This 2.5 hour walking tour around the Midtown Manhattan shows-and-tells the fascinating stories of holdouts'the intriguing side effect of Manhattan's pressure cooker real estate industry: when a property owner (or lease holder) refused to sell to a developer, forced them to rework their plans, and forever changed the city streetscape.
Stories, like the elderly lady who never knew any other home; or the poker player-like landlord who overplayed his hand; or the restauranteur whose long term lease (justifiably) demanded budget-busting sums, all add a human dimension to these transactional anomalies. And personal stories that were otherwise lost, are awesomely amplified by the everlasting impression left behind: seemingly ill-planned entrances for skyscrapers, odd shaped buildings, 20-story tall notches in office towers, are just some of the 16 examples of holdouts we'll see.
This tour is based on the book, Holdouts! By Alpern and Durst.
The tour meets inside the lower atrium of 875 Third Avenue. This building itself is a remarkable result of holdouts; its story stands out for the questionable tactics used to 'encourage' the earlier tenants relocate. The first half of the tour heads south on Third Avenue toward Grand Central Terminal, passing 7 holdouts along the way.
At 805 Third Avenue we'll learn how Smith & Wollensky, the notable steakhouse, was the result of holdouts. At 201 East 42nd Street we'll encounter a corner lot (always a coveted piece of real estate) where a trifecta of greed'the landowner, leasee, and sub-leasee'each individually held out for such ridiculous sums that the developer walked away and built around them, explaining another odd curiosity in the city's Midtown streetwall. We'll see how a coffee shop with a long term lease resulted in 13-story notch in a midtown office building and one shabby, forlorn looking tenement wedged in among the skyscrapers is the result.
At 42nd Street we head across town passing through Grand Central Terminal,' the world famous structure (not encumbered by any holdouts). The second half of our tour goes back uptown, but now on the other side of the tracks of Grand Central.'
At 342 Madison Avenue we'll learn the absurd history of the Canadian Pacific Building, the result of two holdouts along a street: non-adjacent, and neither a corner lot, the effect was a building in the shape of a capital 'E'. It would have financially devastating results. We pass more holdouts as we head west to Sixth Avenue. At 1166 Sixth Avenue we come to one of the most surprising manifestations of a holdout in the city's built environment: the inordinately tall trees of a midblock corporate plaza. Their roots are able to grow deep in the undisturbed earth that was the foundation of a now gone brownstone home. At Rockefeller Center we'll see one of the most well-known holdouts, the Magnolia Bakery building, a block from Radio City Music Hall. It was once Hurley's Saloon, theirs and a few other fascinating stories are associated with the holdouts of Rockefeller Center's development.
We end the tour at 54th Street and Madison Avenue. It is typical insofar as being a restaurant-type hold out, and yet it is awesome in its effect on the skyscraper at the street level, with the mini-monumental Egyptian-style-battered-walls entrance for the restaurant there today, Papillon.
And each one, each holdout's history has attached to it some human story, an ache, need, or desire that overcame the power of developer's pocketbook. Here is a tour that truly humanizes the streets of the city.