In this pandemic era, when prominent bloggers and the social media masses alike are declaring the death of New York City, I urge readers to pick up Anthony W. Robbins' New York Art Deco: A Guide to Gotham's Jazz Age Architecture. This is the authoritative guide to Big Apple architecture from the glamorous 1920s—just think The Great Gatsby—but also the 1930s, an era of grand public buildings. With gems like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center, New York City is one of the Art Deco capitals of the world. But something I love about this book is that it doesn't just harp on famous Deco landmarks. It also identifies lesser-known treasures in all five boroughs. Even everyday middle- and working-class apartment buildings!
The prose is lively and informative, with vivid details that point out what makes each building special. There are also plenty of beautiful photos and helpful maps that allow you to take your own walking tour with ease or simply enjoy the splendors from the comfort of your own home. Right now I'm especially appreciating Robbin's descriptions of the McGraw-Hill Building, starting with "a prototypical International Style slab" while also including a funny anecdote about the architect, Raymond Hood, as this building's stunning lobby is currently endangered. New York Art Deco will open your eyes to just how much New York City still has to offer. Or, if you were already convinced of that, it will give you new reasons to adore this incomparable metropolis.
Christine Sloan Stoddard is a Salvadoran-American writer, artist, and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She founded Quail Bell Magazine and runs Quail Bell Press & Productions. Her books include Heaven is a Photograph, Naomi & The Reckoning, Desert Fox by the Sea, Belladonna Magic, and Water for the Cactus Woman, among other titles. In 2020, her play "Mi Abuela, Queen of Nightmares" won a national award from Table Work Press and was published in the book Two Plays, along with "True Believer" by Justice Hehir. Her films "Bottled," "Drunken History," and "Butterflies" are available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Find out more at WorldOfChristineStoddard.com.