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Ladies Who Lunch, Cowboys, Condos, and Such

61 Fifth Avenue Construction
61 Fifth Avenue under construction.

As recently reported, the condo construction project at 61 Fifth Avenue (at 13th Street) has been getting closer and closer to completion. The condo site sits across the street from another construction site for the new New School building at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. The new building will feature three large duplex apartments and will be clad in limestone. Before the new tower began to rise, the site was host to a unique succession of venues that featured food, music, and a giant lizard.

(l.) Schrafft's ca. 1940; (r.) The burned out building in 2008. Image via NY Times.

The recent history of the site begins with Schrafft’s. Schrafft’s was a popular mid-sized restaurant chain with primary locations in New York City. It was targeted to and popular with upper and middle class women, and featured ‘refined’ interiors and basic American fare and decadent desserts.

The Schrafft’s location at 61 Fifth Avenue replaced a previous structure and was built in 1938. You can view the sumptuous interiors here and a typical menu here.

By the 1970s the restaurant chain was fading, and in 1976 the 13th Street location was replaced by The Lone Star Café. The Lone Star Café was Texas-themed club and eatery that  featured live country music by some of the genre’s biggest stars.

Iggy atop the Lone Star Cafe
Iggy airlifted to his new perch.

The Lone Star café was topped by Iggy, a both beloved and reviled 40-foot iguana sculpture that was installed on the roof of the building in 1977 by artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade. Though still a success in 1989, rent increases helped shutter this Texan outpost on Fifth Avenue. You’ll be glad to know that Iggy was rescued by a Texas oil baron, and was installed in 2010 (via helicopter!) on the roof of the Forth Worth Zoo animal hospital.

The 1990s brought a variety of uses including Mr. Fuji’s Tropicana nightclub and a sprawling deli. The building finally succumbed to a dramatic fire in 2006, and since then was demolished and become a long-standing construction site.

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