About This Blog

New Yorkers are notorious for rushing through our streets, heads down, all too often oblivious to the beauty and history of the buildings around us. This blog aims to explore some of those buildings, from the famous landmarks to unknown gems. Hopefully your interest will be piqued, and the next time you're walking down a NY street you'll take time to stop and look up.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

874 Broadway

Whenever I have errands to run around Union Square, I try to walk up Broadway just north of 17th Street. This is the Eastern edge of the Ladies' Mile Historic District which contains some really great buildings. One of my favorites is 874 Broadway at the NE corner of 18th Street.
874 Broadway was built in 1892 by prominent New York architect R. H. Robertson.  Like most buildings in NY, it is more impressive at the upper floors, however it does have a pretty nice ground level storefront too.
Once you get past the horrible Sleepy's SALE and OPEN signs, you'll notice a beautiful set of windows (curved at the corner) set in ironwork and framed with stone where it meets the building.  
After the ground level, the building rises into several stories of columned windows...
Which then give way to two stories of arched windows followed by another row of columns in a contrasting color...
 The corner of the building is topped off by an ornate pitched tower.
The A.I.A Guide to New York City describes this mix of styles as ''unspeakable eclectic: a murmuration of Byzantine columns, Romanesque arches, Gothic finials and crockets -- the designer used the whole arsenal of history in one shot.''  

I like the mix and how it makes the facade seem to reach upward and trickle back down at the same time.  Sorta like a when you point a hose skyward (the columns) and the water shoots out, up, and then falls to the side and down (the arches).
I also really like all the cool ornamentation, which includes shields, lions, and lots of flowing leaves, vines and branches...

Also cool is the story of the building's name.  It was built for Ewen McIntyre who owned a drugstore on the site.  However, workers installing a tile floor in the lobby spelled the name with an A and the building was forever known as the Mac Intyre Building.
Mr. McIntyre never lived in the building and instead rented it out to businesses.  Two years after opening, a fire broke out in the eight floor office of the Telephone Exchange.  According to the NY Times, the "telephone girls... looked at each other, prepared to scream."  In the 1930s, the building was dominated by china and textile wholesalers. In the late 60s, residents bean to move into the building, able to buy whole floors for $18,000.  In the 70s it housed an after-hours disco/club called the Cobra's LairThe building is now filled with million dollar co-ops.  Even if you can't afford to live there, you should walk by and take a look at it.

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