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72 Fifth Avenue, Then & Now

Today we take a look back at a piece written by former GVSHP staffer Dana Schulz about an interesting piece of history on Fifth Avenue involving scandal, cigarettes, and urban policy. Read more from our Then & Now series on Off the Grid!

Philip Morris & Co., Ltd., on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 13th Street, 1915. Source: NY Bound Bookshop collection, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

In 1847, on Bond Street in London, a young man named Philip Morris opened a small tobacco shop.  Eight years later, Morris began to produce his own cigarettes.  When, in 1873, he died, his widow Margaret and brother Leopold took over the business.  In 1885, the company gained international fame and was officially named Philip Morris & Co. LTD.  By 1902, Philip Morris was incorporated in New York.  After some shuffling around and restructuring, in 1917, the business moved to 72 5th Avenue, at the northwest corner of 13th Street.

This 7-story building was erected in 1893 as a warehouse.  The masonry façade ornamentation and rhythm is very characteristic of loft warehouse buildings in this area at the time.  In 1913 an alteration was performed by the architect Adolph E. Nast who worked for the firm of John L. Sands.  In 1931, after disappearing from his New York hotel, Nast’s body was found in Baltimore with a pistol wound to the head.  It was believed to be a suicide.  Up until the 1930s the building was owned by the estate of Katherine Lorrilard and throughout the 1940s a bank was located in the storefront.  In 1960, Ginn & Company publishers occupied three floors of the space, totaling 15,000 square feet.

72 Fifth Avenue today. Source: Google Maps.

Philip Morris relocated to 5th Avenue and 19th Street in 1938, where they continued to grow.  In 1954 the company launched a major campaign with Marlboro Cigarettes, marketing them specifically to men.  In 1970 Philip Morris acquired Miller Brewing Company and in 1985 acquired Kraft.  In 2003 the name Philip Morris disappeared when Altria Group, Inc. took over the company.  Five years later the entire company was relocated to Richmond, Virginia.

Today 72 5th Avenue is home to the New School’s Milano School for Urban Policy.  The architectural integrity of the structure still exists, though, paying homage to its days as a warehouse.

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