Hotel Belleclaire (Thursday Doors)
down deep on its luck
a building rescued, restored–
remembering its bones
The Hotel Belleclaire was one of the first buildings designed by architect Emory Roth. Constructed in the Art Nouveau style, it opened in 1903 as a luxury residence hotel intended for the city’s upper class families. Amenities included long-distance telephone service in every room, private dining rooms, a library, and a roof garden.
It’s history in this iteration included the usual scandals and domestic dramas that seem to follow all New York City buildings around. The Daytonian has a detailed history.
In 1925 architect Louis Allen Abramson replaced the windows and railing on the ground floor with storefronts, and the entrance was moved around the corner to 77th Street. This began the building’s decline. By the latter half of the 1900s the hotel, like many old Upper West Side buildings, had become an SRO full of transients and rampant crime.
After the building was designated a Landmark in the 1990s, it was bought by Triumph Hotels, who began to gradually renovate the interior and return the exterior to some semblance of its original state. Now considered an “affordable” neighborhood hotel, it contains 250 guest rooms and 15 apartments whose tenants were grandfathered in because of local rent laws that prevented their eviction. You can read an interview with one of them here.
I don’t remember the building ever feeling particularly run-down; in fact I always imagined that it would be wonderful to live in one of the corner apartments. But the entire city was kind of down-and-out in the 1970s and 1980s. On the other hand, it was an affordable place to live then.
Now there are tourists going in and out the front door, and a doorman to attend to them. Upscale shops and a café occupy the bottom floor.
Door guardians are still in residence, and lovely details remain all over the façade. This website has some good photos of the ones on the upper floor which I could not capture with my camera–the photo at the top scrolls through them.
And you can visit the hotel’s website, and make a reservation if you like, here.
And don’t forget to visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors here, where you’ll find more doors, and a place to add your own.
355 Riverside Drive (Thursday Doors)
In youth, a burgeoning
investor, he savored
property that favored
Older, family absent,
weary of empty rooms,
his fine jewel was doomed
A tower was summoned–
an inelegant box–
he resided on top
with river views.
It isn’t illegal
to transform artistry
but it should be.
Above is the building that sits at 355 Riverside Drive today. The top photo is the house it replaced. Built by banker Samuel Gamble Bayne to replace a slightly more modest residence across the street, Bayne at one time owned the entire block between 107th and 108th street from Riverside Drive to Broadway. Both original residences were designed by architect Frank Freeman in the Romanesque style.
I don’t know if the actual door in the new building is what was there when it was built–it’s pretty but plain– but the door surround and the space between the first and second floor windows do have some interesting ornamentation, and I also like the raised brickwork on the bottom floors.
The window guardians (I think Green Man) are a nice touch.
One of Bayne’s daughters had married an architect, Alfred C. Bossom, and that is who the developer Bayne sold his house to, Harris H. Uris, used to design the new building. Bayne, whose wife had died after his four children moved out, no doubt found the house too large, but it’s a shame he couldn’t have found a buyer to preserve the house. He must have liked the location, as he moved into the new apartment building, occupying the entire 14th floor.
The two mansions to the right of the original house in the very top picture still exist, as do the brownstones on 108th street. When I get back uptown, I’ll photo them as well–I think I have photos of some of the doors from when I was just taking pictures of every door I saw, but none that have the details or entire building.
There’s a nice little courtyard garden in the back of the building. You can read more details, and see more photos of 355 Riverside Drive, here.
And here’s an apartment that was recently for sale in the building–you can get an idea of the views Bayne must have had from his windows.
I’ve written an abhanga poem, with synonyms for spring and green, for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompt. And I’ve also used some words from this week’s Random Word List.
And visit Dan Antion, who has lots of doors every week, here, at Thursday Doors.
Butcher Brownstones (Thursday Doors)
we know our
date of birth–
have been traversed too many
times to remember—
but no one
has bothered to write
behind every door
These three brownstones, designed by architect Frederick G Butcher in 1889-91, are the only three references to his architecture I could find in my research. I really like the decorative stonework above the doors and windows on the right two houses, which are twins. Why Butcher chose a completely different design for the third one is a mystery.
