375, 377 & 379 Fifth Avenue

Capped by a pair of oddly funereal urns, the slightly eccentric building at 377 Fifth Avenue (shown at center above) looks as if it might have been designed by Edward Gorey.  It is in fact by the firm of Severance and Van Alen and was designed in 1921 as part of the Childs Restaurant chain, the popular eateries that dominated the early “fast food” market in the US.  The urns echo details on the company’s flagship at Coney Island, currently a city landmark and for many years under various renovation plans.

Severance and Van Alen was a partnership between architects Craig H. Severance and William Van Alen, the latter of whom would later design the Chrysler Building.  The Childs Restaurants themselves were celebrated for their modern hygienic approach to interior design and their employment of waitresses rather than waiters. A 1924 architectural review stated that the Childs chain “…stands as a milestone marking an enormous advance in the taste of what we are pleased to describe as the ‘common people’ of America.”

Quite a bit of history for a souvenir store.

377 Fifth Avenue is flanked by 375 Fifth Avenue to the south, a pleasantly airy design redolent of the Chicago commercial style which favored large expanses of glass over ornament; and 379 Fifth Avenue to the north, which is of no interest whatsoever.

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