Who Was Jacob M. Felson?
Recently, GVSHP has been reporting on and testifying against the plans for a building to replace the 2 story parking garage at 11-19 Jane Street. Built in 1921, the structure is an early work by architect Jacob M. Felson. While not a household name, some of Felson’s later buildings are among the most distinctive and characteristic structures of their type in interwar New York City.
During this time and until shortly after World War II, Felson designed scores of buildings throughout New York City. Many of his most memorable buildings are apartment houses and movie theaters. But he also designed a significant number of parking garages.
Felson himself was born in 1886 Russia and immigrated in 1888 to the United States with his parents. He studied at Cooper Union and began practicing architecture in 1910. In 1938, he became president of Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., which specialized in building apartment buildings. He designed many movie theaters and apartment buildings in New York, and his designs are represented in the Upper West Side/Central Park West, Upper East Side, Grand Concourse, and Riverside-West End Historic Districts and Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I, as well as a few private homes in Westchester County and New Jersey. Felson died in 1962. Below are a few other buildings designed by Felson, who built over 40 apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.
221 Thompson Street, Manhattan
Like 11-19 Jane Street, 221 Thompson is another garage structure. However, unlike the one on Jane Street, this garage structure is three-stories as opposed to two. It also has a brick front featuring a four-story tower towards the northern end of the façade. In addition, it has large window openings with slightly projecting masonry lintels throughout and two inset diamond-shaped brick panels towards roofline. This building was originally noted as a two-story “express stable” encompassing addresses 221 to 225 Thompson Street, which apparently functioned as a garage. A1920 alteration that added a store to the building and extended the structure by 40 feet to the north and the four-story tower portion of the facade probably dates to the 1921 installation of an elevator. 221 Thompson Street is located within the South Village Historic District.
Grand Concourse, Bronx
The Grand Concourse is a boulevard in the Bronx that stretches 4-1/2 miles from 138th Street to Mosholu Parkway. It was constructed by the French-born engineer Louis Risse and is meant to be reminiscent of the broad expanse of the Champs Elysee in Paris. The concourse was officially opened to traffic on November 25, 1909.
Along the concourse, there are many examples of Felson buildings, with two buildings being standout examples: 1150 Grand Concourse (“The Fish Building”) and 1188 Grand Concourse. The former, built 1936-37, is known for its vibrant mosaic entrance panels of whimsical water plants and tropical fish. An Art Deco building with an Art Moderne entrance door, it is six-stories tall with 117 residential units and was designated as part of the Grand Concourse National Register Historic District in 1987, and New York City’s Grand Concourse Historic District in 2011.
The latter is another Art Deco apartment on the same block as the “Fish Building.” This building is also six-stories but with 101 residential units and retail units at the north end of the property. The façade is buff brick with dark orange detail and is notable for its saw tooth pattern and its effective use of pink marble to frame the entrance along with intact square glass inserts above the building number. Like 1150, 1188 was included in the Grand Concourse National Register of Historic Places District in 1987 and the New York City Grand Concourse Historic District in 2011.