That house was recently sold for almost six million dollars and converted back to a single family house, so the facade may have been slightly altered–but I imagine not too much, as it’s inside the Landmark District. I looked at the interior online and there don’t seem to be that many original details left on the inside. I’m glad at least the decorative ornamentation above the door remains.
The two arched doors are much more appealing to me. Both of these houses are rentals; one has two duplex apartments and one has six apartments. From the rental listings I found, it looks like they both still retain some of their original interior woodwork, even though they’ve been divided up.
There’s a stained glass insert in the arch of the window on #175.
The ornamentation between the sets of upper windows appears to contain dragons or perhaps sea serpents. Each one is slightly different.
I could find no juicy details on past residents for these two houses–hence my poem, which answers David’s W3 prompt for “a poem from the perspective of an inanimate household object, using personification.” I’m sure he knew I would be using a door.
And visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors, here, to see more doors and add some of your own.
Queen Anne Style (Thursday Doors)
but mirrored—until altered
by human hands, time
These two buildings caught my attention, due to the painted trim. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. But I took photos. A little research showed that they had been altered (a repeating story), each in its own slightly different way, since they were designed by Edward Angell in the late 1900s. You may remember Angell as the architect of two other buildings I’ve photographed for Thursday Doors–the brownstones with the Juliet balconies, and the building with Six Happiness door.
Originally private homes, but now apartments, the steps were removed, as so often happens, and the door placed on the garden level, with the original doorway becoming a window. In the case of #46, this was done quite tastefully.
Number 44 is a totally different story–I know Queen Anne style, the dominant architectural style Angell used for these houses, features asymmetry, but this takes it a bit too far. This door is under the original doorway, though, while #46 also changed the location of the door.
As you can see above, the upper floor of #46 has been raised, and one window made larger, but they kept the window surround. I think they should have enlarged the other window as well.
The houses were designed to be asymmetrical mirror images, and they mostly still are. Asymmetry is one of the main components of Queen Anne Style, along with cantilevered windows and decorative trim, often multicolored. The white window frames work better than the black ones I think. Notice that Angell once again provided Juliet balconies.
For some strange reason, not all the decorative trim is painted..
The Daytonian has another detailed history of both these houses. Number 44 was the headquarters of the Nippon Club in New York from 1905-1912, and then a music school for a few years. The residents of both houses had the usual complicated lives. Read all about it, and see a photo of how the houses originally looked, here.
And visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors, here, to see more doors and add some of your own.
Velez Blanco (Thursday Doors)
The patio is hushed, other-worldly, the door to an office space a jarring contrast to the feeling of suspended time. Only one other person is present, a woman quietly sitting on a bench nursing her baby. I walk around and around, taking photos and pausing in wonder at the artistry, the attention to detail, in the construction of the room.
I try to imagine the lives of the inhabitants of a castle in 1500s Spain. Was this a place for conversation, entertainment, dancing? or just a passageway to other, more practical, rooms?
My mind fast forwards to New York in the early 1900s—how did George Blumenthal fit this into his townhouse? and to what use did he put it? I see finely dressed men and women, members of high society, gossiping and showing off their latest Paris fashions. Servants discreetly move among them with trays of food and drink.
The arrival of two other people returns me to myself, surrounded by the stillness of the museum’s whispered air. If only the creatures carved into the walls and doorways would speak…
between then and now
I walk imagined pathways–
roots, branches, and trees
This room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the actual patio from the Castle of Velez Blanco in Andalusia, Spain. Built with the façade of a fortress in the early 1500s on the foundation of a Moorish castle, it fell into ruins in the late 1700s, and its valuables, including the entire patio, were sold off in the early 20th Century. The patio was installed in the townhouse of George Blumenthal in New York, the one where he displayed his art.
The doors and balcony contain many beautiful marble carvings by Italian sculptors working in Spain.
One of the doors serves as an entrance to office space, which is a bit disconcerting.
There are also sculptures scattered throughout the space, including Bernini’s Bacchanal
and this Siren which I found quite appealing.
You can read more about the Castle of Velez Blanco here, and see pictures of the exterior.
And see George Blumenthal’s art mansion and read about it here.
My haibun is for my own W3 prompt–Compose a haibun that contrasts past and present.
And Doors! you can always find more of them, hosted by Dan Antion, at Thursday Doors, here.
