The Brill Building

Midtown, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United StatesSince its construction in 1930-31, the 11-story Brill Building has been synonymous with American music – from the last days of Tin Pan Alley to the emergence of rock and roll. Occupying the northwest corner of Broadway and West 49th Street, it was commissioned by real estate developer Abraham Lefcourt who briefly planned to erect the world’s tallest structure on the site, which was leased from the Brill Brothers, owners of a men’s clothing store. When Lefcourt failed to meet the terms of their agreement, the Brills foreclosed on the property and the name of the nearly-complete structure was changed from the Alan E. Lefcourt Building to the, arguably more melodious sounding, Brill Building. Designed in the Art Deco style by architect Victor A. Bark, Jr., the white brick elevations feature handsome terra-cotta reliefs, as well as two niches that prominently display stone and brass portrait busts that most likely portray the developer’s son, Alan, who died as the building was being planned. A remarkable number of tenants have been music publishers, but the building is also notable for attracting an evolving roster of songwriters, booking agents, vocal coaches, publicity agents, talent agents, and performers.As the popularity of big band music and jazz increased, many performers leased offices in the building, including Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole. By the early 1960s, more than 160 tenants were involved in the music industry. While not every artist associated with the so-called “Brill Building sound” actually worked at 1619 Broadway, these creative men and women produced some of early rock and roll’s most beautifully-crafted and memorable songs. Also contributing to the building’s reputation have been various commercial tenants, including such fashionable restaurants as Jack Dempsey’s and the Turf, and a succession of vast second floor nightclubs, including the Hurricane, Club Zanzibar and Bop City, where jazz briefly gained a prominent midtown venue and a wider audience in the 1940s. Few office buildings in New York City are as closely associated with a single profession as the Brill Building. Built on speculation at the start of the Great Depression, during 1930-31, for the next half-century this 11-story Art Deco-style structure was synonymous with popular music and entertainment. A succession of tenants, including music publishers, talent agents, songwriters, and nightclubs, have contributed to the building’s legendary status. Not only were more than 160 music-related businesses based here by the early 1960s but music historian Ian Inglis has written that these talented artists brought “a new professionalism and maturity to rock and roll,” leading to the increased presence of women as performers and producers, as well as the development of the “singer-songwriter” – artists who compose and record their own material. And Ken Emerson, author of Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, observed: “The music publishers and songwriters who worked there routinized the creation and production of rock ‘n’ roll. They smoothed the rough edges . . . Reigning in the unruliness of rock ‘n’ roll made it safe for teenage America and profitable in the mass marketplace.”3 During this period, the Brill Building became the unofficial center of pop music in the United States. While not all of the artists and companies associated with the so-called “Brill Building sound” actually leased space here, such myths demonstrate the structure’s longstanding importance, from its early ties to Tin Pan Alley and the Big Band era to the present day. The Site The Brill Building occupies the northwest corner of Broadway and West 49th Street. It was named for the Brill Brothers – Samuel, Max and Maurice – who operated a Manhattan chain of men’s clothing stores for more than five decades. Founded by Samuel and Maurice Brill in late 1886, their first store was located in lower Manhattan at 45 Cortlandt Street, near Church Street. The Brills began leasing the Broadway site in 1909 and a branch opened here in October 1910. The New York Times reported: The steady growth of Times Square and the adjoining streets as the business centre of Manhattan is proved this morning by the opening of a new clothing store . . . it covers half the block on the Broadway side and 75 feet in Forty-ninth Street.The site was originally owned by Archibald D. and Albertina Russell, who conveyed it to the financiers Moses Taylor and Percy R. Pyne (1857-1929) in 1919. The Ruspyn Corporation was established following Pyne’s death and the lease with the Brill Brothers was extended 85 years. This set the stage for a sublease to the 1619 Realty Corporation, which agreed to erect a building of at least six stories, valued at more than $400,000. In addition, the contract stipulated that any plans be approved by the Brills.Plan and Construction On October 3, 1929, three weeks before the stock market crash, Lefcourt announced plans to build the world’s tallest structure at the northwest corner of Broadway and 49th Street. Representing an investment of $30 million, the Chicago Tribune reported: An arrangement already settled between the builder and his client, said to be one of