14th Street is an eclectic ecotone; it’s not only the upper boundary of the Village but also the lower Boundary of Chelsea and Gramercy. It’s not surprising then that this street hosts a unique collection of architectural styles, a few of them having been designated as city landmarks. Today marks the anniversary of two such designations, both in 2008, each with their own unique history, legacy, and appearance, adding to the cultural and architectural heritage of the Village: 144 West 14th St. and 22-26 East 14th St. GVSHP strongly advocated for the designation of both buildings, over more than a little resistance, and both started life as commercial buildings but now largely house space for two prominent educational institutions: Pratt Institute and The New School.
144 West 14th Street
144 West 14th Street (aka 138-146 W. 14th St.) is “a grandly-proportioned Renaissance Revival-style loft building” and was built between 1895-6. As described in its designation report, the structure is:
“Faced with limestone, tan brick and terra cotta, it was designed by the architects Brunner & Tryon in 1895-96. Seven stories tall, the street facade is articulated through a series of monumental arches, embellished with handsome classical details.”
The building served as a workshop for many different stores and products over the years, including Macy’s and Les Paul. Eventually in the late 90’s, the building was acquired by Pratt and now serves as their Manhattan campus.
“Since its completion, many commercial tenants have occupied various floors, including R. H. Macy’s, which produced flags and silk underwear here, the silversmith Graff, Washbourne & Dunn, as well as Epiphone, a leading manufacturer of stringed instruments. In 1941, the noted American jazz guitarist Les Paul assembled a “solid-body” electric guitar in the company’s workshop; it became the prototype for many electric guitars played today. 144 West 14th Street was acquired by Pratt Institute in 1999. Restored by Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, it now serves as the school’s Manhattan campus.”
22-26 East 14th Street
Otherwise known as the Baumann Brothers Furniture and Carpets Store, 22-26 East 14th Street (aka 19-25 East 13th Street) was built 1880-1 and is probably one of the most eclectically-designed structures on this street.
“The wide cast-iron front facade of the Baumann Brothers store, manufactured by the West Side Architectural Iron Works, is one of the Jardines’ and one of the city’s most inventive, unusual, and ornamental. Built toward the end of the heyday of cast-iron fronts in New York and the flourishing creativity in that material, the Baumann Brothers store is also a signal achievement of Aesthetic Movement design. An amalgam of ornamental influences, including neo-Classical, neo-Grec, and Queen Anne styles, is embraced to achieve a decorative overall composition. Another designed, though simpler, facade on 13th Street is clad in brick and stone with a cast-iron ground story.”
The building itself housed the Baumann Brothers’ store, as well as became a retail hub for other shopping venues and even a training studio for candidates of the police and fire departments. Today, the building is part Parsons and the ground floor a Duane Reade.
“The building’s prime location was in the midst of Manhattan’s primary retail shopping district, which included 14th Street, Union Square, and Ladies’ Mile. From 1881 to 1897, it housed Baumann Brothers, a furniture manufacturing company established c. 1870 by Albert and Ludwig Baumann, Bohemian Jewish immigrants. By 1884, the firm occupied the entire structure and billed itself as “the largest and most complete furnishing establishment in America.” For eight decades, the ground story contained 5-10-and-25 cent stores, beginning with the fourth Woolworth store in Manhattan (1900-28), acclaimed at its opening as “the largest ten-cent store in the world” and in 1910 the location of the chain’s first lunchroom. This space was later a store for F. & W. Grand, H.L. Green, and McCrory. The upper stories were leased for over eight decades for show rooms and manufacturing by various firms related to the textile and sporting goods industries, aswell as a gymnasium and classrooms for the Delehanty Institute (1930-63), which trained candidates of the Police and Fire Departments. The upper stories are currently used as an annex to the Parsons School of Design, while the ground story contains a drugstore.”