Wednesday, March 14, 2007

20 Fifth Avenue

Manhattan > Greenwich Village > 20 Fifth Avenue

Once part of Sir Peter Warren's Farm - - before it was sectioned off into an avenue and its right-angled side streets - - the site that shows the Berkeley Hotel has a hansom cab parked outside.
• • This six-story brownstone building was built in 1876 [and christened after its tony namesake in London, England] by William C. Rhinelander, who also owned a mansion on Washington Square North during that time. In 1844, Rhinelander had acquired this wide corner lot [80.6 by 124.1 feet] when he wed one of the heirs. Clearly, he knew the value of marrying a millionaire, a shortcut to amassing a real estate empire.
• • Across from the Berkeley Hotel was the far livelier Breevoort Hotel, steps away from James Renwick's townhouse where the American humorist Mark Twain had once been in residence.
• • Society bluebloods favored the Berkeley as a pied-a-terre. Occasionally, however, a few scandals and headlines found their way to this address. In June 1903, for instance, the son of publisher Thomas Y. Crowell visited his parents at 20 Fifth Avenue. The 22-year-old Ralph M. Crowell lived one block away from his family at the Lafayette [Ninth Street at Universaity Place] and had recently graduated from college. Tense after his final exams perhaps, Ralph Crowell began to quarrel with the waiter who was serving his family supper. When he became violent, doctors were summoned. Eventually, the hotel staff fashioned a makeshift straitjacket out of blankets and tablecloths - - and off went Ralph to Bellevue.
• • There were no protests when the wrecking crew tore down the sedate Berkeley Hotel in 1939 for a larger apartment house. But when the city announced it would raise the beloved Brevoort and Mark Twain's residence, preservationists became enraged and tried to stop the destruction of these historic structures. The news media and literary figures battled to save these Fifth Avenue landmarks - - to no avail, alas.
• • Enjoy this photo of lower Fifth Avenue during the late 1920s.
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• • Photo: Fifth Avenue north of Eighth Street • circa 1928

Real Estate.

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