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Then & Now: View from Central Park

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

Things have certainly changed since 1957. Up top is a painting by Adolf Dehn (1895-1968), from the New York Historical Society's exhibition, Scenes of New York City: The Elie & Sarah Hirschfeld Collection. Dehn painted this view from Central Park's Sheep Meadow as he was seeking refuge from the density of Manhattan's skyscrapers.

The photo below, taken July 18, 2023 with my iPhone, takes in the same view. What were once the city's tallest residential towers are now dwarfed by the residential super-talls of Billionaire's Row on 57th Street in midtown.

Two notable buildings are featured in each:

The JW Mariott Essex House, New York, 160 Central Park South

Opened in 1931

With terrible timing, construction began for the 44-story hotel on October 30, 1929 — one day after the Wall Street Crash. Due to the Depression, it took three years to complete the construction. The six story Essex House sign was added in 1932, the same year the building went into bankruptcy. It served as the location of the famous Alain Ducasse restaurant (closed January 2007), and one of David Bowie's final residences.

The Hampshire House, 150 Central Park South

Opened in 1937

Originally named the Medici Tower, the Hampshire House was developed by Italian immigrant and former violinist-turned-real estate developer, Eugene E. Lignante. The cornerstone was laid in 1931, only to be unfinished due to the Great Depression for another six years. It was finally ready for occupancy in October 1937 after changing hands many times, and renamed The Hampshire House. In 1938, the New York Times called it "New York's newest exclusive apartment-hotel," providing long, and short-term options. Today, the Hampshire House is a exclusive, luxury co-op apartment building.

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