It was to be New Yorks greatest Art Deco building.  More, it was to be the most beautiful, original building the metropolis had ever seen.  The worlds first stunning full-colour skyscraper.  A testament to the taste, power and wealth of a city exploding both physically and culturally, it was christened the “Amos Parrish Fashion Building”.

60 stories of Mayan Art Deco. It could have started a whole new architectural movement.

Sixty stories of polished terracotta positioned to astonish the pedestrians and commuters of Fifth Avenue all along the high-end shopping district that attracted both fashionable women and the upscale stores that wished to serve them.   It would be a monument to the world’s most modern metropolis while referencing one of the worlds greatest Pre-Colombian civilisations. Architecturally it would merge the splendour of the Mayan Empire with the modernity of Art Deco to produce a building unsurpassed for beauty or design.

Ground level Fith Avenue – modern day Victorian Secret and Pink showroom

Amos Parrish

Amos Parrish was a charismatic retail sales and advertising manager who founded an eponymous consulting firm in the 1920s. Based in New York City, he promised to provide clients with scientifically-based retail merchandising analysis. The company concentrated primarily on fashion retailing and held merchandising clinics in New York attended by hundreds of retail executives from across the United States.

The consultants. also published pamphlets, charts, books, and other materials that forecast fashion trends. An army of experts employed by the company predicted consumer preferences in advertising and apparel. Fashion and business journalists often relied upon Parrish for his quotable pronouncements.  By 1930 the firm was at the height of its influence and wanted a lavish headquarters to illustrate the fact.

New Yorks most stunning Art Deco buliding
The original Architect William Bergen Chalfant (Pittsburgh) envisioned much more than a single office building

An Art Deco Mayan Temple.

It was an extraordinary concept.  A full-colour terracotta skyscraper that embraced both the modern Art Deco movement while looking back to the Mayan temples of ancient Mexico.  It was to be sixty stories in height.  Parrish was concerned that if it was not to be not the tallest building in the world, it should be “the most beautiful”.  The polished full-colour terracotta blocks were to be its only ornament.  It would dazzle when silhouetted against the pale sandstone and limestone facades of Fifth Avenues more conservative buildings.  Its interior was to be just as impressive,  housing not only the offices of Amos Parrish, but the worlds most elegant couture houses.  It would have fashion stores,  showrooms and auditoriums.

New Yorks most stunning Art Deco Building
Promoted as the “first skyscraper in full color,” the Fashion Tower makes extensive use of polished terra cotta blocks in various colours.

If only they had built it!

The architectural drawings overwhelmed everyone who saw them including their sponsor the canny magnate Parrish.  Unfortunately for New York and Art Deco lovers, the plans arrived at his desk only weeks after the Wall Street Crash of October 1929.  Overnight many of the extravagant clothing and jewellery companies he relied on for his consultancy business went bankrupt.  Tragically the plans were filed away, and  New York lost a building comparable to her best Art Deco skyscrapers.   The Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

New Yorks greatest Art Deco building may never have never been built, but we can see Americas most iconic piece of engineering every day.   What is it?  The answer is so commonplace it may just surprise you.  Read my take on a part of American heritage we shouldn’t take for granted .

In all weathers we get our kids through
Snow day? Pffft..Bring it on!

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