Central Midtown (sometimes called simply “Midtown”) comprises the area between 40th and 59th streets, flanked by Eighth Avenue to the West and Park Avenue to the East. While quite a few New Yorkers work here (an estimated 700,000 commuters daily) very few actually live here...or in any area even remotely resembling Midtown.

Central Midtown is what many people imagine the entire city of New York to be. Skyscrapers, neon lights, crowds of people, a cacophony of car horns, and so on. Even subway announcers (or digital recordings gradually replacing them) sometimes play into this by announcing the 42nd street stop as “the crossroads of the world.”

That’s where this walking tour will begin, but we will only venture as far west as Sixth Avenue on this landmark-stuffed tour...

1. 
New York Public Library
475 Fifth Avenue, between 40th and 42nd streets

In the United States the Library of Congress is bigger than the New York Public Library and that is it. America’s first millionaire, fur trader John Jacob Astor, left $400,000 when he died in 1848 to get the ball rolling on a public library but when it opened in 1854 in the East Village it was a research-only affair, no books circulated. In fact, you had to pay admission to get in and there was no physical access to any items. In 1895 the New York Public Library formed with the consolidationof the Astor Library, the Lenox Library and and a $2.4 million infusion of cash from the estate of former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie pledged more than $5 million (well more than a billion dollars in today’s money) to construct 65 branch libraries around the five boroughs. Construction on the main building, from Neoclassical plans drawn by John Carrère and Thomas Hastings began in 1902 and took most of the decade to finish - it was the largest marble structure up to that time in the United States; two-thirds of the marble shipped from Vermont was rejected as not worthy to construct the library.  In 1910, 75 miles of shelves were installed, and it took a year to move and install the books that were in the Astor and Lenox libraries. The grand opening on May 23, 1911 was important enough to summon President William Howard Taft to preside over the ceremony. The two famous stone lions guarding the entrance were sculpted by Edward Clark Potter. They were originally named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, in honor of the library’s founders. In the 1930s they were nicknamed Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. He chose these names because he felt that the citizens of New York would need to possess these qualities to see themselves through the Great Depression. Patience is on the south side (the left as one faces the main entrance) and Fortitude on the north.

LEAVE THE LIBRARY PLAZA ON THE NORTHEAST SIDE AND TURN RIGHT, WALKING EAST ON 42ND STREET. 

2. 
Lincoln Building/ One Grand Central Place
60 East 42nd Street

This Neo-Gothic addition to the urban canyon of 42nd Street came along in 1930 from the pen of architect James Edwin Ruthvin Carpenter. It was named in honor of Abraham Lincoln; at 673 feet high it may have been the largest monument ever erected to the 16th President, but far from the most important. In 2009 not only was Lincoln’s name scrubbed from the building but the bronze model of Daniel Chester French’s depiction of Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was hauled out of the lobby.   

3. 
Bowery Savings Bank
110 East 42nd Street, between Park and Lexington avenues

The Bowery Bank took its first deposits in 1834. In 1920 directors decided to leave the Bowery and move uptown opposite the Grand Central Terminal. Edward York and Philip Sawyer, the country’s greatest bank architects, designed a mammoth Romanesque banking temple to welcome Bowery Savings to the neighborhood. Through the magnificent entry arch is an enormous banking hall 25 yards wide and 65 yards long. 

4. 
Grand Central Terminal
42nd Street and Park Avenue

Grand Central Terminal (often inaccurately called Grand Central Station) was built between 1903 and 1913 to house Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad network, consolidated in the late 19th century as the New York Central. It is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms: 44, with 67 tracks bringing trains into the terminal. They are on two levels, both below ground, with 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower. Minnesota architects Charles A. Reed and Allen H. Stem drew inspiration from Roman imperial baths for the Main Concourse, that is said to welcome more than 21 million visitors each year - whether they are boarding trains or not.

