Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
Synonymous with exclusive co-ops, sprawling apartments, and elegant interiors, few names carry as much cachet in New York City real estate as Rosario Candela’s.
Born in Italy in 1890 to a Sicilian plasterer, Candela first began to design apartment buildings in the early 1920s—just about ten years after he graduated with an architecture degree from Columbia University.
In previous decades, wealthy New Yorkers like the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Rockefellers, opted to construct opulent mansions, mainly along Fifth Avenue, for their homes. While impressive, these Gilded Age mansions proved to be wildly unsustainable, and by the ‘20s, the vast majority were sold to real estate developers.
Many of those developers constructed high-end apartment houses in place of the mansions. As a result, the 1920s became a golden age of luxury apartment architecture as the standard for wealthy families moved toward living quarters that required much less upkeep than towering mansions.
At the forefront of this shift was the architect Rosario Candela, whose first big commission was in 1927 at 960 Fifth Avenue, a 12-unit apartment building on the site of Senator William A. Clark’s former 147-room mansion. Suffice to say, the building was luxurious—a New York Times article described 960 Fifth Avenue as “12 mansions built one on top another.”
Similar to how McKim, Mead, & White helped to set the standard for wealthy New Yorkers designing mansions during the Gilded Age, Rosario Candela produced some of the most sought-after spaces of New York City’s interwar period.
What’s better is that the vast majority of his work—if not his entire body of architecture—survives today, still sought after as a gold-standard of apartment living. Here are a few Candela-designed apartments for sale right now.
778 Park Avenue, 11th Floor (6 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, $39.5 million)
Considered one of Candela’s most successful projects, 778 Park Avenue had a bit of a tumultuous beginning. Completed during the heart of the Great Depression in 1930, the co-op initially struggled to attract tenants and offered rentals at a discount.
Those days are long behind the co-op, which now commands some of the highest prices in the city. And for good reason: Each room in this apartment is of a massive scale (the living room is over 30 feet long) and appointed with meticulous architectural details, which seem to draw inspiration from French and Neoclassical architectural styles.
The layout of the apartment is remarkably intact. There are three distinct sections: The public area for entertaining—gallery, living room, dining room, and library—the private bedroom corridor, and the service wing with a network of staff rooms for live-in help.
834 Fifth Avenue, 7-8 A (7 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, $76 Million)
When this 12,000-square-foot unit first hit the market for $120 million over a year ago, it claimed the superlative of New York City’s most expensive listing. It has since shed $44 million from the price.
The 20-room duplex has a bit of an unorthodox layout. The living room is on the second floor, the same as that of the master bedroom. The first floor has the dining room and library.
Similar to 778 Park, the apartment has three distinct sections: Public, private, and service. The centerpiece of the public spaces is the 50-foot-long living room, which directly overlooks Central Park. The service areas on the first floor twist and turn throughout the back of the building, leading into a network of bedrooms.
Also completed around 1930, 834 Fifth Avenue has been home to Rupert Murdoch and Elizabeth Arden.
1 East 66th Street, 3-4C (2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, $3 million)
Not every Candela apartment is the size of a small village. One of his last apartment buildings, 1 East 66th Street, features more modestly sized layouts.
Completed in 1949, just four years before his death in 1953, the building has hallmarks of Candela construction—like a woodburning fireplace and foyer with sweeping staircase—but on a more modest scale. The duplex apartment features an open living-dining room and a small kitchen on the first floor.
The second floor has two bedrooms, en-suite bathrooms, and ample closet space. Adding to the vintage charm of the apartment is the yellow Chinoiserie wallpaper, which we hope comes with the package—and is appreciated by the next owner!
And the best part? Direct views of Central Park.
- Period Dramas [Curbed]