|No. 287 Broadway prior to the excavation that would threaten it -- photo Streeteasy.com|
Architect John B. Snook followed the trend when he designed the prestigious office building at No. 287 Broadway in 1871 for the estate of Stephen Storm, who had been an important wholesale grocer and tobacco seller. Intended as a bank on the lower level with offices above, it would have one of the first Otis elevators in the city.
Snook’s cast iron façade spilled over with sophistication and class. The steep, slate-shingled mansard was punctuated by robust dormers with arched pediments, and the roofline was edged in filigree cast iron cresting. Completed in 1872, the narrow building extended down Reade Street 96 feet.
|photo by David W. Dunlap, The New York Times|
After closing the drugstore one January night that year, Washburne stopped at Niblo’s Garden, popular theatre, with some friends. After the performance, he strolled about alone. It was apparently a bad idea.
The druggist ran into Mary Moran, described by The New York Times as “a vulgar, frowsy-looking creature,” who asked him to buy her a drink at a near-by saloon. Later, when Washburne paid for the drinks, Mary got a good look at his cash.
The pair left the saloon together and, upon reaching the corner of West 3rd Street and Wooster, the woman threw her arms around Washburne, rendering him helpless as a male accomplice relieved him of $50, his watch and gold chain, and a diamond stud. Unfortunately for Mary, who had some years previously stolen $57,000 in cash in her grandest heist, Washburne’s description was clear. She was arrested soon after.
Mary Moran was sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. Ernest Washburne became more wary of his drinking companions.
Upstairs at No. 287 the insurance firm, Traders and Travelers’ Accident Company, had their offices in 1887. As World War I neared, the banking floor was home to the Henry Bischoff Banking House, while Henry Bischoff & Co., a shipping and forwarding company which “does forwarding for both importers and exporters, sells steamship tickets, and in a small way acts as a private bank,” occupied offices on the fourth floor.
|In 1912 horse-drawn trucks and gas lamps mark the neighborhood around No. 287 Broadway. Henry Bischoff's Bank is on the second floor and Hillard Mfg and A. L. Little Company have offices here. Photo NYPL Collection|
A month later the bank was declared bankrupt.
Almost a century later the first floor space once occupied by Ernest Washburne was now a pizza parlor and the exterior staircase to the former banking floor was gone. But the elegant cast iron structure still retained its integrity. Trouble came when all the buildings around it were razed for a planned 20-story condominium project by the John Buck Company of Chicago.
The excavations for the foundation of the new building went deeper and deeper and, unnoticed at first, the landmarked building on the corner began tilting. Cracks appeared. And then, when the structure was leaning a full 8 inches to the south, the tilt was obvious to anyone passing by.
|In 2007 the building was noticably leaning to the south -- Photo Curbed NY|
Four years later the monster glass-and-steel “reade57” building was completed, wrapping around and dwarfing it’s vintage neighbor. Today No. 287 Broadway is secure again, its appearance above the street level remarkably intact and unchanged since 1871.
|As the 20-story condominium building went up around it in 2010, No. 267 became dwarfed. Photo Curbed New York|