Exploring The Catcher in the Rye
: Sneaking a Visit with Phoebe
This photo is taken from the intersection of Fifth and 71st.
You can see there is a dark little window
on the 12th floor that looks out toward us and
Central Park. Its view of the intersection is basically
unobstructed. There are also windows on the 71st Street side.
If it was
was the 13th floor, it's
likely that the tree branch on the left only
obstructs the view where I happened to be standing.
I am convinced that Salinger either knew this
building from personal experience or found it, as an outsider with
an imagination, to be a suitable building for them.
Windows on this side face 71st Street.
Windows facing the
camera face Central park.
The 12th and 13th floors are shaded and labeled.
The location of the Caulfield's building took some figuring: the
twelfth or thirteenth floor (p. 88: "twelve stories" refers
to either their floor or the flights of stairs he climbed)
of a residential building on 71st Street (p. 118), and
right off Fifth
(p. 67: from a window at home, he could see Phoebe cross Fifth to
get to the park).
Now, the buildings on the south side of
the intersection of 71st Street and Fifth Avenue are way too short.
The building I focus on is 3 E. 71st Street.
The building just to the left (west) is not on 71st.
It is on Fifth (900 Fifth).
I think that the next building east (not visible in the photo) is too
far away. He watched his little sister crossing Fifth and
considered how to describe her. He'd have to have been closer.
This building isn't very swanky, nor
old and elegant with high ceilings and marble
(note: I am sure it could be 50, even 80 years old).
It is almost humble, which
fits his description of his mother especially, who he could imagine doing
a charity collection (p. 114).
Their building does have a doorman, and, at the 11th floor,
the building exterior starts receding and there appears to be
balcony/gardening area on the 11th and 13th floors.
I didn't go inside the building.
In 2008, someone sent me an online real estate listing
of a unit in the building. I put together a page of
the photos, description, and floorplan, along with a brief discussion. It could,
maybe, possibly, be the Dickstein's apartment.
(Thanks to Brenda Park for sending this.)
An awesome thing is seeing the big, swanky neighborhood that is very nearby.
The next street east from Fifth Avenue is Madison Avenue,
which is full of exclusive little shops, jewelry artisans and high
priced stores for shoes and little restaurants. Yet there is also a church
(Episcopalian) on Madison and 71st. The sidewalks are
less crowded and much cleaner than those in midtown, where I stayed,
which is pretty nice itself. I was wearing my red jacket that
day, which is a bit dirty, and a passing guy gave me a disapproving look.
Once in a while, you see people
with their little kids. The kids
have clean faces and wear nifty little outfits. I imagined they
had nannies.I had seen a
show the first night
which involved a lot of comedy with the audience, many of whom were
New Yorkers (offsite link: http://www.dameednaontour.com).
The audience met Bob and Gwen, who live on the west side of the park,
and who have young daughters and a nanny from
There was a fifty year old woman, Jeanie, who is retired and living on the
east side of the park. She used to design hand bags but "got sick of it."
Dame Edna (the star) sympathized, "Oh, you do, though, don't you? Get sick
of it.." Not very many people have the option
to live in New York and to live well: have nannies, retire early.
It's an exclusive circle.
Holden doesn't talk about his life in New York as being in
his unusually well off neighborhood except that he goes someplace swanky for lunch once
in a while and that he hates Madison Avenue busses (pg. 114, 130). But he does
have a wealth of fond memories of the park (and he goes nightclubbing
in Greenwich Village).
Later, I continue with more thoughts
significance of their home's location.