Friday, September 18, 2015

Hats, Suits and Make-up--No. 430 Broome Street

An 1894 make-over of the two Federal-style buildings resulted in a handsome up-to-date structure.
By 1836 the brick house at No. 430 Broome Street, at the corner of Crosby, was being used for both residential and business purposes.  Jesse Browne, who dealt in “pencilcases,” listed the address as both his home and office.  Also living here was Charles Lowther, whose coal business was located at No. 402 Washington Street.  The cohabitation was easily explained by Lowther’s marriage to Browne’s daughter.

A year later Jesse Browne had moved his business to No. 68 Spring Street, while still residing in the Broome Street house.  By 1841 Dr. James H. Rogers had opened his medical office in the building and would remain here at least into 1843.

In the meantime the esteemed academician Robert H. Brownne lived in the 4-story brick house directly behind No. 430, at No. 39 Crosby Street.   The scholarly Brownne was the son of the prominent shipbuilder, head of the firm Brownne & Bell, which constructed Robert Fulton’s Clermont.  In 1833 Robert Brownne was elected a member of the New York Lyceum of Natural History and four years later became its Recording Secretary.  He was recognized as an expert in mineralogy, bibliography, numismatics and conchology.   Described by the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, “modest and unassuming in manner, with solid virtue and Christian grace,” he would eventually take the positions of librarian for sugar magnate Robert L. Stuart’s private library and Curator of the Mercantile Library Association of the City of New York.

One might assume the Jesse Browne and Robert Brownne were related, despite the additional “n” in Robert’s surname.  As a matter of fact, Brownne’s father’s name was variously spelled as “Brown,” “Browne” and “Brownne.”  The connection is strengthened by the fact that when Robert H. Brownne left No. 39 Crosby Street, the house was owned by Jesse Browne.

On May 1, 1846 Dr. Francis took over the office in No. 430 Broome Street where John H. Rogers had been practicing.  In announcing the move, Dr. Francis directed patients to the “first house, second block East of Broadway.”

By 1852 No. 430 Broome was being used exclusively for business purposes.  Jesse Browne had moved to No. 7 Warren Place and that year William H. Underhill was running his “Wholesale and Family Store” from the first floor.  He hired Costar’s Vermin and Insect Exterminator to rid his shop of pests.  Although Underhill marketed his wares innocently enough, an advertisement in The New York Times on October 2, 1852 suggested it was simply a liquor store.

“To Families, Invalids, &c.—Old Wines, Brandies, London and Dublin Porter and Brown Stout, Scotch and East India Pale Ale, &c, of superior qualities, recommended by the faculty for medical uses, for sale in bottles or on draught, in quantities to suit purchasers, at lower cash prices.”

Browne had converted the upper floors of the houses and apparently joined them internally.  A large meeting room was accessed through the Crosby Street entrance.  On March 11, 1852 The Third Manhattan Building Association announced an upcoming public meeting “at the large room No. 430 Broome-st., corner of Crosby and Broome sts, (entrance on Crosby)” for the “reception of new members.”  The Association said in an announcement in The Times, “This is the first public meeting ever held in this Hall; it is large, and will seat six hundred people, with new and comfortable seats.”

The inclusion of the large meeting hall in the building was explained a month later when the Association mentioned another upcoming meeting to be “held at Masonic Temple, No. 430 Broome-st.”

The present of Mason Hall in the combined buildings was no doubt the impetus for Macoy & Sickels’ moving in.  The firm published Masonic books and pamphlets, printed Masonic diplomas and stationery, and manufactured “regalia, jewels, swords, seals, etc.”  It also operated the “Universal Masonic Emporium.”  In announcing its move to No. 430 Broome in 1860, the firm promised that here “may be found, on hand, or made to order, every article necessary for the working of lodges, chapters, councils, consistories, commanderies, etc., belonging to the Masonic, Odd Fellows, and other Civic Societies.”

Among the publications Macoy & Sickels put out that year were The Book of Symbols; Illustraing the Ritual of Ancient Craft Masonry; Macoy’s Freemason’s Monitor; and The Signet of King Solomon; or the Templar’s Daughter.     Daniel Sickels held the position of Grand Secretary General of Supreme Council 33° and Robert Macoy was an “honorary member.”

In 1866, when the publishers released The General Ahiman Rezon and Freemason’s Guide, the Voice of Masonry and Tidings from the Craft described it as an “elegant volume” and “a genuine addition to the Masonic ritual-literature of the day…It is elegantly printed, as everything is that emanates from Macoy & Sickels.  As a fronticepiece, there is given a Tracing-board of the 18th Century, reproduced from one of Dr. Oliver’s publications.”

By now the area was filled with publishers.  On May 11 1866 The New York Times listed several of the nearby firms, including Hurd & Houghton, and F. J. Huntington & Son, both at No. 459 Broome Street; J. W. Bouton at No. 416 Broome Street; Routledge & Sons also at No. 416; Doolady’s at No. 448; Dick & Fitzgerald, “publishers of light literature,” at No. 456; and W. A. Townsend who had just relocated to No. 434 Broome, among many others.