the largest business institutions in the country, is that the building shall not be less than the height announced.Not only would the 1,050-foot tower be much taller than the 538-foot Lefcourt-Colonial Building – the firm’s tallest project to date – but it would also have surpassed two of the city’s loftiest structures: the 1,046-foot Chrysler Building (completed May 1930, a designated New York City Landmark) and the 927-foot Manhattan Company Building (a designated New York City Landmark). In the weeks that followed, Lefcourt may have become uneasy about such ambitious plans. Though he remained publicly optimistic about the real estate market, a December 1929 article made no mention of the Brill Building’s height.16 This suggests that he had difficulty financing the tower or that the original height was being reconsidered, and subsequently, reduced. Despite a tough economic climate, the project eased forward. Lefcourt and the 1619 Realty Company finalized the purchase of the lease from the Brill Brothers in January 1930 and in March 1930 plans (NB 46-1930) for a much lower structure were submitted to the Department of Buildings. The New York Times commented: “No definite statement could be obtained yesterday regarding the reason for changing the plans.”17 Bark was identified as the architect and the owner was the Ruspyn Corporation, with Percy P. Pyne as president. It was described as ten stories tall, with a penthouse, stores, bank and offices. The estimated cost was modest, $1 million. Initially called the Alan E. Lefcourt Building, construction began in May 1930 and the exterior work was completed in late November 1930. Design The Brill Building is a handsome example of the Art Deco style. Especially popular with New York City real estate developers from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, it grew out of Beaux Arts classicism and included decorative elements associated with structures erected at the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs & Industriels of 1925, as well as other European styles. Prior to this period, American architects tended to find inspiration in historical forms, borrowing ideas not only from classical sources, but also from medieval and Byzantine models, as illustrated in such designated New York City Landmarks as: the New York Times Building (various architects, begun 1912) on West 43rd Street, the American Radiator Building (Raymond Hood, 1923-24) on West 41st Street, and the Bowery Savings Bank (York & Sawyer, begun 1921-23) on East 42nd Street. In contrast to subsequent architectural trends, particularly following the Second World War, Art Deco buildings are frequently distinguished by low decorative reliefs, vivid colors, and unusual materials. Times Square has relatively few buildings of this style. This can be explained by the fact that most theaters were completed before 1925 when variants of neo-Classicism were at the height of popularity. With few sites open to development, only a small group of neighborhood structures would reflect the new fashion; surviving examples include: the Manufacturer’s Trust Bank (Dennison & Hirons, 1927-28, now a theater and stores) at the northwest corner of Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street; the Film Center Building (Ely Jacques Kahn, 1928-29, a designated Landmark Interior) at 630 Ninth Avenue; the Edison Hotel (Herbert J. Krapp, 1930-31) on West 47th Street; and the McGraw-Hill Building (Raymond Hood, 1930-31, a designated New York City Landmark), at 330 West 42nd Street. In designing the Brill Building, Bark divided the Broadway and 49th Street facades into three distinct sections: a three-story base, a seven-story shaft, and penthouse. These elevations are faced with mainly white brick but the base, the central window bays, and the top story incorporate light-colored terra-cotta reliefs. This cast material was favored by early 20th-century architects as a less costly but attractive substitute for carved ornament. While some architects used it extensively, covering entire facades, as in the Woolworth Building (Cass Gilbert, 1910­13, a designated New York City Landmark), in most instances it was used selectively to enhance specific architectural features and to enrich setbacks on the upper floors. Though the source of this building’s terra cotta has yet to be identified, it may have been produced by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company (active 1907-43), which supplied similar decorative reliefs to several contemporary buildings in Times Square. This Brill Building has mostly conventional, one-over-one fenestration, but the three-story base is almost entirely glazed with a distinctive combination of gridded and fixed window panes. The main entrance was positioned at the center of the Broadway facade, opening to a small foyer and a deep hallway that leads to an elevator lobby along the west side of the building. Though the width of the entrance is relatively narrow, Bark used eye-catching materials to highlight it. Three gleaming brass-finished doors are flanked by polished black granite piers, topped with brass cruciform details that extend up and slightly cover the base of the second-story windows. The elaborate door surround features a grid of windows that resembles a ziggurat. These