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The Osborne
The Osborne Apartments, NYC, September 2015.JPG
Seen from the southeast in September 2015
General information
Type Housing cooperative
Architectural style Italian Renaissance
Address 205 West 57th Street
Town or city New York City
Country United States
Coordinates 40°45′57″N 73°58′49″W / 40.76583°N 73.98028°W / 40.76583; -73.98028Coordinates: 40°45′57″N 73°58′49″W / 40.76583°N 73.98028°W / 40.76583; -73.98028
Construction started 1883
Completed 1885
Renovated 1891, 1906, 1962
Technical details
Structural system Masonry bearing wall; steel-framed annex
Floor count 11 (front)
15 (rear)
Design and construction
Architect James Edward Ware
Main contractor Thomas Osborne
Osborne Apartments
Location 205 West 57th Street,
Manhattan, New York
Built 1883
Architect James E. Ware
Architectural style Renaissance, Romanesque
NRHP reference No. 93000333
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 22, 1993

The Osborne Apartments, also known as The Osborne or 205 West 57th Street, is an apartment building at Seventh Avenue and 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The Osborne was originally designed by James Edward Ware and constructed from 1883 to 1885. An annex to the west, designed by Alfred S. G. Taylor and Julien Clarence Levi, was constructed in 1906. The Osborne is the second oldest luxury apartment building in New York City, behind the Dakota.

The Osborne's facade is clad in rusticated blocks of brownstone, with a main entrance on 57th Street and a variety of window configurations. The first floor has an elaborate foyer and lobby, while the other floors contain apartments in duplex arrangements. The southern section of the building, facing 57th Street, is 11 stories tall and originally contained main living spaces with high ceilings. The northern section, at the rear of the building, is 15 stories tall and contained the bedrooms and servant's rooms. The Osborne was originally built with 38 apartments, although many of these units were gradually subdivided starting in the early 1920s.

The building's namesake was the stone contractor Thomas Osborne, who had acquired the land in 1883 from restaurateur John Taylor, constructing the building as a speculative investment. The $2 million construction cost forced Thomas Osborne into foreclosure, leading Taylor's family to acquire the building in 1889. The Taylors sold the Osborne in 1961, and it was turned into a housing cooperative the next year. Throughout its history, the Osborne has housed many artists, actors, and musicians, as well as upper-middle-class residents such as doctors and lawyers. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building as a city landmark in 1991, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

Site

The Osborne Apartments is on the northwest corner of 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, two blocks south of Central Park, in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. As built, the Osborne Apartments measured 150 feet (46 m) along 57th Street to the south and 100 feet (30 m) along Seventh Avenue to the east. The Osborne was extended by 25 feet (7.6 m) to the west in 1906, giving the Osborne a frontage of 175 feet (53 m) on 57th Street and 100 feet on Seventh Avenue. The site covers 17,572 square feet (1,632.5 m2).

The Osborne Apartments shares the city block with the American Fine Arts Society (also known as the Art Students League of New York building) and the Central Park Tower to the west, and with the Saint Thomas Choir School to the north. The Osborne is cater-corner from Carnegie Hall. It is also near 220 West 57th Street to the southwest; 888 Seventh Avenue and the Rodin Studios to the south; Alwyn Court and the Louis H. Chalif Normal School of Dancing to the east; and 200 and 220 Central Park South to the north. Right outside the building is an entrance to the New York City Subway's 57th Street–Seventh Avenue station, served by the N Q R W trains.

The Osborne is part of an artistic hub that developed around the two blocks of West 57th Street from Sixth Avenue west to Broadway during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The hub was developed following the opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891, though the Osborne predates Carnegie Hall. The area contains several buildings constructed as residences for artists and musicians, such as 130 and 140 West 57th Street, the Osborne Apartments, and the Rodin Studios. In addition, the area contained the headquarters of organizations such as the American Fine Arts Society, the Lotos Club, and the American Society of Civil Engineers at 220 West 57th Street. The Osborne was also part of a hub of luxury buildings developed on the northernmost end of Seventh Avenue, around Carnegie Hall, by 1900.

Design

The Osborne Apartments was designed and built by James Edward Ware from 1883 to 1885. It was expanded with an annex to the west in 1906, designed by Alfred S. G. Taylor and Julien Clarence Levi. Ware designed the Osborne similarly to an Italian Renaissance style palazzo. The Osborne also contains some Romanesque Revival design features such as round-arched entrance and window openings, a rough-cut stone cladding, and recessed windows. It is the second oldest luxury apartment building in New York City, behind the Dakota.

