Fred F. French Building

Fred F French Building
  1. About the Fred F. French Building in New York
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Fred F. French Building is an Art-deco skyscraper designed in 1925 by H.Douglas Ives and built between 1926 and 1927 in New York, NY.

Its precise street address is 551Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. You can also find it on the map here.

The Fred F. French Building is a structure of significant importance both for the city of New York and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the Art Deco style. Because of that, the Fred F. French Building was officially declared as a national landmark on March 18th 1986, and was included in the National Register of Historic Places on January 28th 2004.

At the time of its completion in 1927 the Fred F. French Building incorporated solutions that were quite advanced at the time, these included automatic elevators and conveniently controllable ventilation and lighting systems.

The building underwent a major restoration between 1985 and 1990. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates.

Building's timeline

Design completed
Construction begins
Construction completed
Declared NL
Added to the NRHP
years ago
  1. 1985 to 1990 - Complete restoration. The architect in charge was Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates.

Architect and team

H.Douglas Ives was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design. But there was also one other architect involved, as far as we know. We are talking about Sloan & Robertston.

H.Douglas Ives and the other architects already mentioned were in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Fred F. French Building a reality:

  • Clyde R. Place in charge of Structural Engineering
  • Otis as the company in charge of the elevators system
  • Fred F. French as the Main Developer
  • Vincent Glinsky as the collaborating Artist

Architectural Style

The Fred F. French Building can be categorized as an Art-deco building.

The Art Deco movement flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, with many historians marking the outbreak of World War II as its final decline. Even though a couple of decades might not seem as much, the Art Deco movement had a great impact on architecture, and it's widely represented in many American cities due to the development boom that happened during that time.

Art Deco marked the abandonment of traditional historicism and the embracement of modern living and the age of the machine. In architecture, that meant leaving behind the ornaments of Beux-Arts and Neo-Gothic buildings and instead favoring simplicity and visual impact through geometric shapes, clean lines, and symmetrical designs. Ornaments were still an important part of the design, but they became bold and lavish, and were often inspired by ancient cultures or industrial imagery, instead of nature.

The Fred F. French Building was completed in 1927, right when the Art Deco movement was at its peak, so it kind of went with the trend at that time.

Spaces & Uses

The Fred F. French Building reaches an architectural height of 427ft (130m). It has a total of 38 floors, served by 11 elevators, which combined offer a total of 430,168 sqf (39,964m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1927, the Fred F. French Building has mainly been used as Commercial space.

427ft (130m)

Materials & Structure

The Fred F. French Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features mostly bricks, combined with limestone moldings and friezes. The main entrances are highlighted by bronze arches, and so are the friezes on the first floor. Terracotta bands in various colors adorn the facade. The column capitals are covered with green ceramic, and red, orange, gold and green tiles decorate the top of the building.

Other materials found at the Fred F. French Building include, italian travertine, seen on the lobby floors combined with white and black marble, bronze, used for the revolving doors, lobby showcases, elevator doors and chandeliers in the hall, Genevieve marble, found cladding some walls, and wood , found on the doors and some offices' floors.