New York Transformed: The Architecture of Cross & Cross
By Peter Pennoyer & Anne Walker
IN 1907, NEW YORK CITY’S LANDSCAPE was on the verge of a dramatic change. At that time, the city still existed mainly as a low-rise metropolis rife with tenements, stables, slaughterhouses and factories. But with unbridled wealth pouring in and the construction of new subway lines opening up new neighborhoods for development, the Manhattan of the future was starting to take shape.
Critical in the city’s transformation were Yale-educated and Beaux Arts-trained architect John Walter Cross (1878–1951) and his younger brother and partner, Eliot Cross (1883–1949). They built a successful practice during the vibrant 1910s and 1920s, continuing to work through many difficult and extraordinary events in American history, including The First World War, the Depression and the Second World War. Together, they paved the way for contemporary architects and real estate developers.
In New York Transformed, Pennoyer and Walker trace the exceptional 35-year tenure of John Walter Cross and Eliot Cross. Organized by residential projects, country houses, and civic and commercial architecture, the book includes more than 300 historic and modern photographs, as well as architectural plans and sketches. The brothers and businessmen brought their imagination and dignified style to the streets of New York and beyond, transforming pockets of Manhattan and the surrounding region with their nuanced taste.
When the Cross brothers started their firm in 1907, they were talented at designing anything from elegant Colonial Revival townhouses, clubs, and estates, such as those for Electra Havemeyer Webb, founder of the Shelburne Museum, and Henry Francis du Pont, founder of the Winterthur Museum, to modern office buildings and soaring skyscrapers. In 1922, they successfully parlayed their architectural success into Eliot Cross’ real estate enterprise Webb & Knapp, creating opportunities for profit in their projects—like the revolutionary townhouse enclave of Sutton Place. During the 1920s and 1930s, the firm took on a series of major commercial commissions, including the brilliant RCA Victor Building (General Electric Building); the substantial yet restrained City Bank Farmer’s Trust Company building; and of course, their building for Tiffany & Co., which stands as the last important pre-war merchant palace to be added to the Fifth Avenue streetscape.
Celebrating the brilliance and scope of Cross & Cross, New York Transformed shows how their designs, many of which are still standing, epitomize the glamour and transformative power of the city (and ultimately the United States as a whole) during the first quarter of the twentieth century.