250 Park Avenue: Postum Building

(7) Postum Building, 250 Park Avenue 
Cross & Cross, 1923 
Built FAR: 17.81  Proposed 21.6

Postum Building
250 Park Avenue
Cross & Cross, 1923

One of the only remaining Pre-WWII office buildings on Park Avenue the former Postum (Cereal) building was designed by the firm of Cross & Cross architects in 1923.

The building carried on the “Terminal City” design of architects Warren and Wetmore still fully visible at the 35 story New York Central Building (now the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue) straddling the avenue, which actually was completed in 1929, a few years later.

In New York 1900 Stern, Gilmartin and Mellins tell us that “The avenue was initially intended to be flanked by continuous blocks of five-story buildings that served as bases for thirteen-story towers to be set back a distance from the street. These height controls were supplanted by those of the zoning ordinance of 1916, which produced a nearly uniform cornice at the thirteenth story along the entire length of the avenue and transformed it into one of the most extensive expression of the City Beautiful ever realized. The apartment houses and hotels that were built north to Forty-ninth Street, together with the New York Central Building enabled the railroad to realize the Court of Honor concept originally conceived by Reed and Stem in 1903, although on a less ambitious scale.”

Today the place where we can best perceive the design and the impact of the “Court of Honor” is standing on Park Avenue, looking south at the 35-story New York Central Building straddling the axis of Park Avenue and framed in a grand composition by the 20-story Postum Building: the two buildings are visually connected by the curved wall linking the center block of the New York Central Building to its west wing and across 46th street to the Postum building. This visual connection, and the visual dominance of the New York Central Building extended further north to the street wall of the masonry buildings that would line up Park Avenue (see left picture above). This was a grand classical scheme whose “most extensive expression of the City Beautiful ever realized” has been preserved in these two blocks.

The building was designed by Cross and Cross and Phelps Barnum and it fills the whole block-front on Park Avenue down to Vanderbilt Avenue (another part of Terminal City) from Forty-sixth to Forty-seventh streets: the land was owned by the New York and Harlem Railroad and Grand Central. (Metrohistory.com) The U-shaped plan provides the maximum amount of natural light to the offices, and, most importantly, above the third floor it forms a court facing Park Avenue, defining a cross axis secondary to the principal axis of Park Avenue and affirming the space in front of the New York Central Building – at the meeting of both axes – as the center of the whole composition.

The building is significant as one of the few survivors of the Terminal City development; seen with the New York Central Building, it is a remarkable physical remnant of the City Beautiful design and planning ideals which were so well executed in Grand Central Terminal. The building is also the work of Cross and Cross, a talented and prolific architectural firm responsible for many important buildings in New York City. We recommend it for consideration as individual landmark.

References:

Metrohistory.com: NB 469 of 1923 Owner New York and Harlem Railroad Owner Grand Central; 20 floors 220’x124’

Stern, Robert A.M., Gregory Gilmartin, and John Massengale, New York 1900: Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism 1890-1915 (New York: Rizzoli, International Publications, 198), 40-41.

Stern, Robert A. M., Gregory Gilmartin, and Thomas Mellins, New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars (New York: Rizzoli, 1987), 541.

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