When A Historic New York Courtyard Springs Back Into Life
The courtyard of Astor Court, a historic building on New York’s Upper West Side, turned 100 years old this past Fall– and with this milestone comes a remembrance of a dying breed of very special New York City green space: the courtyard garden.
The garden at the Astor Court apartments on Broadway from 89th to 90th streets has become something of a celebrated fixture in the design world, at once an inviting and welcoming retreat that delineates the legacy of the Astor Family, beginning with John Jacob Astor– the first multimillionaire in the United States, whose legacy impresses itself on New York City in the form of multiple namesake locations like Astor Place and Astor Place Theatre.
“The typical apartment house had a throwaway rear yard, but Platt made his a garden refuge… Nothing like it had been done in New York, and its design remains one of the most thoughtful in the city.”
When writing about the historical legacy of Vincent Astor, who established Astor Court, Christopher Gray wrote in The New York Times in 2006:
“In 1914, Astor started another much larger project: the $1 million Astor Court apartments on Broadway from 89th to 90th Streets. Here, working with the artist and architect Charles Platt, he erected a facade of brick and stone so carefully detailed that it might have evoked a private club, except that it was 13 stories high.
Architectural critics had been complaining for years that as buildings had grown in height, their cornices had started looking puny. Platt and Astor actually did something about it. Astor Court’s great copper cornice projects out eight feet and was painted in gold and red, as classical monuments once had been.
The typical apartment house had a throwaway rear yard, but Platt made his a garden refuge. He forsook the automobile turnarounds so common at other buildings, substituting instead a series of brick walks and plantings. Nothing like it had been done in New York, and its design remains one of the most thoughtful in the city.”
Today, the Astor Court garden remains a very livable and beautifully-landscaped green space in the heart of The Concrete Jungle. A few weeks ago, GC paid a visit to the historical space as it was coming into its full springtime repose. Below is a collage of imagery highlighting the beautiful garden touches we observed: