A Minor Personal Connection

Yesterday’s photo of the 270 Park Avenue site had, for me, a bonus in the background. I’ve cropped to it above. The building in the background, with an octagonal-plan tower above a square-plan base, is 383 Madison Avenue, completed in 2001 and 47 stories tall. I have no connection to that building; rather I have a connection to an unbuilt scheme at the same site with the same address.

This is, like 270 Park, another site above the Grand Central rail yard. It was one of the last sites with air-rights construction in the first round, after the Grand Central electrification: in 1923, a twelve-story office and showroom building opened there. (Wikipedia and a few other sources list that building at 14 stories, but the 1930 map below shows 12. It may have had an addition or we may be looking at real-estate-advertising height inflation.) By the early 1980s, that mid-rise building was considered to be a prime development site. In the mid 80s, a 1000-foot tower was proposed there, too be designed by KPF. As it happens, in the mid-80s, I was a college student looking for summer jobs related to structural engineering. KPF was often working with Weiskopf & Pickworth at that time, and W&P was a firm that I had on my list of places to try to get a job. In early 1985, during my third year at RPI, I received a tentative offer of a summer internship at W&P, which was cancelled when the 383 Madison project was delayed. Apparently I had been assigned to it (as an undergraduate, I would have been basically cannon fodder) and without that project, there was no place to put me.

Both the building and I recovered: a new and shorter project was built at 383 Madison 15 years later, and W&P was my first permanent job after graduation.

East midtown is not a place that most New Yorkers have strong feelings about. It’s not as bad as the given-over-to-tourists Times Square, but it’s not a place with a lot of emotional attachments. But I’ve had a bunch of minor connections around Grand Central.

I attended secondary school for a year at 466 Lexington Avenue – the “Lexington Avenue Building” on block 1300. I had a nerve-wracking interview with an alumnus of MIT at 15 East 42nd Street, the “National City Building.” I had a high-school summer job at the Lincoln Building at 60 East 42nd Street, off the bottom edge of the map and more or less opposite the foot of Vanderbilt Avenue. The Chrysler Building, at 42nd And Lexington, has long been one of my favorite skyscrapers. And I attended my one and only Star Trek convention in 1975 at the Hotel Commodore, between Grand Central and Chrysler.

If you live in New York and get around, you eventually end up with connections to a lot of neighborhoods. I hadn’t thought about 383 Madison in years until I saw it Saturday while taking the picture at top.

Scroll to Top