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Coty Building
Coty Building on Fifth Avenue (1).jpg
(2019)
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General information
Location Manhattan
Address 714 Fifth Avenue
Town or city New York City
Named for François Coty
Groundbreaking 1871
Renovated 1907
1990
Technical details
Floor count 6
Design and construction
Architect Woodruff Leeming
Known for René Lalique Windows
Renovating team
Architect Beyer Blinder Belle
New York City Landmark
Designated: January 29, 1985
Reference #: 1534

The Coty Building is a building at 714 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The six-story building contains a French-inspired facade and mansard roof, as well as 276 panes of glass on the third through fifth floors, which comprise the only documented architectural work by René Lalique in the United States. The Coty Building forms the base of the adjoining skyscraper at 712 Fifth Avenue.

Built as a brownstone rowhouse in 1871, it was redesigned in 1907–1908 by architect Woodruff Leeming. It was commissioned by owner and real estate investor Charles A. Gould, who, foreseeing the neighborhood shift from residential to commercial use, wished to replace the facade of the brownstone. Upon its completion in 1910, the building was leased to perfumer François Coty. Coty then commissioned Lalique to design large glass windows on the third through fifth floors. Though Coty moved out during 1941, the building would continue to be referred to as the Coty Building. Since 1985, it has been a New York City designated landmark.

History

Fifth Avenue between 42nd Street and Central Park South (59th Street) was relatively undeveloped through the late 19th century. 714 Fifth Avenue was built in 1871 as a brownstone rowhouse, one of several on the western side of Fifth Avenue between 55th and 56th streets. By the early 1900s, that section of Fifth Avenue was becoming a commercial area. 714 Fifth Avenue was redesigned in 1907-1908 by architect Woodruff Leeming; the project was commissioned by owner and real estate investor Charles A. Gould, who, foreseeing the neighborhood shift from residential to commercial use, wished to replace the facade of the brownstone.

In 1910, the 6-story building with its new French-inspired facade and Mansard roof was leased to perfumer François Coty, who would use the building as his headquarters in the United States. Coty commissioned jeweler and glass maker René Lalique to design a wall of glass windows. Lalique created a Art Nouveau-style composition of panes of glass decorated with flower vines, large enough to go from the third through fifth floors.

The original lease extended till 1931 and was renewed until 1951, but after Coty’s death in 1934, Coty, Inc. remained at 714 Fifth Avenue only until 1941, when it moved operations to its other quarters at 423 West 55th Street. The building's 276 masterwork panes of glass were gradually covered by grime.

Architecture

The six-story Coty Building's facade is a glass wall surrounded by a frame. The first two stories have limestone-faced piers and a cornice supported by corbel brackets; they are treated as a single continuous section of the facade. The third through fifth stories are also treated as a single wall of glass, surrounded by a limestone frame with architrave motif at the top and bellflower pendants motifs on each side. Cast-steel spandrels are located above the third and fourth stories.

There are five vertical window bays, separated by thin vertical steel mullions. The general articulation remains unchanged from its original construction, although the original casement windows were removed and replaced with the Lalique glass windows. Each bay consists of a multi-paned casement separated by a transom. The central bays contain clear glass, though decorative glass is located in the side bays. There is an arched, scallop-shaped pediment with small brackets above the third floor. Each pane is about 0.5 inches (13 mm) thick, surrounded by metal frames; the exterior of each frame is raised. The third- through fifth-story facade contains intertwining vine and flower designs, which according to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission are possibly poppies.

The top floor is set off by a modillioned cornice with console brackets supporting a balustrade. The sloping metal-covered roof with its arched dormers allowed the building to harmonize with its neighbors. From the street, the windows (a modification from the original design) are the building's most striking feature. It is the only documented Lalique architectural work in the United States.

Preservation

In 1983, developer David S. Solomon began planning the construction of a new 44 story office skyscraper with entrances on West 56th Street and on Fifth Avenue. Since neither the Coty Building nor the adjacent Rizzoli Building at 712 Fifth Avenue were designated as official landmarks, his intent was to replace them.

In 1984, architectural historian Andrew Dolkart noticed the grime-covered windows above an electronics store at 714 Fifth Avenue. Upon further research, albeit not signed, it was discovered that these windows were exquisite Art Nouveau work by Lalique and should be preserved on site rather than displaced into a museum. The Municipal Art Society advocated for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to give the building official-landmark status, and both were designated in early 1985. The Landmarks Preservation Commission also approved a Certificate of Appropriateness that allowed the new skyscraper, 712 Fifth Avenue, to be erected behind the existing buildings. The skyscraper thus had to be built with the Coty Building at its base, incorporating the old facades in the design. Steadsol Fifth Associates, which was developing the skyscraper, had its alteration permits for the Coty Building revoked following the landmark designations.

In 1986, the Greenland Studio in Manhattan restored the 276 Lalique panels, measuring 14-by-14-inch (360 mm × 360 mm), which had been removed from the facade. Of these, 46 panels were replaced with replicas made by Jon Smiley Glass Studios in Philadelphia. In 1990, Beyer Blinder Belle restored the facade for the opening of new tenant Henri Bendel's flagship store in New York City. Inside, the former Coty offices were removed and a four-story atrium was added. Further restoration occurred in 2000, after water erosion had caused some of the steel frames to expand, cracking ten panes. One author wrote, "This type of hybrid preservation [...] with a balance between development and preservation is politically and economically essentiel in modern cities."


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