5. 
Chanin Building
122 East 42nd Street, southwest corner of Lexington Avenue

Developer Irwin Salmon Chanin mostly loved building Broadway theaters but every now and then threw in a loft building or an office tower. This 680-foot Art Deco tower from 1929 was his best and the place where Chanin kept his private offices. Architects Robert Henderson Robertson and John Sloane infused their design with French-inspired motifs, building upon a brawny base of black Belgian marble. After 22 stories the tower begins to step back in accordance with zoning laws passed in the hope of bringing some sunlight down to the street.

6. 
Socony-Mobil Building
150 East 42nd Street, between Lexington and Third avenues

Not many walk past the Harrison & Abramovitz and John B. Peterkin-designed tower without an opinion. Erected in 1955, the 42-story tower was the world’s first stainless steel skyscraper, dressed in some 7,000 “self-cleaning” panels. Mobil Oil, the trademark of the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) which was broken off from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey in 1911 by government anti-trust busters, made its headquarters here until 1987.

7. 
Chrysler Building
405 Lexington Avenue, northeast corner of 42nd Street

The Chrysler Building rests comfortably in the pantheon of great American buildings; many a New Yorker would consider it the city’s finest. Yet when architect William Van Alen’s dramatically crowned Art Deco masterpiece first appeared it was widely panned - so maybe there is hope for the Mobil Building across the street. The building is clad in white and dark gray brick the iconic crescent-shaped steps of the spire were made of chrome-nickel steel to simulate a sunburst. Sculptures modeled after Chrysler automobile radiator caps decorate the lower setbacks, along with ornaments of car wheels. Walter Chrysler took over the lease of the office building when it was in construction and he asked Van Alen to create a monument to his growing company by erecting the highest building on earth. To beat out his competitors who were also trying to build the world’s tallest building, Van Alen erected a 185-foot spire on the top of the tower which was secretly delivered to the site in sections and raised to the top in a mere 90 minutes. Only a few months later, the Empire State Building surpassed the building in height, but this Art Deco skyscraper remains an unparalleled monument to industry.

TURN LEFT ON LEXINGTON STREET. 

8. 
Graybar Building
420 Lexington Street

Graybar was started in Cleveland in 1869 as an early distributor of electrical equipment. A customer, Elisha Gray who was runner-up to Alexander Graham Bell in the race to patent the telephone, liked the company so much he bought it and incorporated the firm as the Western Electric Manufacturing Company in 1872. In 1926 a group of employees bought the distribution arm of the company, named it Graybar, and settled into this Art Deco headquarters the next year. The 26-story tower looms over Grand Central with two projecting wings of setbacks. The cables that hold the rain canopy in place are in the shape of ship’s mooring ropes, complete with rats and anti-rat devices. 

TURN LEFT ON 45TH STREET. 

9. 
Met Life Building
200 Park Avenue from 43rd Street to 45th Street

When it was finished in 1963 this was the largest commercial office building in the world with 2.4 million square feet. The still-powerful railroads that owned Grand Central Terminal intended to call the mighty tower going up atop their station Grand Central City, but after Pan American World Airways became its principal tenant, the Pan Am Building is what it became. When the airline folded years later Metropolitan Life Insurance came along to replace the iconic “Pan Am” sign that lorded over Park Avenue with “Met Life.” The building has never been a favorite among New Yorkers who grouse about its overbearing size and the loss of sunlight on Park Avenue. One group who loved the Pan Am Building were those who travel by private helicopter - chopper service between Manhattan and New York’s three major airports began atop this skyscraper in 1963.

TURN RIGHT ON PARK AVENUE. 

10.
New York Central Building /Helmsley Building
230 Park Avenue, between 45th and 46th streets

Built in 1929 by the New York Central Railroad Company, it was designed in an exuberant Beaux Arts style by Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, who provided the decorative flourishes to Grand Central Terminal. Traffic was beginning to become a problem at the time of its planning and New York Central Railroad negotiated leases and easements for its construction - in exchange they wove both lanes of Park Avenue through the building. 

