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Sure, it might look like a 'castellated emigré from the Loire Valley' as White and Willensky put it in the AIA Guide to New York City, but the old New York Cancer Hospital on Central Park west is finally getting a new lease on life.

The hospital's round towers had been designed to prevent dust and dirt from gathering in sharp corners.

By early 2005, the work was completed and the building had been completely renovated into luxury apartments, with units selling for between $3.5 and $7 million, according to the NY Times. The building has apartments with "cavernous circular rooms with lofty ceilings and splendid park views and will include such amenities as a spa, an indoor lap pool, and 24-hour concierge service."

Located on West 106th Street, the New York Cancer Hospital was built between 1884 and 1886 and finished in 1890 by architect Charles Haight. NYCH was the first hospital in the United States to be devoted exclusively to cancer patients: it offered the best treatments available in that era, though cancer treatment then meant easing pain and making the sufferer as comfortable as possible.

From the beginning, though, NYCH seemed fraught with misfortune. One of its chief benefactors, Elizabeth Hamilton Cullum, succumbed to cancer just a few months after laying the cornerstone, while donator John Jacob Astor III's wife Charlotte also died of cancer in 1887, just after the hospital opened, too soon to be treated there.

By 1920, with new treatments using radium, NYCH was among the world's leading cancer hospitals. NYCH had been renamed General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. It moved to new quarters on the East Side in 1955, becoming the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The old building then became a nursing home run by Bernard Bergman, who was under investigation for Medicaid fraud. The home was a disaster, with horrifyingly neglectful conditions. The nursing home closed in 1974 and the building stood empty since then. It was landmarked in 1976, but all that did was condemn it to nearly 30 years of decrepitude. The building was purchased by a Chicago developer in 2000, who spent five years converting it to luxury apartments.

 

SOURCES:

"Shadows on the Wall," Jim Rasenberger, New York Times, January 23, 2005

Norval White, Elliott Willensky, AIA Guide to New York City
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John Tauranac, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, New York From The Air
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The entrance on Central Park West best shows the ravages of decades. After deteriorating for many years, old NYCH has been rebuilt and redeveloped as pricey condominiums.