Old New York In Photos #103 – An Unfinished St. Patrick’s Cathedral c. 1880

The Incomplete St. Patrick’s Cathedral, & A Glimpse of the Hotel Buckingham & 626 Fifth Avenue

St Patrick's Cathedral Fifth Avenue 50th Street unfinished 1880 Buckingham Hotel and 626 Fifth AvenueThis photograph looking east along 50th Street from Fifth Avenue was taken around 1880 by William T. Purviance.

626 Fifth Ave from Fifth Avenue Start to Finish 1911

626 5th Ave

The new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was formally opened on March 25, 1879. It would not be until 1888 that the spires were completed.To the left of the Cathedral in the background on 51st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues is the boys section of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum. The girls section was across Madison Avenue to Fourth Avenue (Park Ave.).

A very small portion of the stately mansion and stone fence at 626 Fifth Avenue is visible on the northwest corner of 50th Street. This desirable corner residence belonged to Walter S. Gurnee, a millionaire and former Mayor of Chicago.,2770

On the right we found a photograph of what the home looked like from the front. After Gurnee died in 1903 the house was occupied by mercantile giant Benjamin Altman of B. Altman & Co.

The entire block from 50th to 51st Street on the west side of Fifth Avenue is now part of the Rockefeller Center building complex.

To the right of the Cathedral on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue you can only see a sliver of this glorious building.

Buckingham Hotel 50th Street Fifth AvenueThe eight story Buckingham Hotel erected by George Kemp.

When the hotel opened on January 11, 1876, it quickly rivaled the Breevort House, The Fifth Avenue Hotel and The Windsor Hotel as the finest hostelry in the city. The Buckingham attracted a high end clientele with steep weekly prices.  Single rooms were priced at $7.00. A Bachelor’s room with private bathroom was $14.00. A large bedroom for two people cost between $17.50 –  28.00. A suite ranged from $65.00 to a princely $125.00! None of these prices included meals. An unusual feature, or rather lack of one, was a drinking bar. Foreseeing the 21st century trend the hotel instead offered a coffee room and a reading room, exclusively for guests.

The Buckingham Hotel lasted two decades into the 20th century falling victim not to declining popularity, but rising real estate prices. The Buckingham was sold along with adjacent parcels owned by the George Kemp estate and demolished in 1921. The hotel was replaced by the building that still sits on the site today, Saks Fifth Avenue.

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