|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|
With elements cast by 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|
I will never understand the mentality that took such a beautiful mansard roof and replaced it with a prison...ReplyDelete
I was just reminiscing to a friend about the "Carousel" restaurant in McCreery's. It was definitely child oriented. I recall that the chairs were set into curved tracks at the tables, under the carousel. (Or maybe it was a circus big top.)ReplyDelete
I don't remember anything about what food was served.
Just happened to see this when I was researching McCreerys. It was a circus motif - my mother and I used to shop there when I was a kid and always had lunch there. I loved it.Delete
The mansard roof was almost certainly destroyed in the "million dollar fire" of July 1909. Photos after that show a simple flat-roofed addition instead of the mansard roof, though not the same one that is there now.ReplyDelete
The "carousel" restaurant was in the 34th Street McCreery's, the final location of the store (opposite the Empire State Building).ReplyDelete
I have a little bench stamped James McCreery & Co on the bottom of the seat. Was just about to put a coat of paint on it when I noticed the stampReplyDelete
I am currently refinishing two mahogany chest of draws and also noticed a sticker in the back of the furniture that reads Master Made, James McCreery & Co, New York.Delete
wonderful historical account of McCreery's.....is there any way for me to "transfer" this attachment to my facebook page ? Thx, Marina McCreeryReplyDelete
You would have to post the link, I guess. I'm by far no expert on tech matters.Delete
Hello My wifes Mum is a McCreery related to James but in the New Zealand branch. Ray PichonReplyDelete
A very interesting story related to a pewter water pitcher I bought in a junk store this afternoon.ReplyDelete
I would like to see the evidence that this building was "built by J.B. and W.W. Burnell" I have the McCreery building built by the James Clarke Hoe Company of New York. I do agree however that its a brilliant building and a shame it lost its original roof.ReplyDelete
It always amazes me how some people couch their comments as attacks. The GVHS agrees with the Cornell (not Burnell) attribution (see here https://gvshp.org/blog/2013/05/15/mccreerys-then-now-dry-goods-to-duplexes/) as does the Landmarks Preservation Commission (see the notation towards the end of the page here: http://home2.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/97Bowery.pdf)Delete
Hi Ray. I am a McCreery, and have recently done dna testing. I notice we have New Zealand relatives. My G-G-G-Grandparents were James and Elizabeth McCreery. Their son Frank was my G-G-Grandfather. Which of the sons is your wife's ancestor?ReplyDelete
I have, in possession, a dining table, hutch and sideboard whose manufacturer is James McCreery and Co. for more than 70 years. Are there other sites for mor information on this and other furniture of this vintage/origin? Thnx.ReplyDelete