windows illuminate the foyer and provide visual support for the niche that contains a bust. Set on a pedestal, flanked by elaborate scrollwork and ascending panels incorporating slim vertical reliefs, the brass sculpture sits in an elaborate faceted niche, crowned by a keystone. The John Hartell Company is likely to have been responsible for executing these dazzling features since it recently had collaborated with Bark on the Lefcourt-Colonial Building. At the corner of each facade, above the storefronts, the outermost window bays are flanked by double-height pilasters. These flat, brown pilasters are crowned by square reliefs that suggest capitals, a device frequently used by contemporary architects. Between the second and third floors is a continuous band of polychrome (bluish gray and pink) terra-cotta reliefs. Aligned with each set of metal-framed windows, these panels are divided into three sections. The distinctive treatment of these floors suggests that the interior spaces were designed for a specific purpose. Not only would these decorative elements attract attention to the lower floors but the continuous fenestration permitted generous views south toward the heart of Times Square. To gently lead the eye up both elevations, Bark used recessed terra-cotta panels above the three center window bays. These white panels contain foliate reliefs, crowned by a wave-like horizontal band that functions as a window sill. To cap the uppermost windows, a narrower panel was used. Less tall than the rest, it has clipped corners that when viewed together with the brick pilasters suggest curtains being pulled open. At this level, the architect also added six raised terra-cotta circles above the three side window bays. The 11th floor penthouse, recessed from 49th Street and disguised by a stepped gable, incorporates a large masonry or terra-cotta bust set into a niche, flanked by round arched windows. This massing is decorative – not only does it hide the penthouse but this feature recalls the developer’s original intent to construct a much taller structure since taller buildings were generally required to have setbacks. Roof-top signs also contribute to the Brill Building’s character and its historic role in Times Square. Since as early as 1934, it has served as a platform for a steel framework that supports colorful illuminated signs. Long-term advertisers have included Camel cigarettes (1934) and Budweiser beer (c. 1958). Set atop the penthouse, at an angle to Broadway, these multi-story billboards face south and enjoy great visibility. The Portrait Busts Above the Broadway entrance, incorporated into the brass window surround, is a small niche displaying a bust. This sculpture, as well as the slightly larger masonry (possibly terra cotta) bust installed at the penthouse level, has frequently been interpreted as a portrait of Alan E. Lefcourt, for whom the building was originally named and who died two months before the architect filed plans with the Department of Buildings. In both busts, the subject is portrayed as dressed in a three-piece suit and tie. Whereas the head in the 11th-floor niche faces directly forward, the brass bust is turned slightly to the left. Figurative sculptures, set into niches and roundels, were an important part of the ecclesiastical tradition in Europe, used on church facades to represent saints and occasionally religious patrons. In the late 19th century, terra-cotta sculptures of historical figures were sometimes used to decorate the exteriors of institutional structures, such as the six large portrait heads on the Brooklyn Historical Society (1878-81, part of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District) by Olin Levi Warner, and a series of portrait busts portraying figures from antiquity and physicians on the Deutsches (German) Dispensary (1883-84, a designated New York City Landmark), 137 Second Avenue, Manhattan. In terms of commercial structures, the print dealer Frederick Keppel embellished the facade of 4 East 39th Street (George B. Post, 1904) with the “first permanent memorial” to the painter James McNeil Whistler,19 as well as a portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn, and above the entrance to the Gainsborough Studios (1907-8, a designated New York City Landmark), 222 Central Park South, is a bust of the 18th-century English portrait and landscape painter. In Times Square, at least two buildings display portraits connected to the performing arts: the elaborate north entrance to the Lyric Theater (Victor Hugo Koehler, 1903, now the Hilton Theater), 214 West 43rd Street, includes portraits of the light opera composer Reginald De Koven, for whom it was built, as well as Gilbert & Sullivan, and the south facade of the I. Miller Shoe Store (1926, a designated New York City Landmark) contains three full-length portraits, set into gilt niches. Chosen by popular vote, these sculptures represent leading actresses in their most famous theatrical roles. The busts on the Brill Building are especially unusual because of their personal nature. When former New York governor Samuel Tilden built his house on Gramercy Park (Vaux & Radford, 1881-84, a designated New York City Landmark), he decorated the lower facade with small brownstone portraits of his favorite authors. While caricatures