Updated: Aug 13, 2020
by Bart Boehlert
An elegant slice of Edwardian New York still thrives on the block of West 67th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Known as the West 67th Street Artists’ Colony Historic District, this block is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The graceful limestone and brick buildings that were designed for artists make up the only significant concentration of artists’ studio apartments in Manhattan. Over the years, residents have included Noel Coward, Isadora Duncan, Rudolph Valentino, Marcel Duchamp, George Balanchine, Norman Rockwell, Ellsworth Kelly and Mike Nichols. The buildings that line the block behind tall, old shade trees capture the romantic past, and contain highly desirable and coveted apartments.
Currently offered with Brown Harris Stevens is 33 West 67th Street, 5FW, on the 9th and 10th floors of the Atelier building, which was built in 1905. Typical of the artist studio apartment, it boasts double-height windows facing north, a wide balcony overlooking a double-height living room, and a working fireplace. An extensive remodeling has also introduced the most modern appliances and conveniences.
Early in the twentieth century, landscape painter Henry Ward Ranger sought a home where he could live and work, and devised a layout for a studio apartment building. The apartments had double-height ceilings for large canvases and sculptures, and double-height windows that faced north. Many artists favor northern light, which is cooler and more constant than bright, direct sunlight from the south. For a site, West 67th Street appealed because at the time it was lined by horse stables with no tall buildings nearby. Ranger organized a group of artists to invest, and architects Simonson, Pollard & Steinam built The Sixty Seventh Street Studios at 27 West 67th in 1905.
Seven more artists’ buildings followed on 67th Street, all on the north side of the block, except for the Musician’s Building at number 50 on the south side since musicians don’t require northern light. Musicians and singers do practice though so all of the apartments were completely soundproofed. The artist studio buildings were designed in the Renaissance and Gothic styles, and facades are ornately decorated with arches, pinnacles, and carved heads, animals and birds.
The largest of the buildings constructed was the Hotel des Artistes, at the corner of 67th and Central Park West, designed by architect George Mort Pollard in 1917. The layout included a ballroom, a squash court, a swimming pool and rooftop garden. For many years it housed on its first floor the popular Café des Artistes restaurant, which closed in 2009 and reopened in 2011 as The Leopard at des Artistes.
The scenic block connects Central Park with the Lincoln Center neighborhood. On the street, an air of the original esoteric goals still lingers. As Good Housekeeping noted in 1906, "In the Atelier building in Sixty-seventh Street, New York, artists, both men and women, seek to capture on canvas Beauty all the day through.”
(The Central Park Studios at 15 W. 67th Street, pictured above)