Friday, February 11, 2011

The Forgotten Vaults Under No. 675 Hudson Street

No. 675 Hudson Street (right) in 1927 shortly after the vaults were sealed (photo by Percy Loomis Speer -- NYPL Collection)
Commercial sailing ships arriving from Europe and England in the 19th Century carried small cut stone blocks as ballast. As the ships were loaded with American goods, the ballast stones were offloaded and abandoned. The city, in turn, used the uniform, rectangular stones as paving bricks, creating the cobblestone streets seen throughout many sections of the city even today.

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 Gardiner & 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
Meanwhile, above, No. 675 was discovered by movie makers. This was the setting for the apartment of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, in The Hours Ed Harris jumps from a window on the north corner and in Serpico, Al Pacino nabs Rudi Casaro here.
No. 675 Hudson as seen from West 13th Street -- photo Alice Lum
Now part of the Gansevoort Historic District, both No. 675 Hudson Street and the once-forgotten vaults beneath the streets around it are active once again.


  1. so cool to have discovered these vaults...interesting history as to their initial uses....

  2. I'm a but confused, are these the same subterranean areas that the old BDSM and gay clubs were once in?

    1. Yes it was a sleazy gay club back in the early 90's where clothes were optional when you walked in. I believe it was called "J's" or "Jays".

    2. Yup, I had a friend who lived here illegally with her family in 1980. The club was definitely a BDSM and it was a definitive presence in this building that had so much character.

    3. I went to j's hangout in the 90's

  3. I don't know about those areas; however as mentioned in the article a fraction of the old vaults were still accessible in the basement so that could be what you're referring to. When completely reopened they crisscrossed for 6500 square feet under the streets.

  4. The old clubs were where the 675 club now is, directly under the building and sidewalk on Hudson. The newly discovered vault is where "The Bunker" now is, under the cobblestone on the 9th ave side. Also,the bottom photo, "No. 675 Hudson as seen from West 13th Street -- photo Alice Lum", is not 675 Hudson, but the building diagonally across Hudson from 675.

  5. This omits a rather major part of the building's history when it was The Vault, The Hellfire Club, J's Hangout and many other kinky establishments.