|photo by Alice Lum
Henry Barclay had inherited his father’s substantial real estate holdings in Manhattan and Queens. In the 1840s the younger Barclay had constructed three five-story buildings at the southwest corner of Broadway at Worth Street. Now the potential profits to be made during this prosperous period prompted him to raze the relatively new buildings and replace them with grander structures which would command higher income.
At the time cast iron facades were becoming more and more popular with builders. They were relatively inexpensive, eliminated the need for stone carvers, and imitated the look of neighboring masonry buildings. Henry Barclay was not interested in “inexpensive” or “imitation.”
Begun in 1863 and completed a year later, the three five-story buildings were clad in gleaming white marble. Designed to appear as a single structure, they offered retail space on street level with manufacturing lofts and office space above. The Renaissance-inspired buildings stretched from No. 325 to No. 333 Broadway and Barclay’s conservative approach to architecture—expressed in his rebuff of cast iron—reflected itself in the overall, reserved design.
The resulting structures were restrained, dignified and quietly elegant.
|The three white marble buildings extending along Broadway pretended, successfully, to be a single structure -- photo by Alice Lum
In order to easily move goods vertically through the building, a shaft was constructed with sliding hatch covers on each floor. Goods in the basement or delivered to the ground floor could be hoisted up to the upper floors rather than being lugged up stairs.
The teen-aged girls (Angelina was 18 and Josephine a year older) were horse-playing as they prepared to leave work at 5:30 that afternoon. Somehow the hatchway slid open and the girls plummeted to the cellar five floors below to their deaths. In reporting the heartbreaking story, The New York Times noted that “Both of them are said to have been girls of industrious and steady habits, and of respectable parentage.”
By the 1880s textile companies were giving way to stationery-related firms. In 1888 Pace Dennis & Co. was here, sellers of Howe Scales. The would remain through the turn of the century.
Bullock’s Brothers was headquarters at No. 325 at the time, manufacturing the “Perfection” Elastic Blotter. At a time when ballpoint pens were unheard of, blotters were a necessary desk accessory. Bullock’s promised that the elastic blotter required “No rocking or rolling. Simple pressure operates. No stationer’s stock complete without.”
Also here in 1889 was Sillcock’s Brothers, manufacturers and sellers of “specialty celluloid goods.”
|photo by Alice Lum
Regarding its own typewriter, Blickensderfer noted that “The schools are using them. They are light, neat, clean and have a never-wear-out quality. Do as good work as the high-priced machines, and are easier to handle.”
|In 1900 a Blickensderfer machine was pricey -- about $1000 today.
The firms were major competitors. Directly next to a Blickensderfer advertisement in Education Magazine in 1900 was one for Wickoff, Seamans & Benedict. “Solid merit is the foundation on which is built the enduring fame of the Remington,” said the ad.
Wickoff, Seamans & Benedict would win out.
In 1905 the company changed its name to the Remington Typewriter Company and about five years later leased the entire block of buildings from No. 325 through No. 333. Internal renovations were made, creating a single building. While Remington took nearly the entire structure, it still rented space to firms like the Smith-Premier Typewriter Co. (which would later become Smith-Corona).
Smith-Premier was charged with producing orders for munitions of war for Germany in 1915 by George Sylvester Viereck, the editor of The Fatherland magazine. Mason Wheeler, the vice-president of Smith-Premier wrote a curt and succinct letter to the periodical on April 27:
“Replying to your favor of the 24th inst., we have refused to consider orders for arms and ammunition finding it to our best interests to confine our plants to the manufacture of typewriters and typewriter parts.”
By 1917 Remington Typewriter Company had grown out of the space. That year it moved further north to No. 374 Broadway. With Remington’s removal, the building once again became home to, mostly, textile and dry goods firms (although in 1919 Keene Co. was here, exporters and importers of “chemicals and drugs, citric acid, tartaric acid, cream of tartar, Prussian blue, creosote carbonate, quinine, morphine, codeine, etc.”).
Converse & Co., a dry goods commission agency moved in immediately and would stay for around two decades. M.C. D. Borden & Sons established its offices here, the selling agency for the American Printing Company—the largest cloth mill in the country.
In 1923 Borden & Sons purchased the building. Throughout the 20th century the building continued to see textile firms, including Iselin-Jefferson Co and Dan River Mills, come and go.
|Despite decades of pollution and acid-rain, the carved marble detailing is remarkably crisp -- photo by Alice Lum
|The street level cast iron store fronts and marble piers survive after a century and a half -- photo by Alice Lum