Changes (Thursday Doors)
On an empty block west of Central Park
rose twelve houses–not a dead end street,
not wild, but quiet–perfect for the well-to-do.
They proceeded to fill the line of brownstones
with their unquiet and disorderly lives.
~Time changes the faces and the facades~
Homes are bought and sold and sold again.
Doors are replaced, stoops deleted, details erased.
A school opens, caters to the well-to-do.
Only the guardians remain to trace the years–
older now, but still fascinated by human folly.
In fact there was one particular house on this block which made me cross the street, Number 38–perhaps it was the multi-paned windows, or the arched door, but I was pleased to find a guardian over the door as well.
As I walked further along the block I saw more and more similar guardians. Some were over doors, but some had become window guardians when the stoops were removed and the doors placed on the garden floor. This is often done when houses are divided into apartments.
At least one had its guardian removed altogether, but I didn’t take a photo of that one. Had I known that this row of brownstones was all designed and built at the same time, 1886-1888, but the same architect, Increase M Grenell, I would have taken photos of all twelve doors.
The guardians are all slightly different.
Number 28 has lost its stoop, so the guardian is over the window above. The transition is a bit clumsy.
Number 26 now houses Columbia Grammar School, a private school which charges $56,000/year tuition. Yikes! I also really dislike that awning, or whatever it is, over the doors.
I’m not sure that doors are an appropriate subject for a puente poem, but I wrote one anyway for Tanmay’s W3 prompt; the middle stanza was to contain the title of a song. I chose David Bowie’s “Changes” and included some of the lyric words in the rest of my poem as well.
As to changes in these houses, you can read a detailed history of the early residents of number 38, coincidentally the house that first caught my eye, and their chaotic lives, here
And you can always find more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.
Bowie knew all about changing his facade as well…
Liminal Deities (Thursday Doors)
don’t miss my gate
good luck god
From across the street the buildings don’t
look special—it would be easy to miss
the details—but I always cross with my
camera to look beyond the gate.
So many faces!—multiple voices ask Please!
make sure you take an extra good
photo of me! and I will send luck
from the spirit of my liminal god.
The series of six tenement buildings look nondescript from a distance, but if you’re looking at doors, as I always am, they suddenly come to life.
This building was designed by the same architects, Neville and Bagge, as the one containing the first door. They are both rental buildings, but obviously owned by two different landlords.
The next two buildings were also designed by the same person, in this case George Pelham, a very well-known architect who designed many many buildings in NYC–he even has his own Wikipedia page. Again, it looks like the buildings now have two different owners.
The guardians supporting the columns look like they could use a little surgery. I really like the placement of the lamps.
The last pair of doors were also designed by the same architect, John C Burne, another prolific designer of Upper West Side buildings. Again the doorways are full of wonderful details.
Other than the names of the architects, and the date they were all constructed, 1895-6, I could find out nothing about their history. But they are all in the Upper Westside Landmark District, so hopefully their facades will remain as is to delight those who happen to notice them.
The W3 prompt this week, from Angela Wilson, was to turn a haiku into a Golden Shovel poem. I chose the haiku under the first photo, by Japanese master Issa. If you look at the last word in each line of my poem, you will find Issa’s poem. Here’s some more information about his haiku:
kado chigai shite kudasaru na fuku no kami
don’t miss my gate
good luck god
According to Shinto belief, in Tenth Month all of Japan’s gods vacate their shrines to congregate at the Izumo-Taisha Shrine. Issa worries that his good luck god will go astray on his way back.
All translations © 1991-2023 by David G. Lanoue, rights reserved.
And you can find more doors and their stories here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.
Oh, and about those Liminal Deities–according to Wikipedia, “A liminal deity is a god or goddess in mythology who presides over thresholds, gates, or doorways; a crosser of boundaries. These gods are believed to oversee a state of transition of some kind; such as, the old to the new, the unconscious to the conscious state, the familiar to the unknown.”
I can always use some good luck with my transitions.
More Lions (Thursday Doors)
The streets are my friends–
a concrete jungle, gridded
rampantly with doors.
I walk among guardians,
greeting them with a photo.
Lion spirits mix
garlands with mysterious
Hello, tell me your story.
Silence keeps their secrets safe.
