POWERS BUILDING, Midtown

Dazedly dodging Times Square crowds in the numbing cold of mid-February I found myself at 7th Avenue and West 46th Street, home on the ground floor at least to the TSQ Brasserie, which, I gather, has absolutely nothing to do with the other restaurants in Midtown named “Brasserie,” and there are a number of them in NYC, though I seem to remember an upscale original in business in the 1960s and 1970s. The term began in Paris, where ‘brasserie’ first referred to a relaxed-setting restaurant operating with fixed prices for meals.

Passing right next to the building (723 7th Avenue), I was at first perplexed by a number of circular plaques above the ground floor bearing the initials “RC.” I needn’t really have been, as there exists fairly substantial research available about this building. As a matter of fact, I had written about this very structure before:

 

What used to be called the Powers Building, #723 7th Avenue, is on the northwest corner. It’s an ordinary medium-size building, nothing out of the ordinary, the kind of thing The Fountainhead‘s Peter Keating would design. There have apparently been several experiments in electrical engineering that went on early in the early 20th Century, and later the building was home to Associated Recording Studios beginning in 1961 and continuing to 1985. Some of the biggest names in the biz, and stars from other fields giving music or spoken word recordings a whirl,  have cut records there including [according to wikipedia]:

Al CaiolaAl HirtAl MartinoAlbert EinsteinAndy WilliamsArchie BleyerArt GarfunkelArthur GodfreyBarbra StreisandBarry ManilowBarry MannBette MidlerBeverly RossBill CharlapBlood Sweat & TearsBo DiddleyBob HilliardBobby “Boris” PickettBobby DarinBobby Goldsboro,Brian HylandBryan AdamsBurl IvesBurt BacharachBuster PoindexterCarole KingCat StevensCharles StrouseCharlie TobiasConnie FrancisCy ColemanDanny DavisDanny KayeDave Blum TrioDee Dee WarwickDick Van DykeDionne WarwickDoc PomusDon CostaDonnie HathawayDuo TonesEleanor SteberEllie GreenwichElvis CostelloEthel MermanEydie GormeFats DominoFirefly (Brooklyn local folk-pop band)Frank SinatraGene AutryGerry MulliganGinger RogersGwen VerdonHal DavidHank Williams Jr.Henry ManciniHerb AlpertHerbie HancockHoagy CarmichaelHoward GreenfieldIke & Tina TurnerJack KellerJake LaMottaJanis IanJerry HermanJerry KellerJo Jo StarbuckJoe HarnellJohn SebastianJohn WayneJohnny MarksJonathan WintersJule StyneKay StarrKenny KarenKenny RogersKing CurtisLeiber & StollerLeslie GoreLewis & ClarkLiza MinnelliLouis JordanMarlene VerPlanckMary FordMary MartinMelba MooreMickey & SylviaMiles DavisMilton DeLuggMitch MillerMoose CharlapMort ShumanNapoleon XIVNeil DiamondNeil SedakaNorman BergenNoro MoralesOrnette ColemanOscar BrandOscar PetersonOtis BlackwellPat BoonePatti DukePatti PagePaul EvansPaul RobesonPaul SimonPeggy FlemingPeggy LeePerry ComoPete FountainPete Seeger/The WeaversPeter CrissPeter DuchinPeter DunfieldPeter NeroPeter, Paul and MaryPetula ClarkPierre BrunetPink FloydPolly BergenPrairie LeagueRicky DeeRoberta FlackRocky GrazianoRod McKuenRon DanteSandy StewartScreamin’ Jay HawkinsSheb WooleyShel SilversteinSherman EdwardsStan LebowskiSteely DanSteve AllenSteve LawrenceSteve NeilsonTeresa BrewerTerry BradshawThe Bell NotesThe BelmontsThe ChipmunksThe DelphonicsThe Four LadsThe Four SeasonsThe Kalin TwinsThe RonettesThe ShirellesThe Three SunsThelonious MonkTiny TimTito PuenteTom GlazerTommy EdwardsVic DamoneWalter CarlosWoody Guthrie.

That’s quite an entertainment roster — you could have booked one of the old Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethons with that bunch. But that doesn’t get down to the matter of who Powers was, or what “RC” stands for. That’s where I bring in the Indispensable Walter Grutchfield. I’ve never met him — but I have been in his presence at a Frank Jump book reading a few years ago. Somehow, he and Daytonian in Manhattan‘s Tom Miller are able to ferret out minutiae that I haven’t the wherewithal — or just the will — to uncover. FNY is always in their debt.

 

Both Powers, and the RC plaques, have their origins in the company the building was constructed in 1921. This was the home of the Film Booking Offices of America, one of the United States’ first motion picture studios, in business from 1918 to 1928 when it merged with other entities (RKO Pictures emerged from this). On the board of directors was Joseph P. Kennedy, father of future President John F. The company was a pioneer in sound pictures, and the first nom-musical “Talkie,” The Perfect Crime, was released in 1928.

FBO was the American arm of the British studio Robertson-Cole, begun in 1918 by the British Harry Robertson and American Rufus Sidman Cole as a film export business. Irish immigrant Patrick Anthony Powers was a production head at Robertson-Cole from 1923-1924 at its Hollywood offices, where he helped develop one of the first motion picture sound synchronizers, the Powers Cinephone Equipment Corp. Powers’ own company, Powers Film Products, shared space at 723 7th Avenue with FBO.

Much more: Walter Grutchfield [Powers Building], wikipedia [Film Booking Offices of America]

There are worlds on top of worlds in NYC, and dusty plaques on old buildings can serve as the means of entering them.

2/16/16


Categorized in: One Shots Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.