History of The Master or The Master Apartments
1920 – The Master Institute of United Arts is founded by Nicholas and Helena Roerich. Its aim is to give students a well-rounded education in the arts and to “open the gates to spiritual enlightenment through culture.” It is thought to be named after theosophist and spiritual guide to Helena, Master Morya (or possibly after Master Roerich himself) and funded by Louis L. Horch.
1922 – Horch finances the Institute’s move from its single-room studio at 314 W. 54th Street to a mansion on Riverside Drive between 103rd & 104th streets. The Horches are patrons of the Institute and followers of Theosophist, Master Morya.
1925 – Horch buys lots on UWS to build The Master (Lot 40, block 1980, Community District 107, City Council District 6, 24th Precinct.
1928 – Horch forms a corporation named Master Buildings, Inc. and secures the bond of 1.925 million dollars to begin construction. Harvey Wiley Corbett of Helmle, Corbett & Harrison with Sugarman & Berger design and construct the building. It is designed to contain 406 rooms (390 apartments) and was said to cost $1.7 million dollars (24.8 million in 2018). The NY Times, calls it, “New York’s first skyscraper art gallery.” The Washington Post calls it, “A shrine of art with a truly American architectural expression.”
1929 – The cornerstone is laid March 24, 1929. The Master Apartments opens to positive acclaim; The first 3 floors consist of a museum, a school for the fine and performing arts, and an international arts center. These three organizations are the brainchild of Nicholas and Helena Roerich and funded by Louis L. Horch. The completed building has 233 one-room, 63-two room, and two 3-room apartments and a penthouse suite with 7 rooms.
1932 – The Master goes into foreclosure. After non-payment of taxes; it is sued on April 6, 1932. Horch argues that the cultural institute provides tax exemption, countering the bond holders push to replace the cultural spaces with apartments. In June 1932 he is one of two receivers tasked with clearing the building’s debts.
1934 – Horch takes control of the the Master Building, Inc. and its cultural institutions under the title of The Master Institute of United Arts, as an educational tax-exempt organization; in 1935, as the building’s landlord, Horch, ends it’s the Master’s receivership. Soon after, the Horches and the Roeriches dissolve their partnership.
1936 – On June 5, Horch writes the Roeriches to sever relations between the Institute and the other cultural organizations. The Roeriches sue to regain control.
1938 – On Feb 8, 1938, the Roerich’s lawsuit is settled in favor of the Horches. The Riverside Museum is founded and installed in The Master. Horch is the president of the new museum and Vernon C. Porter is the Riverside Museum’s first director. At its opening on June 4, 1938, the museum shows American artists including Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jack Levine, Marsden Hartley, George Luks, John Sloan, Philip Evergood, Reginald Marsh, Charles Burchfield, and Rockwell Kent. The museum begins hosting American Abstract Artists, a group devoted to expanding appreciation of non-objective art. The museum begins hosting exhibitions held by the New York Society of Women Artists, a group founded in 1936 to promote work of avant garde women artists. As in its former incarnation, The Master Institute of United Arts provides art classes and studio space, sponsors lectures, concerts, poetry readings, art clinics and other cultural events. Other organizations to show at the museum include the Silvermine Guild of Artists, the Manhattan Camera Club, the Photo-Engraver’s Art Society, the Brooklyn Society of Artists, and the Actor’s Equity Group. Nettie Horch takes over the directorship in the 40’s and her daughter, Oriole, assumes the role in the late 60’s.
1939 – A real estate listing advertises, The Master. Choice 1, 2 room suites, serving pantries, full hotel service, all rooms outside, from $50/month unfurnished, few furnished, $65/month. Popular price restaurant. Home of Riverside Museum, concerts, lectures, recitals free to residents.
1949 – The Roerich Museum reopens at 319 W. 107th Street.
1958 – Frank Horch, Louis and Nettie’s son, becomes the building’s manager, until his murder in 1975.
1961 – The Equity Library Theatre operates in the theatre until 1991. Its last show is Gigi in 1989.
1971 – The Master Apartments’ museum and cultural center closes and the its holdings are donated to Brandeis University (Rose Art Museum). The theatre stays open until 1991. Louis transfers part ownership to his children Frank and Oriole. Louis and Nettie move to Florida when he was 83 and she was 76.
1979 – Horch dies and the building is bought by real estate investor, Sol Goldman.
1988 – The Master converts to a housing cooperative (with 335 apartments on 28 floors).
???? – Monday Night at the Masters, a cultural lecture series, curated by Kathryn Ralph is established.
2013 – The Master Gallery is re-established in the renovated lobby of the building on April 13, 2013. Its first show features resident artist, Alex Zwarenstein. The Gallery hosts four shows/year, promoting resident and neighborhood artists and is co-curated by residents, Jan Fort and Michael Alicia. Other featured artist include Darcy Rogers, Jerone Hsu, Roger Winter, Jacinta Stewart, Yael Dresdner, Nancy Sirkis, Dylan Vandenhoeck, Marcia Clark, Peter Glebo, Ilene Sunshine, Elizabeth Langer, Kevin Saco, Lisa Ferber, Tim Elder, Donna Svennevik, Betsy Goldberg, Jeanette Winter, Allen Furbeck, Steve Galicynski, Anna Walinska, Pierre Foillet, Donald Billinkoff, along with two group shows, one of exiled middle eastern artists and one featuring local and resident artists.
2016 – The Master is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.