OH DOCTOR! The New York Cancer Hospital on Central Park West

by Kevin Walsh

In 1998, when your webmaster first encountered the ruins of the old New York Cancer Hospital, completed in 1886 in a French Renaissance style at 455 Central Park West at West 104th Street, it was still very much the magnificent ruin it had been since 1976, when it was last in use a nursing home. It had once been one of NYC’s leading centers of cancer treatment, introducing the use of radium in 1920, eventually evolving into today’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

During its long period of slumber, Ian Schrager, formerly a partner in Studio 54 and now a leading NYC developer, tried and failed to resurrect the building to glory, and Q, The Winged Serpent, left an egg in there in a 1982 film.

At length Daniel McLean, 
president and chief executive of the MCL Companies in Chicago, purchased the property for $21 million in 2000. The 9/11/01 terrorist attacks stalled the redevelopment temporarily, but when Columbia University bought several floors to house visting dignitaries and senior faculty, 455 Central Park’s survival was finally assured. The old facility’s circular rooms and spaces, built to discourage the accumulation of dust and the proliferation of germs, are now the centerpieces of residences that sell for $7 million or better.

(The link in the above paragraph contains renderings of the project, photos while work was underway, and vintage photos of the interior when it was a medical facility.)

March 2001, as work began on the castellated ruin

In 2004, the building’s towers were wearing something that looked leftover from a Devo concert.

2007: The new apartments are on sale, thus far, somewhat slowly.

The front loggia has been completely renovated and a mini fountain has appeared on the 104th Street side.