11.
Postum Building
250 Park Avenue

Two things you don’t see much on Park Avenue anymore - Postum, a powdered roasted grain beverage that was a breakfast staple 100 years ago, and old-style office buildings. Designed by brothers John and Eliot Cross in 1925, the tower still stands and you can still find Postum, invented by C.W. Post as a healthy alternative to coffee in 1895, online and in an occasional store

12.
Waldorf-Astoria
301 Park Avenue, between 49th and 50th streets

Designed by the renowned hotel architects Leonard Schultze and Fullerton Weaver, the 47-story hotel cost $42 million to build in 1931and was the largest in the world at the time of its completion. The Art Deco landmark was raised on a granite-clad base and rises to stylized bronze-clad cupolas. Built above the railway tracks leading to Grand Central Terminal, New York’s grandest hotel boasted its own underground railroad siding and an elevator for direct entrance from private railway cars. Guests received the first room service in the world here. Famous residents have included England’s Duke of Windsor, General Douglas MacArthur and mobster Lucky Luciano. 

TURN LEFT ON 50TH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON MADISON AVENUE. 

13.
Villard Houses
451-457 Madison Avenue, between 50th and 51st streets

These speculative brownstone residences were built by railroad baron Henry Villard back in 1884; it was an early project of the soon-to-be-famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. The five rusticated Italian Renaissance buildings are linked by a continuous facade that wraps around a U-shaped courtyard. Villard, who helmed the Northern Pacific Railway and endowed the University of Oregon, lived in the southern wing and later it was the headquarters of Random House with Bennett Cerf. Developer Harry Helmsley showed up in the 1970s with a plan to tear down the Villard Houses and put up a high-rise hotel. When theLandmarks Preservation Commission saved the buildings Helmsley went ahead and raised an unsympathetic 51-story New York Palace Hotel right outside their back door.

TURN RIGHT ON 51ST STREET TO RETURN TO PARK AVENUE.

14.
St. Bartholomew’s Church
325 Park Avenue, between 50th and 51st streets

This is the third site for the St. Bartholomew’s congregation which first gathered in 1835. The current meetinghouse was erected in 1916-1917 on plans drawn by Bertram Goodhue. Goodhue was a nimble designer who created the Art Deco Nebraska State Capitol and helped popularize the Spanish Colonial style in California. He needed his bag of tricks here since the church required thatStanford White’s Romanesque-style triple portal from St. Bart’s previous home be hauled uptown and incorporated into Goodhue’s Byzantine design. The pipe organ is the largest in New York and one of the ten largest in the world. 

15.
General Electric Building
570 Lexington Avenue

John and Eliot Cross designed this office building to be complementary with St. Bartholomew’s, which it dominates, in 1931 to be complementary to the church. Both are dressed in the same salmon brick, although the bricks on St. Bartholomew’s are hand-made and less uniform. Viewed from Lexington Avenue, the building no longer walks lockstep with St. Bart’s - its own Gothic identity is revealed. If you walk over to Lexington Avenue to see that street level view and are a movie fan, look for the subway vent on the northwest corner of 51st and Lexington. This is where the iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe’s white dress being blown over her head in Seven Year Itch was filmed. The Trans-Lux Theatre is no longer there, but the subway still blasts air every few minutes. 

16.
Racquet and Tennis Club
370 Park Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd streets

The celebrated firm of McKim, Mead and White was winding down when partner William Symmes Richardson designed this Renaissance Revival clubhouse, pulling its inspiration from a Florentine palazzo. Construction began on December 20, 1916, and was completed $400,000 and two years later. Unlike many other private clubs that once catered exclusively to men and now admit women, the Racquet and Tennis has held fast to its men-only membership policy. (Ladies are welcome to tag along at club social events, however.)

