Harde and Short
About the Building
Alwyn Court is an ornately decorated, palatial apartment building.
It has a 3-part vertical composition, with 4 stories in the lower zone (the base), 5 stories in the middle zone (the shaft), and 3 stories in the upper zone (the crown).
Most large apartment buildings of the time had a limestone base, which limited decoration. In contrast, Alwyn Court uses terra cotta, making it easy for the architects to add ornamentation everywhere. Exuberant decorative elements cover the entryway, the pilasters, the ornamental bands that separate the vertical zones, and the spandrels between the windows.
In the words of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, "This richly ornamented building is unique and a joy to the City, contrasting with the stark simplicity of contemporary buildings. Few buildings like this have ever been built; there will never be another."
Alwyn Court opened in 1909.
By 1910, only 5 of its 24 apartments had been rented. One early tenant was Frederick Steinway, president of the famous piano company.
On March 4, 1910, a huge fire broke out. There were no deaths or serious injuries - even though the building had no fire escapes or fire doors.
The building was repaired, and the Alwyn was fully occupied for several years. Its popularity waned in the less prosperous 1930s, and it was empty in 1937. The following year, the building was gutted; instead of 24 apartments, there were now 75.
Decades later, in 1980, the building was converted to co-op units, and the facade was thoroughly restored.