of individuals are sometimes incorporated as building details, such as the architect, owner, and engineer flanking the elevators in the Woolworth Building, the central and conspicuous placement of the two busts on the Brill Building is notable. Born in 1912, Alan E. Lefcourt gained some notoriety at the age of twelve when his father, Abraham, gave him ownership of a $10 million office building, to be erected at the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 34th Street. Abraham reportedly said that he wished to “inculcate in his son . . . a sense of thrift and responsibility.” Alan, however, was unable to enjoy the financial returns anticipated by his father – a victim of anemia, he died in February 1930. The only known contemporary account that mentions the brass bust appeared in November 1932, as part of Abraham Lefcourt’s New York Times obituary: “Alan died, he put up an eight-story building with his son’s bust over the entrance.”21 In 1990, David Dunlap speculated that the penthouse niche displays the “bust of the developer, Abraham E. Lefcourt.” More recently, in 1999, New York Times reporter Daniel B. Schneider wrote: “The subject of the two busts is uncertain . . . Evidence suggests that the one on the 11th floor is Abraham E. Lefcourt, the building’s developer, and that the other, is his son.” Such interpretations may be based on the fact that both died early, well before average age. While it seems likely that the brass portrait is, in fact, a memorial bust, the other bust was installed by September 1930 – more than two years before Abraham’s untimely death, suggesting that it, too, represents the son, or, perhaps, an idealized male tenant. Music Tenants A rental office opened in September 1930. With “new automatic-stop, high-speed elevators” and plans for a ground floor shopping lobby, early leases were reportedly signed with “public utility companies, law firms, certified public accountants and other professional interests.” Despite confident accounts in the press, a great many units remained vacant. Contemporary telephone directories list relatively few tenants and a 1934 photograph shows a two-story-high banner advertising “OFFICES” across windows along the east edge of the 49th Street facade. Furthermore, many windows were without shades or blinds, suggesting that considerable space remained available.The Brill Building was planned as “executive office space” with floors that could be subdivided. When this initial strategy failed, smaller spaces were created and leased – the kinds of offices that appeal to wide variety of businesses. It was under these circumstances that the popular music industry found a new base in New York City, from the last years of Tin Pan Alley to the dawn of rock and roll. Phone directories indicate there were approximately 100 entertainment-related tenants in 1940, and as many as 165 by 1962. These included an evolving roster of songwriters, music publishers, booking agents, vocal coaches, publicity agents, talent managers, and performers. Early tenants tended to be music publishers, some with ties to Tin Pan Alley. They included the T. B. Harms Company, one of the earliest American firms to profit from the sale of sheet music to musical stage shows; Mills Music Inc., headed by Jack and Irving Mills (aka Joe Primrose), a major independent publisher of sheet music and jazz recordings; Famous Music, established in 1928 by Famous-Lasky Pictures (later Paramount Pictures) to produce and publish songs from film musicals; Southern Music Company, founded by music scout and engineer Ralph S. Peer in 1928; Crawford Music Corporation (B. G. De Sylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson); and lyricist/composer Irving Caesar, one of the building’s longest tenants, who wrote more than 700 songs and continued to lease space until the 1970s. According to the Times Square Alliance, of more than 1200 songs performed on the popular radio and television program Your Hit Parade (1935-58), 404 songs, about a third, originated with Brill Building tenants. Other 1930s tenants included numerous attorneys; Hyman Caplan, a boxing promoter; theater producer George Choos; as well as the management offices of the Ben Bernie, Earl J. Carpenter, and George Olsen orchestras. As the popularity of jazz and big bands grew in the late 1930s, many popular groups, some with ties to music publishers in the building, leased offices in the Brill Building, including Cab Calloway, Tommy Dorsey (aka the Embassy Music Corporation, 11th story penthouse), and Duke Ellington. Ben Barton, a former vaudevillian, founded the Barton Music Corporation in 1943. A close friend of Frank Sinatra, who performed with Dorsey’s orchestra in the early 1940s, Barton’s firm published and controlled much of the singer’s best-known compositions, as did a related tenant, Sinatra Songs, until the mid-1960s.31 Vocalists Nat King Cole and Louis Prima had offices here in the 1950s, as did the influential radio disk jockey Alan Freed, Roost (later Roulette) Records, the music publishing companies Charles K. Harris and Harry von Tilzer, and the celebrated songwriting team of (Johnny) Burke & (Jimmy) Van Heusen. The heyday of the Brill Building was during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Not only were there more