The Encyclopedia Out the Window


The view out of our living room window at 575 West End was of the southeast corner, No. 574. It had been designed in 1911 by Schwartz & Gross, a commercial firm that cranked out two dozen or more projects a year. The developer gave the new building cachet by calling it the Chautauqua, although the fashion for naming buildings was just about to go into hibernation.

Any name seemed presumptuous for a down-at-the-heels West Side rent-controlled apartment house, with a nagging fluorescent light in the vestibule over the beat-up intercom buzzer. The Chautauqua’s lobby was vast — as big as a four-bedroom apartment, a dark, heavy expanse of deeply veined marble, like a sheet of Bavarian pastry. It never in my time had furniture, and might have been the ballroom of an ocean liner at the ship breaker’s. You could have learned to drive in that lobby.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *