Last week, GVSHP co-sponsored an event with Fourth Arts Block (FAB) at LaMaMa Experimental Theater Club at 6 East 1st Street, just off the Bowery. If you attended the book talk or have found yourself strolling along the Bowery, you might have come across this great building at the southwest corner of the Bowery and Bleecker Street. Its large two-over-two double hung windows and mansard roof particularly stood out to me from far away, and I was curious to learn more about the little building’s history.
Making my search a bit easier was the fact that the building is located on the edge of the NoHo East Historic District, which means that highlights of its history were readily available in the accompanying designation report. Located at 316-318 Bowery, the Italianate style building was constructed in 1868 as a store and dwelling. It was designed by Nicholas Whyte for Robert Irwin. According to the report, Whyte began his architecture practice in lower Manhattan the same year that 316-318 Bowery was constructed, which makes it one of his earliest designs.
Whyte also designed 4-6 Bleecker Street, which was constructed the same year as the corner building. The designation report also indicates that this post-Civil War new building trend was typical of the area, as many older homes were being demolished during the rapid industrialization which gripped New York after the war in favor of mixed-use buildings. Whyte was also active in the neighborhoods now known as SoHo and Tribeca.
Mansard roofs, a popular feature in French Second Empire style buildings, stand out to me since they are unusual to see in New York (or many have been altered due to rooftop additions). The grand second floor windows on the Bowery facade also caught my attention as they form most of the wall surface and, therefore, make the top floors appear as though they are floating. This is due, in part, to the wonders of cast-iron technology, which can be seen in the pilasters between each window. Advances in glass-making also allowed for the larger panes seen here.
Reflecting the Bowery’s transition from a residential enclave to a more commercial neighborhood, 316-318 Bowery’s use changed several times. In 1894, it operated as a hotel and, in 1915, it held a store and factory. Several long-term tenants included two hat shops – Herman Rosenberg Hats (c. 1935-60) and the Universal Hat Manufacturing Company (c. 1935-75) – and two hardware stores – Morris Feuer Hardware (c. 1920-55) and the Bleecker Hardware Company (c. 1935-75).
In one of those moments familiar to anyone who is seeking clues to the history of a building they’re researching, I was thrilled to come across this 1938 photograph taken by acclaimed photographer Berenice Abbott. The photo shows what is likely Morris Feuer Hardware. Anyone looking for tools in January 1936 hopefully stopped in for the sale going on in the photo above!
Speaking of the Bowery, did you know it was recently listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places? Learn more on our Resources page.