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836 Broadway, a Cast Iron Beauty, and Now A Landmark

On June 11th, 2019, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated seven buildings in the area south of Union Square as individual landmarks. While these seven buildings are just a fraction of a fraction of the buildings we called for to be landmarked in connection with the City’s shady Tech Hub “deal”, and none are in danger of being demolished (six of the seven are overbuilt for their zoning), they nevertheless all have storied histories. Of the seven buildings that were designated, 836 Broadway is the oldest, built in 1876, and reflective of the burgeoning commercial development of Broadway at that time.

836 Broadway, Photo by LPC

836 Broadway was built on the site of James J. and Cornelia Roosevelt’s town home. James, a well-respected judge and Congressman, was also the great-uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Following the deaths of James and Cornelia in 1875 and 1876 respectively, their estate had the town home demolished. The estate applied for a new building permit in 1876 for a six-story brick store and loft building to be designed by Stephen Decatur Hatch, responding to the change in nature of this part of Broadway which had been residential but by 1876 was becoming commercial.

Roosevelt town home at 836 Broadway as seen on the 1854 Perris Map. NYPL Digital Collections

Stephen Decatur Hatch (1839-1894), was a prominent New York City architect and started as a draftsman for the architectural office of John B. Snook, known for designing iron front buildings. In 1864 Hatch started his own firm and became an architect of the United States War Department. His design for 836 Broadway took full advantage of the lot which L’s around to a frontage on East 13th Street. Both facades are clad in ornamented cast-iron, with the East 13th Street facade less ornanate than the Broadway one and both featuring mansard roofs. Elements of the Neo-Grec, Second Empire and Renaissance Revival styles are employed in the design.

1885 Robinson map,. NYPL Digital Collection
Broadway, east side 12th to 14th Street. NYPL Digital Collection

No. 836’s first tenant was Mitchell, Vance & Co. who manufactured light fixtures, clocks and ornamental metal. Their foundry was in nearby Chelsea, and No. 836 served as their showroom and office space. Other tenants would follow including garment related companies, as these would became prevelant in the area during the early 20th century. During the shirt-waist strikes of 1909-1910, clothing-related factores in the building included Freigat & Keim. To learn more, see the designation report.

836 Broadway in 1912. NYPL Digital Collections

836 Broadway is one of ten buildings in our neighborhood Village Preservation fought to have landmarked which were landmarked in June of this year, all of which, like No. 836, now have LPC designation reports which can be found on our website that have rich historical details about each of the buildings:  817 Broadway, 826 Broadway, 830 Broadway, 832-834 Broadway, 836 Broadway, 840 Broadway, The Roosevelt Building, 841 Broadway, The LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street, Caffe Cino, 31 Cornelia Street, and the Gay Activist Alliance Firehouse, 99 Wooster Street.  If you want to help us as we fight to extend landmark protections to more of the area south of Union Square (including to buildings which are actually endangered), click here.  If you want to access more designation reports for buildings and areas of our neighborhood, containing fascinating historic information, click here.

One response to “836 Broadway, a Cast Iron Beauty, and Now A Landmark

  1. What an elegant, professional piece of research, full of fascinating information . Thank you for giving significance to this building so that the next time I walk by, it’ll have new meaning and I’ll view it differently .Terrific piece—thanks.

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