music-related tenants here than at any other time, but these tenants helped make rock and roll music part of the American mainstream. Music historian Ian Inglis wrote: “it is one of the few buildings whose name many readily evoke a particular period or circumstance – along with, for example, the Cavern, Graceland, Studio 54, and Harlem’s Apollo Theater” (1913-14, a designated New York City Landmark and Interior). Though not every artist, songwriter, and producer associated with the building, particularly Aldon Music, actually leased offices here, a remarkable number did.33 In his 2003 essay on the building’s legacy, Inglis summarized: Stylistically, its innovations can be credited with much of the responsibility for the increased presence of women as performers and producers of popular music, and for the development of the singer-songwriter. Industrially, its working practices and policies informed many of the changing emphases – and responses to them – characterizing the organization and implementation of the commercial operations of popular music. Creatively, it has been seen as a major source of inspiration for performers and musicians within a variety of popular music genres. One of the most significant tenants during this period was Hill & Range Songs, founded by Jean and Julien Aberbach in 1948. Located in the 11th-story penthouse, this publishing company had numerous subsidiaries, including Big Top, Rumbalero and Gladys Music. Among the talented songwriters on their staff were (Jerry) Leiber & (Mike) Stoller, who wrote numerous hit songs for Elvis Presley and other artists, as well as the songwriting team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman – all members of the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame. Red Bird Records, specializing in “girl groups,” was founded by Leiber & Stoller and was based on the ninth floor during the mid-1960s. Other memorable songwriting tenants included the team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who were associated with Red Bird and other recording labels. Composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David met at Famous Music in 1957 and together would write more than one hundred songs for films and Broadway productions, as well as the singers Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, and Tom Jones.37 David recalled: The preponderance of songwriters were in the Brill Building, the energy was in the Brill Building, the publishers were there, and if you had to be someplace else, you always wound up back at the Brill sometime during the day.[he and Bacharach] started out in New York and met almost every day in the Brill building for about 17 years . . . It was still filled with music publishers when we were there. We wrote in the same little room with an upright piano. Eventually, we moved back and forth between New York and Los Angeles. Starting the late 1960s and 1970s, the number of tenants in the entertainment industry began to decline – many moved to Los Angeles – with only a fraction remaining today.40 They include: Charing Cross Music, Paul Simon Music; Sound One, an audio post-production facility; KMA Music, a recording studio; Saint Nicholas Music, founded by songwriter Johnny Marks in 1949 and specializing in popular holiday songs; and Broadway Video, an entertainment company and film distributor founded in 1979 by television/film producer Lorne Michaels. Commercial Tenants The base was planned for retail use, with street level shops and related tenants on the second and third floors. One of the first businesses to sign a lease was Joseph Hilton & Sons, a chain of men’s clothing stores. To be located at the corner of 49th Street, the New York Times reported: “This lease, one of the largest that has been closed for many months in the Times Square district” was valued at almost $1 million.Hilton & Sons, however, never moved into the building and this space became part of a much larger store operated by Brill Brothers, the property’s lessee. Their clothing store opened in August 1932, with ample display windows, shaded by retractable awnings, extending along both Broadway and 49th Street. On opening day, an advertisement boasted that it was: Distinctively a “man’s store” . . . a shopping place all his own . . . in all New York there are few men’s stores so fine . . . so modern . . . so satisfying. Men who know you, and know what you want will make you feel “at home” as soon as you enter. May we have the pleasure of showing you around? During the 1930s, the company had as many as four branches, with stores at 49 Cortlandt Street, Seventh Avenue and 35th Street, and 41st Street, near Madison Avenue. Max D. Brill (1866­1938) retired in 1930 and Samuel Brill (b. 1859) died in 1931, leaving Maurice Brill (1869­1951) as head of the business. Brill Brothers closed in spring 1940 and the corner space was leased to the Turf Restaurant.Because of the proximity to Times Square and the second location of Madison Square Garden (Eighth Avenue and 50th Street, demolished), many of the new tenants were involved in the entertainment industry. Though the ground floor was planned for stores, the earliest tenant to open was actually a pair of movie theaters operated by the Trans-Lux Movies Corporation. Located to the right of the Broadway