17.  
Seagram Building
375 Park Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd streets

Two giants of 20th century architecture teamed up to bring this International Style headquarters to the Canadian distiller, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in the 1950s. German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was the lead designer with collaboration from American Philip Johnson. Mies wanted the building’s structural elements to be visible but fire codes insisted his steel beams be sheathed in non-flammable concrete so he used non-structural bronze-toned I-beams to suggest structure instead. These are visible from the outside of the building, and run vertically, like mullions, surrounding the large glass windows. This method of construction using an interior reinforced concrete shell to support a larger non-structural edifice has since become commonplace. This is also the first use of an open plaza surrounding the skyscraper rather than setbacks to avoid strangling the street in shadows.

18.
Lever House
390 Park Avenue, between 53rd and 54th streets

As influential as its neighbor, the Seagram Building, Lever House was New York City’s pioneering curtain wall skyscraper in 1952. The ground floor contained no tenants. Instead, it featured an open plaza with garden and pedestrian walkways. Only a small portion of the ground floor was enclosed in glass and marble. Unfortunately the building stood up to water about as well as a Lever Brothers bar of soap. Rust formed on the stainless tell mullions and the blue-green glass facade deteriorated due to harsh weather conditions. By the mid-1990s, before restoration, only one percent of the original glass remained, leaving the once glimmering curtain wall a patchwork of mismatched greenish glass.

TURN RIGHT ON 54TH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON THIRD AVENUE.

19.
The Lipstick Building
885 Third Avenue, between East 53rd Street and 54th streets

Created by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, this postmodern office space, better known as “The Lipstick Building,” was completed in 1986. The structure earned its nickname due to its unusual shape. Nestled among blocks of standard rectangular Midtown office buildings, its oval contour stands in three layers stacked like an opened lipstick tube. The red granite and stainless steel exterior is a true departure from traditional New York architecture and enhances its resemblance to a cosmetic. Look beyond this metaphor to appreciate the first two of the building’s 34 stories, which contain an enclosed glass lobby flanked by a colonnade of red granite pillars and a pedestrian plaza.

TURN AROUND AND WALK NORTH ON THIRD AVENUE. TURN LEFT ON 55TH STREET.

20.
Central Synagogue
652 Lexington Avenue, southwest corner of 55th Street

This congregation formed on the Lower East Side in 1846 and today this is the city’s oldest synagogue in continuous use. In 1870 architect Henry Fernbach was charged with bringing a copy of the Dohány Street Synagogue from Budapest, Hungary to Lexington Avenue. The Moorish castle boasts a pair of 122-foot entrance towers under copper domes. 

TURN RIGHT ON MADISON AVENUE.

21.
Fuller Building
41 East 57th Street, northeast corner of Madison Avenue

George A. Fuller founded the company that bore his name in Chicago in 1882; he had given up architecture to start a general contracting company. The Fuller Company built one of the first steel-framed skyscrapers, the Tacoma Building, in Chicago in 1889. The company came to New York after Fuller’s death in 1900; in 1927 the firm moved into this muscular headquarters from architectsA. Stewart Walker and Leon N. Gillette. The versatile designers crafted an Art Deco confection above a black granite facade.

TURN RIGHT ON MADISON AVENUE. TURN LEFT ON 59TH STREET.

22.
Grand Army Plaza
59th Street and Fifth Avenue

This plaza remembering the Grand Army of the Potomac that won the Civil War for the northern states was dedicated in 1916. The centerpiece statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman is the last great work by the famous Gilded Age sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens; it has been hailed as one of the greatest equestrian monuments in American art. The southern half of the Grand Army Plaza is anchored by the Italian Renaissance-style Pulitzer Memorial Fountain, rendered in marble by Thomas Hastings in 1916.

23.  
Plaza Hotel
Grand Army Plaza, 59th Street and Fifth Avenue

One of America’s most celebrated hotels, The Plaza opened its doors on October 1, 1907, bringing to a close two years of construction and $12 million worth of work. Financier Bernhard Beinecke, hotelier Fred Sterry, and Harry S. Black, President of the Fuller Construction Company, bought the previous Plaza Hotel that stood here and set out to create the ultimate residence for deep-pocketed New Yorkers. Architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh tapped the French Renaissance for the 20-story hotel. Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt were the first to sign the register. When Hollywood comes calling in New York, the Plaza is the favored destination. Although The Plaza appeared fleetingly in earlier films, the luxury hotel’s true movie debut was in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest - the first time a crew, director and cast assembled on site to make a picture. Before then, movies were shot almost entirely on Hollywood soundstages and rarely on location. The Plaza has provided the location for other motion pictures such as Plaza Suite, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Barefoot in the Park, Funny Girl, Cotton Club, Crocodile Dundee and Home Alone II: Lost In New-York.  

