06 May 2009

That Florentine-Romanesque-Moorish Block

Peeking down E. 67th Street between Third Avenue and Lex, you may briefly feel you've wandered upon some entrancing side street in Florence, Amsterdam or Barcelona.

This unheralded block boasts three delightful, under-praised pieces of architecture: a police station, a firehouse and a synagogue. Bam! Bam! Bam!—one right next to the other, all built between the years of 1886 to 1890. A street of Law and order, of both the earthly and spiritual sorts.

Let's start with the oldest of the three, Engine Company No. 39. This Romanesque Revival beauty, done up in red brick and brownstone, with arched windows going up, up, up, was once the headquarters of the NYC Fire Department. It was built by Napoleon Le Brun & Co., which designed a ton of firehouses back in the back (Le Brun was the department's official architect), as well as the magnificent Met Life Building in Madison Square. What a grand central station for the proud firefighters.

On the fire station's left is the 19th precinct station of the NYPD. Built by Nathaniel D. Bush as the 25th Precinct. Bush, who was something of an expect at building police department buildings, took his cue from the Florentine Renaissance. More arched windows and a great, strong arched front entrance worthy of a palazzo. Nice blue paint trim on the windows and doors, and of course those wonderful old green lanterns on either side of the entry.

I saved the best for last. I always thought the Eldridge Street Synagogue was the most gloriously busy temple in town, but the Park East Synagogue may take the prize. A multi-towerd, amazing Moorish mess with staircases, balconies and yet more arches everywhere. We can thank prolific tenement-builders Schneider and Herter for it. Making up for previous sins?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


One of my memories of the Temple
you speak about was taking care of
John Coltrane's great Bass musician's Children when their father Jimmy Garrison died in 1976.
Roberta Garrison the dancer their Mom had her hands full taking care
of all the events about to be for
Jimmy Garrison'homage.

The first service for Jimmy was in this Temple attended by family and
so many great musicians including
one of Jimmys best Friends Elvin Jones,whose loft then on Crosby street(NYC) was Garrison's final home.

Mike of Tin Pan Alley
if memory does not fail me.