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The Century
U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
25 Central Park West (The Century) by David Shankbone.jpg
Location Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Built 1930–1931
Architect Irwin S. Chanin, Jacques Delamarre
Architectural style Art Deco
Part of Central Park West Historic District (ID82001189)
Added to NRHP November 9, 1982

The Century is an apartment building located at Central Park West and 63rd Street in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. It was constructed in 1931 at a cost of $6.5 million and designed by the firm of Irwin S. Chanin. The Century is designed in the Art Deco style, unlike many of its neighbors, which are designed in the Beaux-Arts style.

The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places, as a contributing property to the Central Park West Historic District, in 1982. The building, also part of a local historic district designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, is one of the three tallest structures within the boundaries of the district.

A tenant-landlord dispute at the Century was ongoing for most of the 1980s. By 2010, units in the building were being sold for millions of dollars.

History

The Century apartment building is located on the site of the Century Theatre at 25 Central Park West. Architect Irwin S. Chanin's office executed a US$1.25 million bond to guarantee the construction of a 29-floor apartment building at the theater site on October 25, 1930. The Century Theatre was initially backed by many wealthy New Yorkers but it quickly became unprofitable. The theater was still being demolished in late October 1930 when Chanin's firm secured a $6.5 million loan from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for the construction of the Century. As the moves to begin the Century project were occurring, Chanin's The Majestic was already under construction nearby, in the 100 block of Central Park West.

Theater demolition pushed forward through early November. In the November 9, 1930 edition of the New York Times Irwin Chanin remarked regarding construction of The Majestic and the Century. He noted that, together, the two projects would employ a daily average of 3,000 men with rates of pay identical "those in vogue during the boom days of 1927 when we were erecting the Chanin Building." In January 1931, with demolition at the theater site winding down, a time capsule was pulled from the cornerstone of the Century Theatre. Among its contents was a congratulatory letter from U.S. President at the time of the theater's construction, Theodore Roosevelt.

The construction was handled by another Chanin company, Chanin Construction Company. Construction would require over 3 million feet (910,000 m) of electrical wiring, three times what was required for the 56-story Chanin Building. By October 1930 it was predicted that the building would be complete by October 31, 1931. Construction began in April 1931, and by the end of the next month, the steel structure for the Century was complete up to its 15th floor. Within thirty days the entire steel structure was complete. The rapid progress was made possible by, according to Irwin Chanin "coordination and overlapping of various trades employed." A June 1931 newspaper article reported that the average number of workers since the beginning of construction was 1,050, with up to 1,400 employed at one time. Original predictions, by Chanin, estimated 1,500 men would be employed, on average per day, for a period of one year during construction. By September 1931 work on the Century was nearing completion and apartments were already being offered for rent.

21st century

In the 21st century, as it has been historically, the Century is largely an upscale apartment house. In May 2010 six bedroom apartments in the Century sold for around $19 million with one bedrooms selling for between $875,000 and $1.675 million.

Architecture

"[A] sophisticated essay in Art Deco design exhibiting a complex balance of horizontal and vertical elements.

—NYC Landmarks Commission

The Century, along with its one-year-older sister building, The Majestic, was among the first residential buildings to use what had been predominantly an office building style of architecture. Both the Century and The Majestic stand 30-stories and their Art Deco motifs stand in contrast to the Beaux-Arts buildings that surround them. The building was designed by the Office of Irwin S. Chanin, with Architectural Director Jacques Delamarre at the head of the design team. It was then constructed in 1930 and/or 1931, sources vary slightly.

The Century features art deco "machine-inspired" towers and cantilevered floor slabs. The floor slabs prevent the necessity of corner columns thus allowing the building to be fitted with large corner windows. The three ornate entrances face Central Park West, 62nd, and 63rd Streets. During the 1980s the building held 410 apartments, ranging in size from one to eight bedrooms; 52 of the apartments had large terraces. The main lobby, on the ground floor, houses professional offices.

Significance

The building is a contributing property to the Central Park West Historic District, which was recognized by the U.S. National Register of Historic Places when its nomination was accepted on November 9, 1982. It is one of four "twin-towered" structures in the historic district, including The Eldorado, The San Remo, and The Majestic. Collectively these buildings contribute to the unique skyline of the Upper West Side along Central Park West. The Century was designated a local landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 10, 1985. The designation subjects improvements and changes to the property to various local regulations and rules administered by the Landmarks Commission. Upon its designation as a local landmark the Commission staff remarked that the Century was a "sophisticated essay in Art Deco design exhibiting a complex balance of horizontal and vertical elements." At 30 floors it and two other structures hold the title of the tallest building in the federally designated Central Park West Historic District. The height of the buildings were shaped primarily by the Multiple Dwelling Act of 1929 which allowed apartment buildings no higher than 19 stories. The law provided an exclusion for taller buildings, such as the Century, if a building site was sufficiently large and the building itself occupied no more than 20% of the site.

Notes

Bibliography

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