The Aristocrat of Central Park West
Location: 145 Central Park West
Architect: Emery Roth
The iconic silhouette of San Remo is defined by two soaring towers, creating the most distinct and recognizable view along Central Park West.
San Remo, a luxury apartment building designed by Emery Roth, was billed in advertisements as “the Aristocrat of Central Park West.” The most prominent feature of the building is its 10 story towers with apartments that were dubbed “Mansions in the sky.” These apartments, with 360-degree views of the city, are indeed mansions stacked on top of one another. The north tower contains 10 apartments while the south tower has 5 duplexes suspended in the sky.
1930 ad for the San Remo in the Times called it ”as modern as a flying boat, as luxurious as the Ile de France and designed for people who are at home on both. Birds in the sky are your only neighbors.”’
The idea for towers came to Emery Roth as a solution for a zoning law regulation of 1916. By that time the skyscrapers popping all over the city threatened to block sunlight from reaching the streets. The new zoning law decreed that the skyscrapers had to get slimmer as they got taller, which was usually solved by series of setbacks diminishing towards the top, aka “wedding cakes.” Emery Roth came up with another solution, placing two towers on the 17 story base, creating an opportunity for building “no-neighbors” houses in the sky.
The San Remo’s construction began in unfortunate times – in 1929, just weeks before the market crash. By the time it was completed, New York City was in the midst of the Great Depression and the luxury apartment market was practically wiped out. San Remo, after struggling financially, was sold in tandem with the Beresford, another Emery Roth edifice located just a few blocks north, for a mere $25,000 over their mortgages.
However, having survived the bad times, it was converted to a coop in the 1970s. Since then, San Remo turned into a “celebrities” building, attracting a dazzling array of famous residents.
Rita Hayworth, a striking beauty and famous Hollywood star, lived in the building until her death from Alzheimer’s disease.
Steve Jobs, the Apple computer co-founder and CEO, bought an apartment occupying the top two floors of the north tower. He hired IM Pei, one of the most renowned architects of the 20th century, to redesign the apartment, but … never moved in. Instead, he sold it to Bono of U2 for 15 million dollars.