entrance, the New York Times said it was: Constructed in modern style, with a silver and black design, the two houses have turnstiles instead of doormen, daylight projection, and other innovations.The Trans-Lux opened in May 1931, with one screen devoted to short features and the other to sound newsreels. To celebrate the opening, U.S. President Herbert Hoover wired Courtland Smith, the sponsor: I extend congratulations on the opening of your New York theatres. The showing of new pictures throughout the country cannot but be educational and instructive. The bringing of world events into the lives of great numbers of our people will serve to promote better understanding and closer world relations.In late 1937 the theaters closed and the space was leased to Jack Dempsey. It was one of several businesses owned by the famed prize fighter, who held the world’s heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. With a streamlined storefront and interior, napkins described the “Broadway Bar and Cocktail Lounge” as “The Meeting Place of the World.” Dempsey remained a prominent celebrity and the restaurant attracted both fans and musicians. It stayed at this location until 1974, when it closed following a dispute with the building’s new owner. At this time, the New York Times described it as “one of the last survivors of the Damon Runyon era of Broadway.” In 1940, the large corner space became the Turf Restaurant, operated by Jack Joseph Amiel and Arnold Ruben. One location in a small chain, it gained particular notoriety in 1951 when Amiel’s horse, Count Turf, won the Kentucky Derby. The restaurant specialized in lobster and steak (often called Surf and Turf), as well as cheesecake. Amiel, who later became a part owner of Jack Dempsey’s, sold his interest in 1957 and the Turf closed in 1963. Popular with songwriters and musicians, Duke Ellington was a frequent customer at the Turf and aspiring actor Sidney Poitier worked as a dishwasher – his first job in New York City – during 1943. Since about 1974 the corner storefront has been leased to Colony Records, also known as the Colony Record Center. Founded by Harold S. (Nappy) Grossbardt and Sidney Turk by 1948, the store was formerly located at Broadway and 52nd Street, where it developed a reputation as a gathering place for musicians. In recent decades, Colony has specialized in vintage records, sheet music, karaoke software, and souvenirs devoted to the theater district. NightclubsThe vast second floor was initially leased to the Paradise, a popular cabaret. Reached by stairs, located directly left of the Broadway entrance, it covered approximately 15,000 square feet and held as many as a thousand people. Planned by the celebrated architect and interior designer Joseph Urban, the cost of construction was estimated at $500,000. Large signs, obscuring the second-floor windows and projecting at an angle over the corner, claimed it was “America’s foremost restaurant” with the “world’s most beautiful girls.” Floorshows, sometimes called “Paradise Parades,” were accompanied by such well-known performers as the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Glenn Miller.During the 1940s, this space housed a succession of clubs associated with the growing popularity of jazz. Some Harlem nightspots opened midtown locations, offering big band music and later bebop. The Paradise closed in late 1939 or 1940 and became the Hurricane, with “palm trees, tropical flora and fauna” evoking the Pacific Ocean island of Tahiti. Operated briefly by lawyer David J. Wolper, who reportedly received ownership as part of a 1942 financial settlement with a gangster, it had a troubled existence, marred by suspicious fires and “stench bombs.” Duke Ellington headlined at the Hurricane during 1943 and 1944 and some of these performances were aired nationally on the Mutual and Columbia Broadcasting Systems. Club (Café) Zanzibar occupied the second floor from approximately 1944 to 1948. Ellington frequently performed here, as well, as did the Nat King Cole Trio, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, the Ink Spots, and Louis Jordan. In 1949 it became Bop City, managed by Ralph Watkins, formerly of the Royal Roost, a legendary jazz venue. He told the United Press that his staff would dress in “bop fashion,” wearing berets and polka-dot ties and that “some will sport goatees, which are popular among bop players.” It debuted with Artie Shaw and Ella Fitzgerald on April 14, 1949; subsequent headliners included Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, and Sara Vaughn. The club also maintained an enlightened policy of hiring “mixed waiters,” meaning waiters of different races. Despite presenting celebrated performers, Bop City struggled to find a consistent audience and closed in 1950 or 1951. In subsequent years, it functioned as the Avalon Ballroom, closing around 1966. Later History The Ruspyn Corporation sold the building to the Inch Corporation, later known as Breecom, in 1966. Allan Rose’s AVR Realty Company sold it to Murray Hill Properties and Westbrook Partners in 2007, who sold the property to Stonehenge Partners, Inc. (with INVESCO Real Estate of Dallas, Texas) in November 2007. The Brill Building has been featured in a handful of feature films, including The House on 92nd Street (1945) and the Sweet Smell of Success (1957), in which the gilt lobby appears, as well as in several Woody Allen productions: Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Hollywood Ending (2002), and Anything Else (2003).Description The 11-story Brill Building, 1619 Broadway, is located at the northwest corner of Broadway and West 49th Street. On Broadway, the facade is divided into three sections: a three-story base, a seven-story shaft, and a single-story penthouse. The main entrance is located at the center of the ground story. Flanked by polished black granite piers, capped with elaborate brass metal work, the entrance features three brass doors with glass panels and handles on the left, surmounted by a sign for the building in capital letters set against a black background, gridded glass windows configured like a ziggurat, and a richly-decorated niche for the bust of the developer’s son set on a pedestal. The stores, located on either side of the Broadway entrance, have non-historic display windows and non-historic illuminated signage. The south storefront has a corner entrance, opening onto both Broadway and 49th Street. Established by 1964, this angled configuration incorporates cast-concrete piers. The second and third stories have large windows flanked by pairs of masonry piers at either end. Each pier, as well as the simple cornice that extends above the third-story windows is tinted brown, suggesting the use of a non-historic coating. The second floor windows are slightly taller than the third story. Between the floors are pink, yellow, and blue terra-cotta reliefs. Each window bay is divided into three sections. The wide center section contains a single fixed panel above a multi-pane sash. The vertical side windows are arranged in six-over-six or nine-over­nine grids. The northernmost window on the second floor has been replaced by a non-historic, tripartite ventilation grille, with horizontal metal louvers. On the third floor, the third window bay from the corner of 49th Street has been altered by the replacement of the center fixed-panel and-sash with horizontal metal louvers. The fourth through the eleventh floors are faced with white brick. There are nine pairs of one-over-one windows across each floor, flanked by continuous piers. The three pairs of windows at the center of the facade are crowned by white foliate terra-cotta reliefs that incorporate a sill on top. Above the tenth floor, these terra-cotta reliefs have no sill and feature concave corners. In contrast, the three pairs of side windows display no ornamentation other than small circular reliefs above the tenth story. The top of the stepped penthouse level is trimmed with thin bands of terra-cotta relief. At center is an elaborate faceted niche, trimmed with terra cotta, that displays a possibly limestone bust on a projecting pedestal. To either side are small arched windows, with stone or terra-cotta sills. The West 49th Street facade faces south. The base and upper floors are similar to the Broadway facade, with identical white brick and terra-cotta embellishments. The west end of the ground story, which incorporates a secondary entrance and loading area, is non-historic. Above the tenth story are small circular reliefs, as well as a raised parapet at center. Near or at the west end of the 2nd, 5th, and 8th floors, the windows have been replaced with metal ventilation grilles. The south end of the west (rear) facade is visible from 49th Street. Here, due to the curved east corner of the tan brick Ambassador Theater (1919-21), two rows of windows can be seen, as well as a blank brick wall that steps up toward the center of the building, and a single metal pipe on the roof. Two windows on the eighth floor contain ventilation grilles. The north facade is simply treated and partly visible from Broadway and 50th Street, where the upper floors can be seen above the adjoining building, as well as part of the west (rear) facade, including an engaged structure with a single window, possibly containing stairs. To the south, at the rear of the 11th story penthouse, are two additional floors. The east and north-facing facades contain simple windows with industrial sash. The rest of the north facade (fifth to tenth floor) incorporates four sets of windows; the outer sets are grouped in pairs, the inner two sets, in groups of three. At the center of this facade is a projecting rectangular chimney shaft. Between the west pair of windows, a single metal pipe extends the full height of the façade. Most are three-over-three industrial sash, except where projecting metal ventilation ducts have been installed. On the lower floors, beside the roof of the adjoining building, the windows have vertical security bars. Air conditioning units have been installed in a small number of windows, as well as some horizontal ventilation grilles. Two electric lights are attached to the center of the facade, below the seventh floor, directed down onto the adjoining roof. On the roof, set at a slight angle to Broadway, is a metal framework that displays two illuminated non-historic signs facing north and south. - From the 2010 NYCLPC Landmark Designation Report

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Taken on January 2, 2012
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