|No. 675 Hudson Street (right) in 1927 shortly after the vaults were sealed (photo by Percy Loomis Speer -- NYPL Collection)|
Early in 2005 on 9th Avenue in the Meat Packing District one of the stone curbstones suddenly collapsed into a void. The cobblestones abutting it began sagging towards the hole. The area was fenced off and bus traffic routed away. And the ancient vaults beneath the streets were rediscovered.
Workers gained entrance through the basement of No. 675 Hudson. The 1848 vernacular Neo-Greco building is an attention-grabbing triangular structure bounded by 9th Avenue, Hudson Street, 14th Street at its point, and West 13th Street. At the time of its construction the neighborhood was changing from one of small Federal houses to a bustling commercial district a few blocks from the riverfront. By the early 20th Century the area would become known as the Meat Packing District.
Originally No. 675 housed factory space with, possibly, rooms rented above for sailors and workers. In 1892 Gardner & Estes shoe manufacturers employed 175 workers here.
When built, the building had access through the basement to the great brick-lined vaults that stretched underneath the busy streets above, crisscrossing and interconnecting. Vast brick arches and square masonry pillars were hefty enough to withstand the enormous weight of the horse-drawn freight drays and coal sleds above.
Predating No. 675 Hudson by almost a decade, the vaults were used for a variety of purposes in the years before the Civil War. Horses were stabled here, cargo and supplies were stored, and according to one account, a foundry operated. Then around 1920 they were abandoned and sealed, for the most part to be forgotten, although small portions of the old vaults were still available and used for storage by the business in the triangular building.
By the time the curbstone fell into the vault, the Meat Pacing District was experiencing a renaissance. The area that had become seedy and crime-ridden towards the end of the 20th Century was now filling with high-end boutiques and trendy clubs.
Ari Ellis who owned No. 675, now called the Triangle Building, was intrigued by the subterranean space. He and the city talked and it was decided the space belonged to him – a gargantuan area of up to 6,500 square feet.
Ellis initiated extensive structural repairs, restoring the pillars, arches and brickwork, waterproofing, and adding support where necessary; all to the eventual satisfaction of the Department of Transportation.
Ellis partnered with Matt Abramcyk to convert the distinctive space into 675 Bar, 40 feet under 9th Avenue. Abramcyk designed the lounge which opened a few years later, making use of the unique ambience in its several rooms.
|Bar 675, 40 feet below 9th Avenue -- photo joonbug.com|
|No. 675 Hudson as seen from West 13th Street -- photo Alice Lum|