Michael Caine, a self described “working actor” once wrote of Jaws: The Revenge, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
By seemingly never turning down a role, Caine created a prolific body of work, paid the bills, and, today is remembered far more for his hits than his failures.
In many ways, the life New York architect Hyman Isaac Feldman, who designed Inwood’s Bakerfield Apartments, located at 600 West 218th Street, mirrored that of the Academy Award winning actor.
Feldman, the consummate “working architect,” designed some 2,500 New York City apartment houses in a career that spanned the 1920’s through the 1970’s. And while some of his buildings have been derided by architectural critics as being uninspired, bland and utilitarian, 600 West 218th Street has long been one of Inwood’s most sought after rental buildings.
Born in Szczerzec (now the Ukraine) in 1897, Feldman emigrated to New York City when Feldman was four. He later attended City College before enrolling in Cornell University where he studied landscape architecture. Ever ambitious, the young Feldman then enrolled in the architectural program at Yale University, but was forced to postpone his wartime studies, which he resumed at the end of World War I.
In 1921 Feldman set up shop in New York and quickly set about redesigning the city. Respected by fellow architects and builders as a guy who could get things done, the young architect was never short for work. According to his Yale biography, in addition to designing thousands of New York City apartment houses, “He also designed buildings for the New York City Housing Authority and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. He endowed the H. I. Feldman Scholarship in Architecture at Yale, and received honorary degrees in architecture from City College and Columbia University.”
During his lifetime Feldman would become member emeritus of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects and once served as the president of the New York Society of Architects as well as the New York Council of Architects.
Yet, despite the awards, degrees and the respect he received within the tight-knit architectural circle of Gotham, Feldman’s critics were unrelenting.
In describing Feldman’s Park Lane Tower, located on Third Avenue and 86th Street, the New York Sun wrote, “Despite its bucolic name, this rust-colored high-rise from 1965 has all the bucolic charm of a World War II artillery turret. Its only distinction is that it is the building inhabited by the Jeffersons in the 1970s sitcom of that name.” (2007)
In a letter to the City Review in 2002 Naomi Fatouros, Feldman’s only surviving child wrote, “quite simply, my father had to make money to support his wife and children….Hyman had no pretensions about being artistic. Many of his designs, like some of those of Philip Birnbaum and other architects, were products of “hack work.” Nevertheless, respected and honored by the building trade and made president of New York’s architectural societies my father was awarded contracts because he was good at creating plans which would minimize building costs and which would afford prospective renters or buyers a fair amount of views and apartment layouts which were livable. (He would round corners of entryways and halls so that large pieces of furniture could pass through more easily than if the corners were sharp.)”
Thus, in 1939, nearly twenty years into his professional career, H.I. Feldman came to Inwood to erect a new apartment house on the southeast corner of 218th Street and Indian Road to be called The Bakerfield Apartments. The building was named after the Columbia University stadium, Baker Field, on the nearby bank of the Spuyten Duyvil.
According to the original real estate brochure: “Bakerfield Apartments are situated in a quiet, private residential section of Manhattan, three short blocks west of Broadway, convenient to the main arteries of transportation, 8th Avenue Subway and I.R.T. Subway, grammar, high and parochial schools. It enjoys unique advantage of occupying and entire block facing Inwood Hill Park, the Hudson River and the new Boat Basin, thus affording to each apartment an abundance of sunshine and air.
Bakerfield Apartments are divided into units ranging from 1 ½ to 5 rooms. East apartment has an unusually large and spacious foyer; in addition thereto the majority of apartments have light and roomy dining alcoves.
Some of the desirable features embodied in Bakerfield Apartments, we are sure, will convey the possibilities here afforded for luxurious living, amongst desirable surroundings and moderate rentals.
The suites of 1 ½ to 5 rooms offer:
- Insulated roof
- Arched openings
- Venetian blinds
- Spacious Closets
- Interphone system
- Large sunny rooms
- Cross ventilation
- All rooms off foyers
- Spacious living rooms
- Dining galleries with wrought iron railings
- Colored tile bathrooms
- Incinerators for refuse
- Interviewers on entrance doors
- Steel sink cabinets
- Concealed cabinet clothes dryers
- Concealed convector type radiators
- Venetian mirrored medicine cabinets
- Stall showers in large suites
- Oil burner assuring clean, even heat
- Radio aerial outlets in each apartment
- 5 room apartments with 2 bathrooms
- Built-in clothes hampers
Feldman died on January 26, 1981 in New York at the age of 84.
While many other apartment houses in the neighborhood have gone co-op, 600 West 218th Street remains a rental building.
Throughout the years a series of businesses have occupied the first floor of the building. Today, residents merely have to go downstairs to enjoy a wonderful meal and perhaps a cocktail or two at the Indian Road Café.