Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The 1894 Goebel Building -- No. 94 Bedford Street

photo by Alice Lum
In 1894 Herman Schade lived in a comfortable brick home at No. 20 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village.  The Federal-style home, while outdated, reflected Schade's financial success in the plumbing business of Shade Bros. & Co.  That year he commissioned architects Kuzer & Kohl to design his personal stable a few blocks to the north at No. 95 Bedford.

Two wide arched entrances with double doors marked the first story brownstone base.  A smaller arched doorway led to the upper floors.  Three stories of brick trimmed in brownstone with exceptionally tall windows for a stable building sat above.  The facade was distinguished by handsome brick panels beneath the windows of the upper floors.  The additional floors (stables were normally two-stories high) and the Queen Anne-inspired cornice, found more often on tenement buildings than private stables, suggests Schade may have leased living space for additional income.

Attractive brick panels between the windows were an added touch -- photo by Alice Lum
His completed building cost the plumber $14,000--about $300,000 today.

Schade was apparently a man of strong conviction or, at least, had little intention of sitting on a jury.  On May 21, 1895, when he was called for jury duty for the trial of Police Inspector McLaughlin, charged with extortion, Schade was obstinate.

The New York Times reported "Schade finally declared that he would be guided by his own opinion and would not be likely to take instructions from the court.  He was excused."

While Herman and his brother Henry were establishing their plumbing business, Julius Goebel was importing clay crucibles, the holders for molten glass.  Goebel arrived in America from Germany during the turbulent Civil War years, around 1865.  The Goebel company was the sole American importer of Grossalmerode clay, a German clay highly resistant to heat and perfect for the crucibles.

J. Goebel & Co. was located far downtown at No. 129 Maiden Lane for nearly half a century.   The firm exhibited its crucibles and clay at the 1877 Philadelphia International Centennial Exhibition, drawing the attention of glass makers.

Upon the death of Julius Goebel, the operation of the firm passed to his son, Julius Goebel, Jr. In 1927 J. Goebel & Co. moved into the former stable of Herman Schade.  A molded insignia was installed over the arched entrances announcing the firm's name, surmounded by a crest with stacked crucibles.

The stacked crucibles in the shield confuses modern locals, who mistake them for wine vats -- photo by Alice Lum
While the firm converted the lower floors to its warehousing, shipping and office facilities; the upper stories became eight rental apartments.  If Goebel had ever manufactured any of its crucibles, it would appear that by 1928 it was importing and selling only.  An advertisement that year in Ceramic Products Cyclopedia touted "sole importers and sellers of Goebel's Grossalmerode Clay."

The company diversified its products before long and in 1940 advertised selling "crucibles, tongs, fluxes, furnaces and casting equipment" from the building.   The Goebel family sold the building to an investor in 1946 for $40,000.

photo by Alice Lum
Greenwich Village had been the Bohemian section of New York City for decades--its winding streets and charming buildings attracting musicians, artists and writers.  Once such artist was Victor Seydel, the Brussels-born decorator and muralist.   Among Seydel's commissions was a mural for the Hotel Martinique to commemorate (or possibly celebrate) the end of Prohibition.  The mural was unveiled on October 2, 1934. 

Seydel and his companion, former model Marion Getty, were living at No. 95 Bedford Street when he died in October 1948 at the age of 66.  Marion would stay on in the studio she shared with the artist for several more years, living with his paintings.

Greenwich Village teems with buildings that enjoy romantic and untrue stories told and retold as local lore.  The quaint former stable of Herman Schade is commonly reported to be a former winery or brewery--most likely because of the German-sounding name in the molded ribbon over the door and the crucibles in the crest which are easily mistaken for wine vats, and the grape-looking clusters beneath them.

The original doors with their wonderful strap hinges and multiple-paned openings still survive -- photo by Alice Lum
The handsome building has survived with its original carriage doors and little alteration; a charming element along a Village street.

1 comment:

  1. Count me among the locals who assumed that this place was a winery. Stacked crucibles? Who knew?

    Fascinating. Thanks.