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Beekman Place is a small street located on the east side of Manhattan, New York City. 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 precipice overlooking the glass office towers at 860 and 870 United Nations Plaza in the United Nations complex. Beekman Place is also used to refer to the residential neighborhood that surrounds the street itself. It is named after the Beekman family, an influential family in the development of the city.
The neighborhood was the site of the Beekman family mansion, Mount Pleasant, which was built by James Beekman in 1765. James Beekman was a descendant of Willem Beeckman, for whom Beekman Street was 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. 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 shore. 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," according to Carter Horsley. 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 lived at One Beekman Place. It has a lavishly tiled pool on the ground floor for the tenants, as well as a basketball court and a small Ping-Pong table.
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 the novel and movie Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, the mayor mentions Beekman Place as follows: "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 Sydney Pollack's 1973 movie The Way We Were, 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).
- 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.
- "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
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