Midtown was coming into its own as a business district in the 1920s at the height of the Art Deco period, and many of the era’s structural masterpieces remain today. In addition to The Waldorf Astoria (1929-31), one of New York’s “crown jewels” of the Art Deco period, there are nearly 20 significant Art Deco buildings in midtown with striking architecture and design. We’ve chosen a few of our favorites (plus a Beaux-Arts train terminal and a Romanesque/Byzantine church) for the walking tour that follows. Why not spend a morning exploring these beauties? (A visitor’s map of Manhattan will help with this trek).
AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA
Although much of the hotel’s splendor is out of sight in its grand event venues, some of its treasures are on view to the public. In 1929, Waldorf architects Shultze & Weaver commissioned French Artist Louis Rigal to design and execute numerous elements within the hotel. Among these are the massive, carved-stone bas reliefs adorned with gilt figures, as well as the murals and 150,000 piece Wheel of Life mosaic, you’ll see when you visit the Park Avenue Entrance and Lobby and the stylized, cast nickel-plate female figures throughout the hotel.
In the Main Lobby, above the 1893 lobby clock, look for the silver-gilt Art Deco maiden. The decorative motifs on the ceiling evoke a more elegant era, and gilded ornamentation is all around, even in unexpected places.
ON THE STREET
From the Park Avenue entrance, go right to St. Bartholomew’s Church (1918), a magnificent structure and one of New York’s great institutions. Proceed to Rockefeller Center (1931-55), between Fifth and Seventh Avenues and E. 47th and 50th Streets for the lobbies of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the International Building, and Radio City Music Hall. On the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 49th Street is the boldly patterned Swiss Center (1930-32) building and lobby.
Head down Fifth Avenue and turn right at W. 40th Street for the dramatic, black and gold American Radiator Building (1923-24) at 40 W. 40th Street. Return to Fifth Avenue, continue (now on E. 40th Street) to Park Avenue and turn left. View the exterior of the Chanin Building (1927-29) at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue before you head into the revitalized Grand Central Terminal (a 1913 Beaux-Arts gem).
Turn uptown on Lexington Avenue to the Chrysler Building and lobby (1928-30) at Lexington Avenue between E. 42nd and 43rd Streets. Continue on Lexington, passing The Waldorf=Astoria, to the General Electric Building (1929-31) at 570 Lexington Avenue.
Return to The Waldorf Astoria and enter through the Lexington Avenue entrance. Just before you head into the Main Lobby, turn right and see more beautiful nickel plate figurines on the Grand Ballroom’s elevator doors.
To venture further (New York houses the world’s largest concentration of Art Deco skyscrapers), visit the New York City Landmarks Preservation website (www.nyc.gov/landmarks) or consult our knowledgeable concierge.