top of page

Take an Architectural Tour with Me

Did you know that you can trace the history of Western Architecture in the buildings in New York City? You can, and I’ll show you. This is a combination of some of my favorite things; New York City, long walks, and houses-really, buildings of any kind. My reference here is Paul Goldberger's The City Observed; A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan. This has been my Bible as I draw my favorite places in my favorite city and all quotes come from him unless otherwise noted.

So put on your walking shoes, grab your metro card and let’s go. I promise you'll make your ten thousand steps.

Let's start with the Egyptians. If you want to see a pyramid you can go to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn but this is a Manhattan tour.


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Egyptian temple, Architectural tour of Manhattan

Borough of Manhattan Community College-originally Pythian Temple.

135 West 70th Street,

Thomas W. Lamb, 1927

This building is full of Egyptian references and embellishments, including a set of Kings on the roof, shown here. I asked nicely of the doorman across the street and he allowed me to go up on his roof for a good view.


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, Village church, Doric Temple

the Village Community Church

145 West 13th Street,

Samuel Thomson, 1846

A doric Temple set into a row of brownstones.

“A pleasant benign surprise"


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History

77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue

Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould 1877

An immense sprawling set of fortresses


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York

Fifth Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets

Joseph Wells, 1846

Based on Saint Magdalen College in Oxford.

This complex covers a wide swath of history all by itself. The church house on the left, or south side of the sanctuary, is the only gothic revival building by the firm of McKim, Meade and White, 1894. The church house on the right, or north side, which houses the church offices and two schools, was designed by Edgar Tafel, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It won awards for the way it blends the gothic style with mid-century modern.


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, Engine Co 31, French renaissance

Engine Company 31

Napoleon le Brun 1895

87 Lafayette Street, NW corner of White Street

“Great scale in detailing, lovely scale-and fine massing…a gem by any standard. That was a time when first-class architecture for civic purposes was considered as much of a necessity as fire protection itself.”


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, Jefferson Market Library, Victorian

Jefferson Market Courthouse-now Library Sixth Avenue at Tenth Street

Frederick Clarke Withers and Calvert Vaux1876

“The epitome of what a local landmark should be … it laughs and jokes with you as you walk up Sixth Avenue.” I’m sorry I had to truncate the tower to fit it into this format.


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, the Public Baths, Beaux Arts

The Public Baths East 23rd Street at Asser Levy Place Arnold W. Brunner and William Martin Aiken 1906

Mr. Goldberger calls this 'a lovely pretentious little pile." I think it's adorable.

Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, NY Public Library, Beaux Arts

The New York Public Library Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets Carrere and Hastings 1911 "Both awe-inspiring and gracious, dignified and cheerful."


Barbara Swanson Sherman, Manhattan Architectural tour, skyscrapers

Four Skyscrapers-each in its time the tallest building in the world.

From left to right; The Flatiron Building 175 Fifth Avenue at Broadway and 23rd Street D.H. Burnham & Co., 1901

The Woolworth Building 233 Broadway Between Barclay Street and Park Place

Cass Gilbert, 1913

“the Mozart of Skyscrapers; a lyrical tower that weds Gothic ornamentation with exquisite massing.

The Chrysler Building

405 Lexington Avenue

William Van Alen 1930 "It expresses the romantic longings of an era...romantic and irrational and yet not quite so foolish as to be laughable."

The Empire State Building 350 fifth Avenue at 34th Street

Shreve, Lamb and Harmon 1931

"Famous for being tall but good enough to be famous for being good. Graceful setbacks in perfect balance to sheer rise."

That's my thoroughly unscholarly review of New York City's wonderful variety of architectural delights. Manhattan provides a surprise around every corner. I've left out plenty of treasures as I tried to stick to a timeline but they're there for the looking. To name a few: The Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street Frank Lloyd Wright Old Police Headquarters 240 Center Street between Grand and Broom Streets Hoppin and Koen, 1909 The Seagram Building 375 Park Avenue at 42nd Street

Mies Van der Rohe, Phillip Johnson

The most elegant Christmas decorations in the city The Art Students League 215 West 57th Street Henry J. Hardenburgh, 1892 Central Park Frederick aw Olmstead, Calvert Vaux the Brooklyn Bridge What's your favorite?

September 26, 2019

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page