The primary section of the Osborne Apartments faces south toward 57th Street and is designed with 11 stories. The rear section, facing north, contains 15 duplex level, though the roof is at the same height as in the rest of the building. The northern portion of the building contains two "light wells". The original structure contains a light well located halfway along the northern elevation. The other light well is between the annex and the western side of the original building. The Osborne, including its annex, is 162 feet (49 m) tall.

Facade

The Osborne Apartments' facade is clad largely with rusticated brownstone blocks, while the superstructure is constructed of masonry bearing walls up to 4 feet (1.2 m) deep. The primary elevation, or side, faces 57th Street, while the secondary elevation is on Seventh Avenue. The 57th Street side has ten vertical bays—eight from the original design and two from the 1906 annex—while the Seventh Avenue side has eight bays. Large cornices with modillions run atop the second, sixth, and ninth floors. The facade contains stylistic details such as carved stone panels with classical iconography. Projecting oriel windows were also added to provide light to the apartments. In general, the exterior was intended to reflect the ornate design of the interior.

Base

Osborne at Street Level (2876780625)
Seen from across Seventh Avenue

The base is composed of the lowest two stories. At ground level, the main entrance is in the center of the original facade on 57th Street, between the fourth and fifth bays from east. The entrance is within a white segmental arch, above which is a scrolled keystone flanked by garlands. Inside the arch opening is a wooden double door with a leaded-glass transom window above it. The arch is flanked by two pairs of pilasters supporting a short entablature; a pair of glass-and-metal lanterns are mounted on the inner pair of pilasters. The remainder of the ground level contains storefronts. A small band course runs between the first and second stories. An entrance porch formerly projected onto 57th Street. There was also a moat running around the building, traversed only by a moat.

On the 2nd story along 57th Street, the original facade has eight bays. Within the center two bays, now the fourth and fifth bays from east, there are four round-arched windows, topped by flat keystones. The two bays on either side, now the second, third, sixth, and seventh bays, each contain a single round-arched window with a flat keystone above and a decorative stone panel below. The outermost pair of bays, now the first and eighth bays, each contain a pair of rectangular sash windows. On Seventh Avenue, the seven southernmost bays each contain one rectangular sash window at the 2nd story. A modillioned cornice runs above the 2nd story along 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, except in the fourth and fifth bays along 57th Street.

The two westernmost bays along 57th Street comprise the 1906 annex and contain three shorter stories within the same double-height base: the ground floor, followed by two mezzanine floors. Both mezzanines contain a triple-sided, metal-clad oriel window within the left-side bay, which is the tenth bay from east. The annex's right-side bay, the ninth bay from east, contains a rectangular window opening on each mezzanine. The northernmost Seventh Avenue bay also contains three shorter stories in the double-height base, with two rectangular windows on either mezzanine floor.

Upper stories

W 57th St Dec 2020 28
Northernmost bay on Seventh Avenue

On the 3rd through 6th stories, the original section of the 57th Street facade contains triple-sided, stone-clad oriel windows on the first, fourth, fifth, and eighth bays from east. The second, third, sixth, and seventh bays contain rectangular windows, with balconettes at the fifth story. Above all eight bays, there are carved stone spandrel panels between the 3rd- and 4th-story windows, and stained-glass transom panels near the top of each 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-story window opening. In addition, bartizans rise from the 5th and 6th story at each corner of the original facade, supporting the cornice. A similar window arrangement appears on the seven southernmost bays facing Seventh Avenue, where the fourth and fifth bays from south are grouped into a single oriel structure.

On the 7th through 9th stories of the original 57th Street facade, the first, fourth, fifth, and eighth bays each contain three windows per story. The second, third, sixth, and seventh bays of this facade each contain two windows per story. The windows in each story are separated by carved stone spandrel panels. In addition, there are stained-glass transom panels near the top of each 7th- and 8th-story window opening. A similar window arrangement appears on the seven southernmost bays facing Seventh Avenue, except that each bay has a single window.

On both 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, there are rectangular windows on the 10th and 11th stories, with a horizontal band course between these floors. The windows on the 10th and 11th stories do not necessarily align with those on the other floors. There is a copper cornice above the 11th story.

The 57th Street annex only rises to the 10th story. The 3rd through 9th stories of the annex correspond to those in the original building. They contain a metal oriel on the left and a sash window on the right, similar to at the base. As with the original facade, there are bartizans on the 5th and 6th story, which flank the oriel and support the cornice. The annex's 10th story has a triple rectangular window.