WALK SOUTH ON FIFTH AVENUE. 

24.
Crown Building
730 Fifth Avenue, southwest corner of 57th Street

Some skyscrapers take the names of it tenants, others honor builders - the Crown Building has taken its current name from one of Manhattan’s finest roofs. To help comply with the City’s 1916 Zoning Resolution to ease the ever-growing steel canyon walls, architect Charles A. Wetmore gave his 416-foot building a French Renaissance octagonal lid. This was the Hecksher Building then, named after its developer August Hecksher, a German immigrant who made his money in mining. 

25.  
Trump Tower
725 Fifth Avenue, northeast corner of 56th Street

Donald Trump first rose to prominence with this 68-story bronze and glass skyscraper that dominates Fifth Avenue. Trump made few friends by pulling down the admired Art Deco Bonwit Teller building to kickstart the project. Trump uses this building as the setting for his reality television show, The Apprentice.

26.  
Coty Building
714 Fifth Avenue

Originally a row house erected in 1871, the building received a new commercial makeover in 1908. The building was leased that year by the French perfumer Francois Coty, who commissioned what is now the only City’s only architectural glasswork by the renowned glassmaker Rene Lalique. Lalique’s composition of intertwining vines twisted across the facade and was designed to fit within the building’s frame. The facade, including the glass, was restored in 1990. 

27.  
Gotham Hotel /Peninsula Hotel
2 West 55th Street, southwest corner of Fifth Avenue

The Gotham Hotel was the new kid on the block in 1905 and tried to fit in by harmonizing in style with the Italian Renaissance University Club and by not attempting to outdo the St. Regis Hotel across the street. But it was another neighbor that doomed the Gotham. The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church stood within 200 feet of the hotel and it was a violation of the law to sell liquor in that “dry” zone. Despite hasty attempts in the New York State Legislature to pass emergency bills aimed specifically for the Gotham, without a liquor license the hotel was bankrupt by 1908. The hotel, which had cost $4 million to build three years earlier, sold for $2.45 million. A century later, as the Peninsula, it is recognized as one of the great hotels in the world, a perennial recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award - a designation doled out to fewer than one-half of one percent of all hotels.

28.  
St. Regis Hotel
2 East 55th Street, southeast corner of Fifth Avenue

This 18-story French Renaissance-inspired hotel was the tallest in the city when it was raised in 1904 by John Jacob Astor IV. The exuberant design helped make the careers of architects of Samuel Breck Parkman Trowbridge and Goodhue Livingston. Astor, who would perish in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, named the hotel after a resort lake in the Adirondacks but it has always been a magnet for European visitors. 

29.  
University Club
1 West 54th Street, norhtwest corner of Fifth Avenue

The University Club was founded in 1865 by a group of recent college graduates who hoped to extend the bonhomie of their college days. By the 1890s the club boasted some 1,500 resident members and a waiting list almost as robust. The firm of Charles McKim (Harvard), William Mead (Amherst) and Stanford White (New York University, honorary), who were all members, won the architectural commission to design a new clubhouses. Working with a million-dollar budget, McKim crafted an Italian Renaissance masterpiece of pink granite that stands as one of the best ever constructed in New York City, making a six-story building appear to be only three with its expansive arched openings.  

30.  
St. Thomas Church
1 West 53rd Street, northwest corner of Fifth Avenue

This is the fourth house of worship for the congregation that organized in 1823 by members of three Lower Manhattan Episcopal parishes who were following the city northward. Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue drew up plans for the arresting French High Gothic church building that was finished in 1913. In the age of steel, the church is built completely of stone, according to medieval construction principles, with the ribs of the structure carrying the weight.

