There are a number of places around the world that bear the name Windermere; the original Windermere is England’s largest freshwater lake. New York City’s Windermere has been largely a mystery for a couple of decades, as the grand building at 400 West 57th Street at the SW corner of 9th Avenue gradually sank into decrepitude emblematic of NYC’s 1970s and 1980s deterioration, then disappeared behind a construction facade for the better part of a decade. In early 2019 the building finally emerged from its chrysalis.
The Windermere is actually three separate buildings joined together to appear as one. Its facade is light brown brick with buff trim, combining Queen Anne, High Victorian Gothic, and Romanesque architectural elements. It was constructed in 1881 for developer Henry Sterling Goodale as one of New York City’s first apartment buildings. But this one had a twist. While single men and families could rent there it was pitched toward women of independent means. It did not adopt the strict rules imposing moral “norms” as boardinghouses of the day did. Unlike Manhattan’s small, crowded tenements downtown the Windermere’s apartments were spacious for their time and the building boasted the latest in technological innovations: electrified elevators and telephones.
The Windermere carried merrily along by the 9th Avenue El until the late 20th Century. The el came down in 1940 and Hell’s Kitchen followed it down. It became a place where struggling actors could find lodging; Steve McQueen was a renter. But it then became a place where down-on-their luck folks wound up and as is the wont in NYC’s building owners, maintenance then became severely deferred. Gradually conditions got so bad that only a few diehards remained until they gradually were forced out.
Despite becoming NYC Landmark in 2005 the Windermere’s fortunes did not change until 2009 when developer Mark Tress bought the building for $13M and gradually renovated the building top to bottom in what turned out to be a decade-long job. Tress plans to convert the Windermere to a 325-room hotel, with a rooftop restaurant and ground floor retail.