The 3rd through 6th stories of the northernmost Seventh Avenue bay contain six offset duplex levels, each with a triple-sided, stone-clad oriel window. The 7th through 9th stories of the northernmost Seventh Avenue bay contain four offset duplex levels, each with a triple rectangular window.

Interior

Entrance foyer and lobby

58th St 7th Av td 08 - Osborne Apartments
Storefronts

The entrance foyer and lobby form a connected space. The decorative details were designed by architect Stanford White, muralist John La Farge, and designer Jacob Adolphus Holzer. The lobby was mainly the work of Holzer, and is designed with marble, mosaics, murals, gilded surfaces, and leaded glass. The Tiffany glass in the foyer and lobby, created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, was reputed to be Tiffany's first decorating job. Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was also involved in the foyer and lobby's design.

The entrance foyer measures 20 feet (6.1 m) square with a 20-foot ceiling. It is connected to the lobby proper by a short flight of marble and copper steps.

The lobby extends north of the foyer and measures 92 by 14 feet (28.0 by 4.3 m), with a ceiling 15 feet (4.6 m) high. The floors contain mosaics made of small tiles, alternating with Italian marble slabs. The western and eastern walls of the lobby contain marble wainscoting, interspersed with plaster plaques of figures and garlands, designed to resemble bronze. Carved-plaster cap friezes and mosaic tiles run along the walls. Above the wainscot, the walls feature a silver-gilt wall surface, as well as carvings, mosaic tiles, and roundels. There are marble niches with benches, as well as Tiffany mosaics and stained glass on the niche walls. The ceiling, which is coffered, is painted in red and blue tones and gold leaf, in a manner similar to the ceiling at J. P. Morgan's 36th Street library. The space is lit by four copper chandeliers and sixteen bronze double sconces. Two marble staircases lead from the lobby.

Apartments

Each of the 2nd through 10th stories originally contained four apartments. There were also two apartments on the ground floor, for 38 total units on the ground through 10th floors. The 11th floor did not contain any residents and was used by service workers and as storage. Each of the upper stories was separated into western and eastern halves, with two apartments per side. Each side was served by its own elevator and staircase, connected only at ground level. When completed, the building had four elevators and a heating and power plant.

The original designs of the apartments were arranged in a specific hierarchy. The main living spaces contained 15-foot (4.6 m) ceilings. The front end, facing 57th Street, contained the apartments' libraries and parlor rooms. The foyer, dining room, kitchen, and one bedroom of each apartment also contained high ceilings. The rear sections had bedrooms and private baths, separated from the main living areas by flights of seven steps, and the ceilings are just over 8 feet (2.4 m) high. The westernmost apartments of each floor, as expanded in 1906, were generally larger than the other units, with seven bedrooms and enlarged reception and dining rooms. The apartment designs were also marked by their elaborate interior features, including mahogany wood decoration, bronze fireplace mantels, and crystal chandeliers. The parquet floor surfaces contained banded edges.

In the early and mid-20th century, many of the apartments were subdivided, the ground-floor apartments were removed, and new apartments were created on the 11th floor. The National Park Service wrote in 1993 that the Osborne Apartments had 109 units, of which 14 retained their original large configurations. As a result of these subdivisions, the modern layouts of the apartments are more complex. For instance, an apartment might have its entrance in one of the rear mezzanines and its main rooms in the high-ceiling portion. Other units were configured as "apartments within apartments", where the only access was through another tenant's residence. The haphazard nature of the conversions resulted in the sealing-off of spaces such as an entire room and a staircase.

History

During the early 19th century, apartment developments in the city were generally associated with the working class, but by the 1870s, apartments were also becoming desirable among the middle and upper classes. Between 1880 and 1885, more than ninety apartment buildings were developed in the city. The advent of the passenger elevator enabled the construction of taller apartment buildings such as the Osborne and the Dakota, whereas previously apartment buildings had been limited to six or seven stories. Simultaneously, West 57th Street was being developed with townhouses, some of which were known as New York City's "choicest" residences, as well as artists' studio apartments. The area around the Osborne was relatively undeveloped in the early 1880s, but benefited from the presence of Central Park two blocks north.