TURN RIGHT ON 53RD STREET.

31.  
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues

From the day Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and two friends rented space in the Heckscher Building in 1929 for a new museum to display contemporary art, this has been America’s premier museum devoted solely to modern art. Although his taste did not run to modern art and he steadfastly refused to put money into the museum, Abby’s husband, John Rockefeller, Jr. did donate the land. The MOMA would leap to the forefront of the world’s museums after its opening in 1939 in the International Style building by modernist architects Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone.

TURN LEFT ON SIXTH AVENUE. TURN LEFT ON 52ND STREET.

32.  
CBS Building
51 West 52nd Street

Built in 1965, “Black Rock” is 38 stories of elegant (some say) or funereal (some say) black Canadian granite. Unlike the typical glass curtains of the day, architect Eero Saarinen made the unbroken, triangulated piers the star rather than the panes of smoked glass.

33.  
The Paley Center for Media
25 West 52nd Street

William S. Paley, longtime head of CBS, founded the Museum of Broadcasting in 1975 and the collection now includes nearly 150,000 programs covering almost 100 years of radio and television history. The organization took its founder’s name in 2007.

34.  
21 Club
21 West 52nd Street

The famous club began as a speakeasy in Greenwich Village in 1922 called the Red Head. It moved uptown in 1929 as the Puncheon Club but was displaced to make room for Rockefeller Center, coming here as “Jack and Charlie’s 21.” The police came calling on more than one occasion during Prohibition but Jack and Charlie were prepared. As soon as a raid began, a system of levers was used to tip the shelves of the bar, sweeping the liquor bottles through a chute and into the city’s sewers. The bar also included a secret wine cellar, accessed through a hidden door in a brick wall that opened into the basement of the building next door. Over the years its wine cellar has been used to hold the private stocks of celebrities from United States presidents to movie stars. The most famous feature of 21 is the line of painted cast iron jockey statues which adorns the balcony above the entrance. In the 1930s, some of the affluent customers of the bar began to show their appreciation by presenting 21 with jockeys painted to represent the racing colors of the stables they owned. There are a total of 33 jockeys on the exterior of the building, and 2 more inside the doors.

TURN RIGHT ON FIFTH AVENUE.

35.  
Cartier Building
651 Fifth Avenue

The Cartier Building stands in one of the last great remaining mansions in Midtown. The house was built for financier and yachtsman Morton F. Plant in 1905. Plant was also a lover of baseball and had interests in several teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies. He purchased the property with the provision that it not be used for commercial purposes for at least 25 years. Plant, however, grew to disdain the rapid commercial redevelopment of the neighborhood much faster than that and sold it back to the Vanderbilts in 1916. Cartier, the world-famous jewelry concern founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier, moved into the six-story, Italian Renaissance-style palazzo of marble and granite with almost no modifications for commercial use - an entrance, a few storefront windows and the sculpted clock on Fifth Avenue did the trick.

36.  
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Fifth Avenue, from 50th Street to 51st Street

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Neo-Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in North America. It is the home of the Diocese of New York, created in 1808. A twenty-year building process, interrupted by the Civil War, began in 1858 to plans drawn by 40-year old James Renwick, Jr., who had previously designed several city churches and the new Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington, D.C. Dressed in marble shipped from upstate New York and Massachusetts, the cathedral is the size of a football field at its transepts with enough room for 2,200 worshipers. The spires, that would be completed in 1888, soar 330 feet above the curb. 

37.  
Rockefeller Center
Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue and 48th Street to 51st Street

For a good chunk of its life this land owned by Columbia University and leased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1930 was a streetscape of low-rise rooming houses and brownstones. The Metropolitan Opera, then anchored in the Garment District, planned to move here but Rockefeller tired of the constant dickering over terms and scuttle the plan. In its stead, Rockefeller engineered the largest private building project ever seen - to the tune of an estimated $250,000,000. During the 1930s 14 Art Deco buildings would be developed here with its centerpiece at 30 Rockefeller Plaza looming 872 feet above its famous sunken plaza. Over 40,000 Depression-era jobs were created in the construction of Rockefeller Center.

