Elegant New York: The Builders and the Buildings 1885-1915

John Tauranac, Author, Christopher Little, Author, Christoper Little, Photographer Abbeville Press $65 (288p) ISBN 978-0-89659-458-6
Much of New York City's turn-of-the-century architecture consciously imitated European prototypes. The Woolworth Building, a vaulting Gothic tower, was dubbed the ""cathedral of commerce.'' Henry Frick built his mansion, now a museum, in Louis XV style. Yet the ``age of elegance'' surveyed in this illuminating guidebook also produced original, daring, idiosyncratic buildings. There is the Plaza Hotel, completed in 1907, built on the site of the eight-story brick-and-brownstone hotel of the same name; the patrons of the earlier Plaza were shocked that anyone would raze it. Tauranac, who wrote Essential New York, has teamed with Little, a photographer for Architectural Record, to tell the stories behind 80 buildings, many of them still standing. On this armchair tour you watch Manhattan rise against a backdrop of Tammany Hall corruption, Astor's cornering of Fifth Avenue, Upper West Side speculation and the machinations of Vanderbilts, Carnegies and lesser mortals. Tauranac's social history is captivating and he always has just the right phrase, as when he ponders the Ansonia Hotel, ``a great wedding cake of a building.'' January 20
Reviewed on: 11/01/1985
Release date: 11/01/1985
Genre: Nonfiction
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