The buildings bordering Madison Square Park represent more than 100 years worth of architectural achievement and New York City icons.
Madison Square Park not only offers busy city dwellers a pleasant respite from the hustle and bustle, it also provides a concise primer on the history of our great city’s architecture, bordered by a collection of stunning buildings, both classical and modern.
Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State (1899)
35 East 25th Street
Appellate Division Courthouse (Image: Wikimedia)
“Distinguished for its classic beauty, this small marble courthouse represents in a civic building, the epitome of collaboration between architect, sculptor and mural painter.” Thus begins the official landmark designation report for the neo-Italian Renaissance courthouse situated on the corner of Madison and 25th Street. Striking sculptured figures line the pediment and roofline while figures depicting Power and Study stand sentry at street level. In fact, the designation report goes on to note that one-third of the buildings construction budget was dedicated to decoration, declaring it a shining collaboration between civic building and the arts. The interior of this impressive structure is also landmarked, a relative rarity, noting the great care that went into selecting muralists and planning a cohesive interior decorative program. The building is still an active and busy courthouse to this day.
The Flatiron Building (1902)
175 Fifth Avenue
The Flatiron Building (Image: Wikimedia)
One of New York’s most beloved buildings, The Flatiron Building was panned by architecture critics of its day. Designed by Daniel Burnham to house the Fuller Company, the wedge-shaped structure was called “a monstrosity” by the New York Times and a “stingy piece of pie” in he New York Tribune. Civilians have always been kinder to the building, nicknaming it the Flatiron Building after the triangular plot on which it sits. Reports circulated earlier this year that Macmillan Publishers, who occupies the entirety of the building’s office space, may look for new digs when their lease comes up in a few years. That would clear the way for majority owners Sorgente Group of America to create a long-rumored hotel in the landmark building; a fate recently executed in our next Madison Square Park building.
Met Life Tower (1909)
1-5 Madison Avenue
Met Life Tower (Image: MrTinDC)
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, with its lovely bell tower, gold cupola and iconic clock faces, is one of the most well-known buildings in the city. Based on St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, the tower was in a race against the Singer Building for the title of tallest structure in the world as it neared completion — a title it managed to hold for four years. In the 1960s, the tower underwent a rather misguided facelift that stripped off much of its original ornamentation and in 2002 a computerized multicolored lighting system was added. Today, the landmark tower is home to the New York Edition hotel featuring The Clocktower restaurant by Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton.
11 Madison Avenue
11-25 Madison Avenue
11 Madison (left) and Met Life Tower (right) (Image: Wikimedia)
While a handsome building in its current iteration, 11 Madison, formerly the Metropolitan Life North Building, is most famous for what it’s missing — namely the top 75 floors. Originally conceived as a 100-story building that would’ve been the tallest in the world at the time, construction ground to a halt after the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent depression. Home to Eleven Madison Park, one of the highest-rated restaurants in New York, 11 Madison made headlines last year when SL Green Realty purchased the property from the Sapir Organization and CIM Group for $2.6 billion, making it the largest single-building transaction in the city’s history.
New York Life Insurance Building (1928)
51 Madison Avenue
New York Life Insurance Company Building (Image: Wikimedia)
Known for its gleaming gold crown, the New York Life building was designed by Cass Gilbert, who also created the iconic Woolworth Building. The building occupies an entire city block on the park’s northeast corner where the first two iterations of Madison Square Garden once stood. Unlike many historic buildings on the park, the New York Life building still retains its original namesake tenant, although some space in the building is leased to Cushman & Wakefield.
New York Merchandise Mart (1974)
41 Madison Avenue
New York Merchandise Mart (Image: Wikimedia)
This 1974 skyscraper was designed by Emery Roth in the sleek, International Style. And, while the building is no match for the more ornate constructs on the block, its 42 floors of steel and glass create impressive contrast over the park’s northeast corner. Inside you’ll find showrooms for 85 manufacturers of tableware and gift products with, as the building website claims, “spaces constructed to complement the international image of the manufacturers.”
One Madison (2013)
23 East 22nd Street
One Madison (Image: Wikimedia)
Both the newest and the tallest building on Madison Square Park, One Madison stretches 617 feet above the southeast corner of the park. Designed by the firm of CetraRuddy to largely positive reviews, the building topped out in 2010 and quickly ran into financial and legal trouble until it was acquired and reimagined by Related Companies in 2012. After a short run as the tallest building in the neighborhood, the Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed 45 East 22nd Street recently eclipsed One Madison by a staggering 160 feet.