Garment District: The Nelson Tower (450 7th Avenue)
Unflustered by the stock market crash of October 1929, a number of Manhattan developers kept on ordering significant, new buildings right into the teeth of the Great Depression. One such unworried chap was the eponymous Julius Nelson, he who gave his name to the subject of this post. Mr. Nelson had already constructed three buildings in the Garment District and decided to site this new one right at its southern edge at 7th Avenue and W. 34th Street.
Nelson's chosen architect, H. Craig Severance had just witnessed the completion of his last design, the skyscraper at 40 Wall Street. On that building, he lost out to his former partner's contemporaneous design, William Van Allen's Chrysler Building, for the title of world's tallest structure. If that fazed him, he didn't show it, as he almost immediately picked up the commission for Mr. Nelson's new tower.
Rising 560 feet from the sidewalk, the 46-story building is a very handsome structure, arguably one of the best of the Art Deco period. The whole structure sits on a five-story white limestone base. Above the base, Severance used light brown brick for the piers and a rectilinear, patterned design of light, medium, and dark brown brick for the spandrels. His use of setbacks, trimmed with carved white limestone, give the building appealing massing as well as an attractive, "snow-capped mountain" look.
One of the odd things about this building is that Mr. Nelson wasn't able to buy the 5-story National City Bank building, a tenacious holdout, at the very corner of 7th and 34th. It sits there today, seemingly grafted onto the southeast corner of the later building, still owned by the same company, now called Citibank.