38.  
Saks Fifth Avenue
611 Fifth Avenue, between 49th and 50th streets

Andrew Saks opened his doors for business in 1867 in Washington, D.C. and rang up his first sale in New York in 1902 as Saks & Company. Andrew died in 1912 and in 1923 Saks & Co. merged with Gimbel Brothers. On September 15, 1924, Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel opened Saks Fifth Avenue in this Renaissance Revival setting. 

39.  
Scribner’s Bookstore
597 Fifth Avenue, between 48th and 49th streets

Charles Scribner and Isaac Baker went into the publishing business in 1846. By 1893 they were headquartered on Lower Fifth Avenue churning out popular magazines. The firm moved here in 1913, ensconced in a ten-story Beaux-Arts building designed by Ernest Flagg, who also executed their earlier home. The 20th century saw Scribner’s publish some of America’s best writers including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Kurt Vonnegut before it was merged out of existence, leaving only the nameplate. The retail operation survived 75 years until shutting down the last New York City landmark built specifically for a bookstore.

40.  
Fred F. French Building
551 Fifth Avenue

Frederick Fillmore French was a real estate tycoon and this was his headquarters, built in 1927. On the exterior, the 38 story Art Deco buildings uses a variety of materials - a limestone base, orange brickwork, and terra-cotta among them. This was the tallest building on Fifth Avenue when it was completed.

TURN RIGHT ON 44TH STREET. 

41.  
Algonquin Hotel
59 West 44th Street

In 1902, the Algonquin was conceived as a residential hotel but there weren’t many takers so in 1907 Frank Case took over the lease of the red brick and limestone building, named it the Algonquin and opened a 174-room hotel. Case ponied up a million dollars to buy the place in 1927 and remained at the helm until his death in 1946. In the 1920s the Oak Room restaurant was the site of the literary gatherings that would famously be branded as the “Algonquin Round Table” with the likes of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and George S. Kaufmann participating. They preferred to call themselves “The Vicious Circle.”

42.  
New York Yacht Club
37 West 44th Street

The New York Yacht Club was founded on July 30, 1844 by a group of nine sailing enthusiasts. Within a decade the club was racing for America’s Cup, the oldest active trophy in international sport. The club held the Cup for 132 years until losing it to Australia in 1983. The club moved its headquarters into this exuberant, nautically-themed Beaux Arts building in 1900. At the bottom of each of the three window bays is a projecting limestone ship’s stern, with limestone cascades of water overhanging the sidewalk.

43.  
Harvard Club
27 West 44th Street

The Harvard Club of New York began modestly with four members in attendance at the first meeting. For much of the rest of the 1800s the club floated around the city renting a room or restaurant.  In 1887 a four-story brownstone was leased that generated a 25% increase in membership. It was so successful that an anonymous donor issued a challenge to match funds if enough money was raised for a permanent clubhouse. It was and Charles F. McKim (Class of 1867) was selected to design the Harvard Club in 1894 with directions to model the facade on a house in Stratford-on-Avon, England that was once occupied by John Harvard’s mother. McKim instead delivered plans for this Neo-Georgian look, arguing that the more modern appearance matched the look of the buildings on the Harvard campus in Cambridge.

TURN LEFT ON SIXTH AVENUE. TURN LEFT ON 43RD STREET.

44.  
Century Club
7 West 43rd Street

The Century was formed in 1847 ‘’for the purpose of promoting the advancement of art and literature.’’ Mark Twain called it ‘’the most unspeakably respectable club in the United States.’’ Stanford White did one of his most admired facades for the club in 1891, rising to the challenge of pleasing the “Centurions,” as club members were called, that included a large number of architects and artists.

TURN RIGHT ON FIFTH AVENUE AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY.