A Castle in Air

Withering under a July heat wave, The New Yorker editors turned their thoughts to the cooling breezes that could be found blowing across the penthouse garden of real estate developer Robert M. Catts.

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The July 31, 1926 cover by Victor Bobritsky offered its own commentary on the heat wave that gripped the city.
The State Capitol Building, Lincoln, With people in street clothes asleep on the lawn during hot days of the 1930's, Picture July 25, 1936
In case you were wondering, city folk (especially apartment dwellers) actually did sleep on the ground in the days before air conditioning. This photo was taken on July 25, 1936, on the lawn of the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln (Nebraska State Historical Society).

Catts erected the 20-story Park-Lexington office building at 247 Park Avenue in 1922, topping the building with his own penthouse apartment. Located near Grand Central Station, the building was innovative in the way it was built directly over underground railroad tracks leading into the station. The editors of The New Yorker, however, were more impressed by what was on top:

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The “Chinese Library” in the apartment of Robert M. Catts atop the Park-Lexington Building. (halfpuddinghalfsauce.blogspot.com)
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Penthouse apartment of Robert M. Catts atop the Park-Lexington Building. (halfpuddinghalfsauce.blogspot.com)

It was the rooftop garden, however, that sent the editors into a swoon:

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Before World War II the apartment would have other notable tenants who would succeed Catts, including the violinist Jascha Heifitz. The apartment, and the building beneath it, were demolished in 1963 along with the adjoining Grand Central Palace building, which was replaced in 1967 with 245 Park Avenue:

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In other news, Arthur Robinson wrote a somewhat sympathetic profile of Babe Ruth, observing that Ruth’s “thousand and one failings are more than offset by his sheer likableness.”

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Illustration for the “Profile” by Johan Bull.

Curiously, the Yankees were having a better year in 1926, but there was scant mention of baseball in the pages of The New Yorker, the magazine preferring to cover classier sports such as golf, polo, tennis and horse racing. Another sport of interest was yacht racing, with Eric Hatch covering the races at Larchmont augmented by Johan Bull’s illustrations:

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The magazine continued to have fun with the androgynous fashion trends of the Roaring Twenties. This appears to be an early Barbara Shermund cartoon:

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Next Time: The Lights of Broadway…

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Published by

David O

I read and write about history from the perspective that history is not some artifact from the past but a living, breathing condition we inhabit every moment of our lives, or as William Faulkner once observed, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." I read original source materials, such as every issue of The New Yorker, not only as a way to understand a time from a particular perspective, but to also use the source as an aggregator of various historic events. I welcome comments, criticisms, corrections and insights as I stumble along through the century.

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