Development

57th St 7th Av td (2018-08-16) 22
A bus outside the base of the building on 57th Street

The Osborne Apartments' namesake was Thomas Osborne, an Irish immigrant who ran a successful stone contracting business. In 1883, he purchased a lot for $210,000 (equivalent to $4,786,500 in 2018) from restaurant operator John Taylor. Osborne hired Ware to design an apartment building on the site. Ware submitted plans for a 11- and 15-story apartment to the New York City Department of Buildings that May, to cost $650,000. Ware designed the facade with rusticated brownstone, because of Osborne's expectation that the facade could attract residents of middle-class brownstone row houses. The original plans included a fireproof structure with four elevators, some iron-and-marble staircases, and the newest electric, plumbing, and heating systems of the time. The plans also called for a rooftop croquet lawn, which was not built; a private billiards room; and a florist's shop, doctor's office, and chemist in the basement.

In October 1883, three investors formed a company to buy Osborne's apartment building for $700,000. However, the sale never happened. By the next year, Osborne was still anticipating that he would sell the building upon its completion. The building's roof was completed by June 1884, when the apartments were reported as "nearly ready for tenants". The first tenants moved into the building in November 1885. The next month, the Real Estate Record and Guide reported that the Osborne was sold to unnamed investors for $1,209,000 (equivalent to $28,577,178 in 2018). The buyer was subsequently revealed to be John Taylor's son John H. Taylor; by then, the senior John Taylor had died. The development of the Osborne Apartments spurred the construction of nearby apartment houses, including the Alwyn Court and Rodin Studios.

Modifications

The building had ultimately cost $2 million to construct, at least part of which covered by loans that John H. Taylor had made to Osborne. The lavish decorations contributed to the massive costs, which turned out to be excessive for Osborne. John Taylor's estate foreclosed on the Osborne Apartments at auction in 1888. William Taylor, another member of the Taylor family, bought the building that March for $1,009,250 (equivalent to $23,855,680 in 2018). The next year, Ware expanded the attic to a full size; this provided additional room for servants' quarters while placing the roof at a uniform height. The northern section of the building had contained 14 levels, while the southern section was largely 10 stories with a partial 11th-story attic. The cornice of the northern section had originally sloped downward because of the uneven roof height.

By early 1896, the Osborne was fully occupied, and the Taylor estate was looking to sell the Osborne, so the estate could be closed out. The estate also planned to sell adjoining 25-by-100-foot (7.6 by 30.5 m) lot to the west, which adjoined the Art Students League building. John S. Ely, a son-in-law of the late John Taylor, paid $1.01 million for the building and $35,000 for the adjacent lot at an auction in March 1896. At the time, the neighborhood was being developed rapidly, and The New York Times wrote, "It is safe to assume that these lots will be worth double their present value ten years hence." A glass and metal sidewalk canopy was erected circa 1900. The Taylor family started constructing the 57th Street annex in 1906, on the adjoining lot to the west. The annex was designed by family member Alfred S. G. Taylor, in conjunction with J. C. Levi. The annex, completed in 1908, provided additional bedroom space for the westernmost apartments, which were each given seven bedrooms and an expanded reception room.

Many businesses moved to the surrounding area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Thus, in 1919, the Taylor family converted the ground-floor apartments to commercial spaces, which the family believed would be more profitable. At this time, the main entrance porch and the moat that originally surrounded the ground floor were removed. Walter J. Salmon took a 21-year lease for the Osborne that year. The upper floors were subdivided into smaller units starting in 1922, and the 11th-floor attic was converted to apartments in 1941.

Cooperative conversion

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The base, seen with scaffolding around it in 2019

The Taylor family could not maintain the Osborne Apartments in the mid-20th century, and the interior had degraded by the 1950s. In 1961, the Osborne was sold to the Linland Corporation, operated by real-estate investor Sarah Korein, in a deal that valued the building at $2.5 million (equivalent to $17,806,920 in 2018). Korein had planned to demolish the Osborne, replacing it with a 17-story residential building designed by Robert Bien. In response, tenants collected $500,000 to give to Korein in exchange for the building's ownership. The payment was roughly double the $250,000 deposit that Korein had paid for the building. The planned replacement tower was canceled the next year after the Osborne Tenants Corporation bought the Osborne and converted it into a cooperative. The co-op board took a $2 million mortgage for the building in 1965.

Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch, an architectural historian who lived in the building, started holding bazaars in 1976 to fund the restoration of the lobby, ultimately raising nearly $100,000 (equivalent to $374,311 in 2018). By the mid-1980s, prices for apartments in the Osborne were as high as in comparable apartments on the traditionally wealthy Upper East Side. From 1989 to 1994, the Osborne's cooperative board restored the facade at a cost of $4.1 million (equivalent to $5,893,288 in 2018). During that time, Rambusch Studios restored the lobby. By the early 21st century, the Osborne had become part of Billionaires' Row, an area with several residential skyscrapers marketed for the ultra-wealthy.

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