Spotted Around New York: The Beresford
Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, my trips to Central Park for baseball, biking, and building snow forts in winter were anchored by views of the four double-towered apartment buildings beyond the trees. I have often said that children appreciate architecture intuitively, exploring spaces, corners and noticing salient features of their physical environment. From my own childhood, I have memories of the details in iron-work railings and Poseidon heads. I remember the scratchy feel of brownstone stoops and the monumental feel of the buildings on Central Park West. I was fascinated by the golden braid and insignias of the doormen’s uniforms, and by how elevator operators took visitors to the top floors by turning levers, almost like steering a boat with a tiller.
These memories came back to me when I recently worked on an apartment renovation at the Beresford on 81st Street and Central Park West. Built in 1929, the Beresford is unique because it is composed of three buildings wrapped in an “expansive shell,” each with its own tower and elaborate entrance. I discovered that there had been a previously built and subsequently torn-down Hotel Beresford, with communal dining and amenities designed to free residents from housekeeping.
Current apartments at the Beresford are known for their architectural detail. With a view of the Museum of Natural History and Central Park, there is a rare panorama outside its windows. You can easily imagine the building as a setting for the musical genius of Isaac Stern, who lived in a duplex on the 19th floor which was sold to Jerry Seinfeld. Other notables who have lived there include Glen Close, John McEnroe, Helen Gurley Brown, and Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic.
My own appreciation of architecture relates to my interest in poetry; both encompass image, structure, form, and memory. I chose a watercolor painting of the Beresford, painted by artist Susan Weintraub, as the cover art for my own poetry chapbook, Untouched by Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). In my chapbook I tell the stories of people whose intriguing lives have touched the landscape of New York City.