Irwin Yitzhak Salmon Chanin

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Irwin Yitzhak Salmon Chanin

Also Known As: "Yitzhak"
Birthdate: (96)
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY
Death: February 24, 1988 (96)
New York, New York
Immediate Family:

Son of Simon Shneur Zalman Chanin and Zelda/Zena Chanin (Slotnik?)
Husband of Sylvia Chanin
Father of Doris C. Freedman; Marcy Chanin; Paul R. Chanin and Joan Schwartz
Brother of Aron Chanin; Edna N Mayers; Henry Chanin; Bess Paulson; Samuel Chanin and 1 other

Occupation: architect/builder/developer- New York City, Architect
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Irwin Yitzhak Salmon Chanin

Irwin Chanin, Builder of Theaters And Art Deco Towers, Dies at 96

By DAVID W. DUNLAP New York Times - Published: February 26, 1988

Irwin S. Chanin, an architect and builder whose skyline signature was formed of jazzy Art Deco towers and whose legacy to Broadway was a half dozen elegant theaters, died of natural causes Wednesday at his Manhattan home, his family said. He was 96 years old.

Irwin S. Chanin, an architect and builder whose skyline signature was formed of jazzy Art Deco towers and whose legacy to Broadway was a half dozen elegant theaters, died of natural causes Wednesday at his Manhattan home, his family said. He was 96 years old.

Mr. Chanin was the president and founder of the Chanin family enterprises that built some of New York's most eye-catching structures in the late 1920's and early 30's. The Chanins helped make popular a streamlined, geometric, modernistic style of architecture.

In that exuberant vein were the Chanin Building, a 56-story office skyscraper at 122 East 42d Street, and two twin-towered stuctures that epitomize Central Park West: the Century Apartments, between 62d and 63d Streets, and the Majestic Apartments, between 71st and 72d Streets.

The Chanins had earlier made a name for themselves on Broadway by building six legitimate theaters: the 46th Street, Biltmore, Mansfield (now the Brooks Atkinson), Theatre Masque (now the Golden), Royale and Majestic. They also built New York's ultimate movie palace, the Roxy. Modern City in Theatrical Terms

They saw the modern city in dramatic and sometimes downright theatrical terms, said Kent L. Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society. The buildings underscore that quality. And they stand up very well. A sense of pleasure, a sense of the spectacular, an energetic drive that was characteristic of the New York in the 20's is also what best describes Irwin S. Chanin, Diana Agrest wrote in a monograph of his work compiled for a 1982 exhibition at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

The Chanins also built the Lincoln Hotel (now the Milford Plaza) on Eighth Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets and the Beacon Hotel and Theater at Broadway and 75th Street. Decades later, they built the World Apparel Center on Broadway, between 39th and 40th Streets, which replaced the original Metropolitan Opera House.

Other works were varied, as small as the muncipal Fire Service Pumping Station in Coney Island and as large as the 400-acre Green Acres suburban development near Valley Stream, L.I. Works Receive Landmark Status

Mr. Chanin lived to see a number of his works - including the Century, the Beacon interior, the interiors and exteriors of most of the Broadway houses and even the Coney Island Pumping Station - receive official landmark status. A building must be at least 30 years old to qualify.

However, a reflective retirement was scarcely what he sought. Even in his old age, he was taut and full of nervous energy, Mr. Barwick said yesterday. You had the sense that behind those thick glasses were 150 good, new building ideas.

Indeed, he continued going to his office in the Chanin Building every day until last month, when an injury forced his confinement at home.

Home for Mr. Chanin, as it had been for more than five decades, was the Century, a 32-story, yellow-brick building with more than 400 apartments that he designed and built in 1931, culminating his early period of construction in Manhattan. Abolishing the Gallery

That had begun in 1925 with the building of the 46th Street Theater. In it, the Chanins abolished the institution of the gallery, with its separate entrance and stairway, where the lower-priced seats were confined. Mr. Chanin said:

We made a sign when we started that theater: 'Everybody goes in the same door. Whether you've got a nickel or a 5-dollar bill, go right inside. No climbing stairs. You're part of the audience - whether you have a million dollars or you borrow money.'

Irwin Salmon Chanin was born in Brooklyn on Oct. 29, 1891. In his youth, his family left Bensonhurst to return to Poltava, Russia, from which his father, Simon, had emigrated. In 1907, the Chanin family returned to this country. Grilles and Geometric Forms

Mr. Chanin graduated from Cooper Union in 1915, with a degree in civil engineering. In 1981, Cooper Union named its school of architecture after Mr. Chanin.

The Chanin Construction Company, begun in 1919, was under the direction of Irwin and his brother, Henry, an accountant who looked after business while Irwin supervised construction. Henry Chanin died in 1973. Two other brothers, Sam and Aaron, played smaller roles in the company.

Other architects for the Chanins' buildings were Sloan & Robertson, Jacques L. Delamarre, Herbert J. Krapp and Walter L. Ahlschlager.

After their theaters, the Chanins lighted the night sky with the Chanin Building of 1928, then the tallest building in mid-Manhattan. It was filled with bas reliefs and grilles in dynamic, geometric forms. Expanses of Glass

Their next major project, in 1930, was the 32-story Majestic, a twin-towered cousin of the Century. By the use of cantilevering, the building was freed of corner columns, opening up dramatic expanses of glass. This was followed by the Century.

Mr. Chanin married Sylvia Schofler in 1921. She died in 1976. Their daughter, Doris Chanin Freedman, died in 1981.

He is survived by two sisters, Edna Mayers and Bess Paulson, both of Manhattan; three children, Marcy Chanin of Manhattan, Paul R. Chanin of Palm Beach, Fla., and Joan C. Schwartz of Manhattan; 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.


Chanin Building - 122 E 42nd Street, Sloan & Robertson [1929]

Built as a monument to Irwin Chanin, a graduate of Cooper Union who became a major New York developer of the 1920s, this 56-story tower was erected in just 205 days.

The base of the building is decorated with the flattened, abstract ornament characteristic of the Art Deco period. All of the ornament was custom-designed for the building including a floral bas relief in terra-cotta by Edward Trumbull. In contrast to its neighbor, Grand Central Terminal, the Chanin Building's Art Deco facade represents a turn away from the Beaux Arts style towards a more humanistic and modern imagery appropriate to the industrial age. In particular, the facade illustrates the introduction of colored glass, stone and metal on the exterior of tall buildings. Materials such as bronze, Belgian marble and terra-cotta are used here in an inventive and exuberant way. Inside the lobby, the walls are decorated with reliefs by set-designer Jacques Delamarre and Renee Chambellan that represent "The City of Opportunity" and "The Active Life of the Individual," the latter perhaps a reference to Chanin's own rise to power and wealth.

Above the base, the building's steel frame is clad in buff brick and terra cotta and it is set back in conformance with the 1916 Zoning Law. At the top, it is capped by a dramatic crown that was once illuminated at night. To attract tenants, Chanin provided centralized services at the base of the building including an underground connection to Grand Central Terminal and ground-floor commercial spaces. A movie theater and a subterranean bus terminal were included in the original project but no longer remain. Chanin himself had his own offices on the 50th and 51st floors of the tower that were famous for a theater and an award-winning bathroom.



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Irwin Yitzhak Salmon Chanin's Timeline

April 25, 28
October 29, 1891
Brooklyn, NY
February 24, 1988
Age 96
New York, New York