In between the two world wars, as New York’s middle class population was burgeoning and the city was developing at a rapid pace, a new brand of architecture known today as Art Deco came into existence. Characterized by all things bold, angular, striking, and theatrical, Art Deco was the bridge between classical intricacy and modern minimalism, but it has a unique style all its own.
New York City is the worldwide capital of Art Deco. Countless skyscrapers and luxury hotels, as well as diners, theaters, and public spaces are marked by its singular aesthetic. Art Deco became popular during the Jazz Age, when radio, pop culture, improved communication, and the onset of modernity were inspiring the city’s populace to push the limits of what lifestyle could be. Anything was possible at this time in New York—and the city’s architecture reflected this spirit. Even as the Depression set in, Art Deco buildings kept rising up.
Some of New York’s Art Deco buildings have become undeniably iconic and world famous, like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Others are lesser-known, but all are emblems of a unique time in American history, when jazz was taking the city by storm and new levels of freedom were suddenly attainable for more people than ever before.
Read on to discover 10 of the most beautiful, lesser-known Art Deco buildings, from subway stations to garden gates, bathhouses to luxury apartments and more.
And to experience the extraordinary history and vibrant contemporary presence of Art Deco in person, check out Untapped Cities’ Art Deco Tour Series, hosted by Anthony W. Robins, New York City’s best-known Art Deco tour guide and the author of the book New York Art Deco.
More dates and itineraries available here.
10. The Madison-Belmont Building
Image via Flickr: Eden, Janine and Jim
Edgar Brandt designed the entranceway for this building in collaboration with Cheney Brothers, a prominent silk mill company back when the Madison Avenue area was known as the Silk District. Brandt designed the entrance and exhibition hall of Cheney Brothers’ Madison Avenue headquarters in September of 1924. Although its design was primarily traditional, the Madison-Belmont was one of the first buildings in New York to incorporate Art Deco motifs.
Located on 181 Madison Avenue, the building is characterized by the looming iron and bronze framework that Brandt designed to surround its entrance. Innovative for the time, the web of interlaced domes, colored black and gold and strewn with curlicues and chunky floral carvings, would soon be imitated all over the city.