Facing the side of Pennsylvania Plaza‘s bulk on West 31st Street is the low-rise Capuchin Monastery of the Church of St. John the Baptist. This building is part of a larger religious complex and entering here leads to a side entrance of the church sanctuary. The hallway inside this building looks out on the west to a modernist courtyard used by the Capuchin monks. The front of the church on 30th Street looks like this (the top of the steeple can be seen in the background of the picture below).
The monastery dates from 1972-74 and was designed by the architecture firm of Genovese and Maddelene, who also did this Catholic church in a similar brown brick. The Christ figure and stained glass window above the door is by Benoit Gilsoul, who also did the sculpture on this building.
St. Mary Star of the Sea is located close to the entrance to City Island on City Island Avenue, next to the Samuel Pell House, one of the oldest houses on the island. It was built in 1958-59 and is the third church on site; both the previous wooden structures were destroyed by fire, the second in 1956. The parish also includes the St. Mary Star of the Sea School, a more classical-style building from the 1940s on Minnieford Avenue. However the Catholic Archdiocese announced this month that it would be closing the school this year in response to dwindling enrollment.
This site represents one of the many “holdout” stories that dot New York City’s architectural landscape, albeit with a twist. Here, St. Peter’s Church agreed to sell their existing 1903 building for the development of a new Citicorp headquarters, but as they could not find another site they wanted in Midtown, the decision was made to build a new church in the same location with a massive skyscraper cantilevered over it. Hugh Stubbins and Associates, a Cambridge-based firm, (recently featured), designed the complex in association with Emery Roth & Sons. According to Robert A. M. Stern’s New York 1960, which has a section on the Citicorp project, Edward Larrabee Barnes was also affiliated with the project as an adviser to the church.
The interior of the church was designed by Vignelli Associates, including furniture, fabrics, ceremonial objects and even interior colors. The main entrance is on 54th Street with the sanctuary below street level but visible through large vertical windows.
The exterior cross is by Arnaldo Pomodoro, behind which can be seen the organ structure. Besides the cross, there are numerous significant artworks and installations in the church designed by noted artists, including the entire Chapel of the Good Shepherd, designed by Louise Nevelson. The church’s website has a comprehensive section on the artworks and building as a whole.
The tower, which is not the main focus of this article, was the fourth largest building in New York City when built, although Paul Goldberger, in his New York Times review, noted that the aluminum skin made the skyscraper feel light for such a massive building. The complex also includes a low-rise atrium mall and a major public plaza with subway entrance improvements, water features, and numerous stepped terraces.
The Fur Center Synagogue is a simple two-story box on West 29th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. It was constructed in 1964 and as the name denotes, the congregation was made up of Fur District workers. In 1996, due to dwindling numbers, the building was sold to Subud, an international spiritual movement, to become the Subud Chelsea Center. From pictures on the group’s website, the interior decoration is sparse with no touches of its 1960s roots. The outside is also largely unadorned except the blue tile panel above the front door and the matching metal blue doors. There is also an original black granite base at ground level that continues vertically at each corner of the facade, framing the building. Originally there was a menorah on the front of the building which has been replaced by the circular Subud symbol.
This bank branch across from Queensborough Hall at 120-32 Queens Boulevard was built in 1961-63. The banking floor is upstairs on the second floor. Originally built most likely for the Hamburg Savings Bank, it has gone through many iterations and is now a Capital One. The front facade incorporates metal paneling and a vertical band of blue brick on the left side.
New Quincy, a component of the larger Quincy House complex, was designed in 1958-59 by the Boston firm of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott. The firm also designed Leverett Towers nearby. New Quincy is a more modest height (eight stories including a rooftop setback) than its neighbor, although it still looms over many of its older neighbors. It runs along Mt. Auburn and Dewolfe Streets, with the main entrance actually on Mill Street.
The complex includes an elevated house library, a similar solution to what Shepley Bulfinch used at Leverett, although Quincy’s building is faced in a more traditional brick. There is also a two-story dining commons along Mt. Auburn with an interesting roofline, floor to ceiling windows, and an interior mural by Constantino Nivola that it seems is not beloved.
The Leverett Towers complex of 1959-60 is Harvard’s first high rise residential structure and occupies a prominent location just off the intersection of Memorial Drive and Dewolfe Street. The towers are coed dorms and also include some offices and classrooms.
The architects were Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbott (previously Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott), H. H. Richardson’s successor firm and surprising purveyors of mid-century architecture at Harvard and across the New England area. The adjacent low-rise house library received an award in 1964 from the AIA for innovative design. The main entrance to the Leverett Towers yard is at ground level underneath an elevated single floor library.
Across from the library entry door is a wall relief by Mirko also dating from 1960. Mirko Basaldella was a prominent Italian sculptor and a founder of Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, which is located in the famed Le Corbusier-designed Carpenter Center. Unfortunately as seen in the photograph, the relief is not treated with the greatest respect these days.