|The McCreery & Co. Dry Goods store a year after opening, 1869 -- from The Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York -- NYPL Collection|
Constructed by builders J. B. and W. W. Cornell, the lavish store cost a staggering $300,000.
McCreery had chosen a highly-fashionable area for his new building. Across Broadway was the Episcopal Grace Church where, for twenty years, New York’s wealthy had worshipped and were married. Across 11th Street to the south was the first-class St. Denis Hotel, opened in 1853, and the side streets were lined with grand brownstone residences.
Focusing on the female shopper, the store catered to the monied carriage trade. Before long The New York Times would deem it "one of the most highly esteemed dry goods establishments in America." In 1872 the newspaper commented on the store's goods. “Shawls, silks and furs, of good quality, and specially suited to the season, may be obtained at McCreery & Co.’s establishment, Broadway and Eleventh-street. They have recently added largely to their stocks, and now offer a fine selection of goods intended for ladies’ use.”
The expensive nature of the store’s stock was evident when, on the night of September 7, 1880, three well-known burglars, Thomas Fay, Frederick Walling (alias “Little Fred”), and John Brown (alias “Turk”) were apprehended. In their possession were seal-skin sacks stolen from the store valued at $10,000.
|The store in 1895 from "King's Photographic Views of New York" (author's collection)|
As the turn of the century approached, feminine shopping was moving to the stretch of 6th Avenue between 14th Street and 23rd Street referred to as "The Ladies' Mile." Not to be left behind, McCreery opened its second store in 1894 on 6th Avenue at 23rd Street and, around the same time, sold the Broadway building to the Methodist Publishing Company. McCreery & Co. continued leasing the lower floors for its retail business until 1902 when the area no longer supported high-end dry goods stores. By 1940 the lower floors, where fashionable women shopped for silks and furs, housed an antique statuary store. The upper floors were used as a shoe and leather handbag factory.
On October 3, 1971 a fire started somewhere in the factory and, before it was extinguished, the structure was heavily damaged. However, true to its 1860s reputation, the cast iron facades withstood the blaze.
The Elghanayan brothers, Tom, Fred and Henery, bought the old dry goods building through their Rockrose Associated real estate firm. When their intentions to demolish the remaining shell and erect a high-rise apartment building in its place were announced, the community protested. Residents rallied along with the Friends of Cast Iron and community groups, appearing before the Board of Appeals. The Board granted variances that made renovating the existing structure to residential use economically feasible.
Stephens B. Jacobs Group, PC, architects, were commissioned to transform the burned shell into 144 apartments – no two of which are identical. The large, arched windows, the interior Corinthian cast iron columns, and the original high ceiling dimensions were retained; resulting in dramatic spaces. Completed in 1974, it was the first renovation of a cast iron building into conventionally-financed housing and a fine example of re-purposing vintage structures.
|The McCreery Building today with its magnificent mansard replaced by two rather plain stories -- photo restaurantwarecollectors.com|