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Beekman Place is a small street located on the east side of Manhattan, New York City in the neighborhood of Turtle Bay. Running from north to south for two blocks, the street is situated between the eastern end of 51st Street and Mitchell Place, where it ends at a retaining wall above 49th Street, overlooking the glass apartment towers at 860 and 870 United Nations Plaza, just north of the United Nations Headquarters complex. "Beekman Place" also refers to the residential neighborhood that surrounds the street itself. It is named after the Beekman family, who were influential in New York City's development.
The neighborhood was the site of the Beekman family mansion, Mount Pleasant, which James Beekman built in 1765. James Beekman was a descendant of Willem Beekman, for whom Beekman Street and William Street were named. The British made their headquarters in the mansion for a time during the American Revolutionary War, and Nathan Hale was tried as a spy in the mansion's greenhouse and hanged in a nearby orchard. George Washington visited the house many times during his presidency. The Beekman family lived at Mount Pleasant until a cholera epidemic forced them to move in 1854, but the home survived until 1874, when it was torn down.
With the surge of immigration from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Lower East Side's slums expanded north. The Beekman Place area's well-off residents gave way to impoverished workers employed in the coalyards that lined much of the East River. The neighborhood's rehabilitation began in the 1920s, facilitated primarily by Anne Morgan of the Morgan banking family, who lived slightly farther north on Sutton Place.
One Beekman Place, the 1929 co-op designed by Sloan & Robertson and Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray, is "the most prestigious Beekman Place apartment building". It was built by a group headed by David Milton, husband of Abby Rockefeller and son-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Early tenants here included "Wild Bill" Donovan of the OSS, John D. Rockefeller III, Prince Aly Khan, A&P heir Huntington Hartford, and Happy Rockefeller. The building has a lavishly tiled pool on the ground floor for the tenants, as well as a basketball court and a small Ping-Pong table.
In the nineteen-fifties, and perhaps for some time before and/or after, 1 Beekman Place was the residence of the British Consul General in New York.
Modernist architect Paul Rudolph designed, built, and repeatedly renovated his long-term residence at 23 Beekman Place from 1967 until shortly before his death in 1997. The architectural features of this four-level penthouse include a slender steel skeletal structure and a stepped succession of concrete panels cantilevering over an existing older townhouse, large walls of glass with panoramic East River views, high ceilings, and open floor plans. William Grindereng, once a tenant there, describes Rudolph's residence as follows:
"...his apartment at Beekman Place in New York underwent a number of reincarnations. One of them, I think it was the second one to the last, featured a bird walk, like [Frank Lloyd] Wright’s at Taliesin. It was a very narrow little gangway that went out to a little seating area with seats on two sides. It was supported on some very, very tall steel columns underneath this little seating area. The ground sloped away precipitously to Roosevelt Boulevard and the East River. The frightening thing about it was this thing was constructed all of metal grating. When you went out there, you could look down and see through. It was very unsubstantial. Rudolph loaned me that apartment once when he was out of town and I was doing something in New York. I stayed there. I went out on this bird walk to the little seating area and it was really scary. I mentioned this to Rudolph when he came back. He said, 'Yes, I’m afraid to go out there myself.'"
In popular culture
- In Irwin Shaw's "The Eighty Yard Run", the main character lives here after blocking big Swedes & Poles.
- The title character of Patrick Dennis' novel Auntie Mame (1955) and its various adaptations, the title character lives at 3 Beekman Place.
- In Sydney Pollack's movie The Way We Were (1973), Beekman Place symbolizes the WASPish cultural background of Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford's character) that is a continual irritant in his relationship with the Marxist Jew Katie Morosky (played by Barbra Streisand).
- In the Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) and its movie adaptation (1990), the mayor says of Beekman Place: "They sit in their co-ops, Park Avenue, Fifth, Beekman Place, snug like a bug. Twelve-foot ceilings, a wing for them, one for the help."
- In Billy Joel's song "Close to the Borderline", the ninth track from the album Glass Houses (1980), he writes: "While the millionaires hide in Beekman Place, the bag ladies throw their bones in my face".
- Paul Goldberger, The City Observed: New York—A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
- Aitken, William Benford (1912). Distinguished Families In America: Descended From Wilhelmus Beekman And Jan Thomasse Van Dyke. The Knickerbocker Press. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
- Henry, Moscow (1990) . The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins. Fordham University Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-8232-1275-0.
- Freitag, Michael (August 24, 1986). "If You're Thinking Of Living In; Beekman Place". The New York Times.
- "New Yorker".
- "Look Alive! Paul Rudolph's Manhattan loft at 23 Beekman Place hits the market," The Architect's Newspaper, December 14, 2012
- "Paul Rudolph & His Architecture," An Official UMass Dartmouth Library Web Page/Publication