Friday, June 6, 2008

East 67th Street

One of the realities of the New York City landscape is the mixture of old and new. It's not uncommon, especially downtown, to find 18th, 19th, and 20th century buildings on the same block, even right next to each other, in neat chronological succession. Although this variety underscores the higgledy-piggledy nature of development in Manhattan over the last 300 years, it can prove a bit disconcerting to those accustomed to a bit more architectural continuity, even more so to suburban observers attuned to a more homogeneous landscape of design underachievement.

But it's also possible to round a corner and find a block-long treasure chest of architectural gems. I had this experience on East 67th Street this week, encountering the Park East Synagogue (1889), Engine Company 39 (1886), and the 19th Precinct of the NYPD (1887), lined up along the north side of the street, a Gilded Age "Mannie, Moe, and Jack" anchoring the block. Each was in excellent condition, having probably enjoyed a restoration in recent years. (In fact, the police station clearly marks a 1991 restoration.) The pattern of construction also shows how late this section of the Upper East Side was built up, just 120 years ago. Given this neighborhood's taste for high-rise apartment buildings and elegant townhouses, I'm surprised they survived!

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