Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The territory north of 14th Street truly is a world apart. There is much behind the downtown mantra, I never go north of 14th Street. There is a stoic pride and conviction that virtually anything one needs can be found downtown and it is not far from the truth.
I cannot speak for other downtown residents, but I go north for specific purposes and so infrequently that going uptown is like a small vacation. I literally feel like a tourist. I walk a neighborhood, often craning my neck and standing in wonderment at the massive stone, steel and glass edifices built on the island's bedrock of Manhattan schist.
The advent of the Internet had greatly facilitated price shopping for most products and services, including New York City hotels. Since that time, my family has been able to snag deals at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which has become their residence of choice when visiting the city. I enjoy traveling and visiting the hotel during their occasional stays.
Next door to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel is the General Electric Building. The building is sometimes referred to as 570 Lexington Avenue to avoid confusion with the GE Building built later at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The 50-story, 640 foot Art Deco masterpiece was designed in 1931 by John W. Cross of Cross and Cross. Unable to lease the building profitably, in 1993, GE donated the building to Columbia University, gaining a $40 million tax deduction. Find more on the building here.
The base contains elaborate masonry, figural sculpture. On the corner above the main entrance, a conspicuous corner clock with the curvy GE logo and a pair of silver disembodied forearms. On August 25, 2006, I featured the lobby of the building - you can see it here.
Christopher Gray of the New York Times describes the building as a "suave fantasy of polished marble and modern metals."
Its signature crown of lacy radio-wave figures is a well-known midtown landmark, but the decoration of the lower floors is just as startling. Here a shrouded mechanistic figure huddles in a modernistic cloister, there an armored fist grabs an electric bolt. The entire facade is of a lightly variegated orange brick, which plays to St. Bartholomew's Church next to it on the Park Avenue corner.
See my photos of the church here.
When I visit the area, I am never able to resist stepping into Mr. K's restaurant, an upscale Chinese establishment located at 570 Lex. The plush banquette seating, the lush art deco interior, soft lighting all seem so befitting of the building it is in. For a little vacation, I just take the 6 train. Uptown.
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