explore in that!  Think of what fall must have felt like in, say, 1585, in London, with a light rain falling.  I bet they had some real great coats.

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2 Responses to “42nd Street & Tudor City Place”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 44th Street & Fifth Avenue « corner by corner - October 11, 2012

    […] addition to trying to show how everything’s connected (does that sound a tad ambitious, hehe) I’ve also come to see these writings as a kind of […]

  2. Catherine Street & Monroe Street (Knickerbocker Village) | Corner by Corner - April 16, 2015

    […] mentioned before – Frederick French.  So a connection! I love a connection (and in fact last time I talked about Fred French it was kind of all about how I love a connection) so of course I gotta […]

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