I encountered both of these lion doors while out running errands. The first building is rundown with an unremarkable metal door and buzzer system–yet it’s heartening to see that the lion guardians remain to keep evil spirits away.
I was able to find out a bit more about the second building– it was constructed in 1890, designed by architect John G Prague, with storefronts on Amsterdam Avenue and five stories. Three more stories were added in the early 1980s. The building is a rental with 46 studio, one- and two- bedroom units. There doesn’t seem to be much turnover, so I expect it’s well-maintained. It looks that way from the outside.
John Prague designed many many upper west side buildings and brownstones, but I was unable to find out any other information about him.
And I was left totally in the dark as to the reason for the Stars of David above the doorway. They make sense as an accompaniment to the lion ornaments, as both are symbols of Judaism. But the building is just an apartment building now–was there originally a synagogue inside? A religious school? I could find no information about it at all.
Life is full of mysteries. This is just another one to add to my list.
The poem I wrote for the lion doors answers the W3 prompt from Jaideep Khanduja for a tanka with personification using the words “concrete jungle”. And I’ve also used some words from Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Random Word List: mix, greet, walk, detail, and rampant.
And look for more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.
February 2023 Imbolc
ablaze in opposition
to monochrome days
breath held in
the beating heart, veins
roots, marking the season with
and skies expand, meet,
cross between, entwining
elements seeded into
the path shifts–
shadowed and cast out
into a now that transforms,
emerged, as after
One of the recent Kick-About prompts was Christo and Jeanne-Claude. This reminded me of their Gates installation in Central Park in February 2005, and I pulled out some of the photos I had taken then, printed them, and cut them into squares to make grids. I did not think of it at the time, as my daughter and I delighted in following the winding paths, as a ritual experience for the mid-point between winter and spring–yet it felt magical, like a journey into a different world. A transformation of a familiar landscape, a stilling of time.
A gate, like a threshold, is a symbol of crossing between paths of light and darkness. The fabric of the gates was constantly in motion, holding inside them the play of light with water, sky, ground, and bare trees. A fortuitous snowfall added to the magic. I don’t know if Christo and Jeanne-Claude had Imbolc in mind at all when they planned The Gates (they were supposedly inspired by Japanese temple gates), but in both time and place it contained a strong resonance with the return of color and the anticipation of spring.
For earthweal, where Brendan has asked us to think about Imbolc, and how it shows up in our lives.
Cleopatra’s Needle (Thursday Doors)
show us the sun–
open the cloud cover,
awaken each new day
It wasn’t difficult to find the path to Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park, although one of the websites I visited noted that the location was chosen not only for its bedrock and elevation, but for its isolation. The top photo shows the obelisk reflection from my original post, but taken from the vantage point of the Needle. And above is the stairway up from the path.
An obelisk had four sides, matching the four cardinal directions, and I photographed it from each one. As you can see, the one day last week of blue skies alternated between cloud cover and clarity. It was quite windy.
This obelisk is one of a pair (the other is in London) made of red granite originally erected in Heliopolis in 1475BC, moved to Alexandra by the Romans in 12BC, and toppled during the reign of Augustus.
It was gifted to the US by the Egyptian government in 1877 for some political purpose–different sources gave different reasons. The transport, by steamship, was paid for by William Henry Vanderbilt, and it took 112 days, a team of 32 horses, and the temporary alteration of the landscape, to move it from the ship to the park.
Obelisks were originally associated with the Benu bird, the Egyptian predecessor of the Phoenix, and the Sun God Ra, representing life, resurrection, and light. They were embellished with hieroglyphics–dedications to Ra and tributes to Pharaohs and their military victories.
Interestingly, they were also used as sundials to tell time.
Here’s a view looking past the obelisk to the museum in the back ground.
The obelisk has been symbolically adopted by Freemasons–in fact the Grand Master of the New York State Masons, Jesse B Anthony, laid the cornerstone in 188l, accompanied by 9000 Masons who marched with him up Fifth Avenue to the park.
And because this is Thursday doors, and Cleopatra’s Needle does not contain a door, here’s one from the Temple of Dendur, inside the Metropolitan Museum. But that requires a whole other post.
Wikipedia has an extensive entry detailing the obelisk’s history.
And you can always find a wide variety of doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.