Included in the list was Schermerhorn, Bancroft & Co., “who are also large publishers of school-books, and the managers of an educational agency,” who moved into No. 430 Broome that year.  J. W. Schermerhorn was an indefatigable entrepreneur.  As The Times pointed out, in addition to the publishing firm, he ran the American Institute here.  It acted as a sort of employment agency for instructors and a information source for parents.  Schermerhorn laid out the Institute’s exhaustive list of services in a New-York Tribune advertisement on June 27, 1868:

Aids all who seek well-qualified Teachers;
Represents Teachers who desire positions;
Gives parents information of good Schools;
Sells, rents and exchanges School properties.
Teachers who want positions for Autumn should apply now.  Teachers of Classics, professors of music, Ladies for Piano and vocal music, and French ladies are in demand.  Wanted specially a Baptist Professor of Natural Sciences for a College; superior lady vocalist for first-class Seminary on Hudson; a French lady for Georgia.  All Teachers should have Application Form”

A single page of The American Naturalist published that year listed three advertisements by Schermerhorn.  One hawked Hall’s Great Geological Chart, six-and-a-half feet by five feet “finely engraved and superbly colored.”  Below it was an offering of The New American School Desk and Settee, “constructed on ‘physiological principles” and manufactured by J. W. Schermerhorn & Co.  The ad promised “by far the best Desk ever made.”  The remainder of the page was taken up by an advertisement for Schermerhorn’s American Educational Monthly “devoted to popular instruction and literature.”

Schermerhorn also offered advice on mental and social culture.  The American Naturalist, 1868 (copyright expired)

Jesse Brown died in 1870 and the properties were conveyed by George Y. Browne to Jesse Browne, Jr.  Within the decade the millinery and garment industries would engulf the area, pushing the publishing firms further north.   In 1880 M. Gross was manufacturing muffs in No. 430 Broome Street.  Business was successful enough that year that he advertised for “50 good round and flat muff finishers.”

Also in the building was Meyer Norden, a clothing manufacturer.  While many garment shops worked their employees on Saturdays, Norden’s business was closed.  On August 22, 1882 The New York Times explained that Norden “is a Hebrew, and his place is kept closed on Saturday.”  Burglars took advantage of the fact and on Saturday, August 19 they “forced open the door leading from the hallway of the building into the floor occupied by Mr. Norden and carried off pieces of cloth, silk, and velvet valued at $250.”  The worth of the bolts would be close to $6,000 today.

The newspaper was as shocked by the audacity of the crooks to pull off the job in daylight, as they were by the inaction of witnesses.  “They used a light wagon for carrying off the goods, and although they were seen carrying the pieces of cloth down the stairs to the street, no one interfered with them.”

M. Gross was still here in 1883 when he placed an advertisement in The Sun for “Experienced hands of both sexes on fur-lined garments.”   Milliners,too, would rent space in the building, including Rosenberg & Krause who needed “finishers on fancy caps; also cloth caps” in September 1888. 

The retail space was home to Denis D. Shea’s clothing store by 1893.  The sharp-eyed Shea was too quick for two would-be thieves on May 29 that year.  That afternoon a peddler, Frank Raymond, entered the store with salesman John Williams.  Williams said he wanted to look at pants and after choosing a pair, went into the changing closet to try them on.

While Shea’s back was turned, Raymond slipped a $25 overcoat to Williams.  Inside the changing room, Williams wrapped the coat around his body, then buttoned up his clothes.  Coming out, he told Denis Shea that he had changed his mind about the pants.

The proprietor was too sharp to be fooled by the ploy.  The Evening World reported “Shea thought his customer had grown very corpulent in a few minutes and he called in Detective Scully, of the Tenth Precinct, who took the overcoat from Williams.”

The two men were held on $500 bail awaiting trial.

The following year Jesse Browne, Jr. hired architect Julius Kastner to remodel and update the two aged structures.   Kastner was busy designing manufacturing and warehouse buildings throughout the city.  For his Broome Street make-over he splashed a Renaissance Revival canvas liberally with trendy Queen Anne elements.

The Broome Street storefront was supported by fluted cast iron columns.  The red brick fa├žade featured regimented rows of openings ornamented by Renaissance-inspired pediments and hoods.  But Queen Anne curliques and emblems updated the Broome Street elevation, including a decorative corner cartouche which announced the construction date.   At the corner of the bracketed cornice an elaborate base, supported by a twisted column, most likely upheld a conical cap.

A decorative cartouche with the renovation date is surrounded by palm fronds, ribbons and leaves.
The completed building continued to attract garment manufacturers.  Russian-born brothers Louis and Moris Amdur moved their firm “Amdur Brothers” in around the turn of the century.  

In October 1903, following the pogrom of April 19 that killed around 49 Russian Jews and injured 500 others, rumors spread to the United States that approximately 300 Jews had been massacred at Mohilev-on-Dneiper—the Amdur’s home town.  They hastily cabled their father who still lived there.

To their great relief, they received a one-word telegram in reply, saying “blogopoluzno.”  Loosely translated it said “All is well.”

Another pair of brothers, Adolph and Samuel Ullman would be in the building by 1908 with their Ullman Brothers clothing manufacturing firm. 

While Jesse Browne, Jr. retained possession of the property, he turned management of the building over to a succession of leasers.   In 1884 he had leased it to Louis Corn for a term of 10 years.  The initial rent of $2,750 a year rose to $3,000 by the end of the lease.   In 1910 he gave another 10-year lease to Joseph J. Cullen at $3,750 per year.  Something happened, however, and a year later Diedrich Brand signed a lease on the building for the same amount—about $8,000 a month in today’s dollars.

For now No. 430 Broome Street continued to house garment firms.  In 1913 20-year old Robert Berger would come to regret stealing six silk dresses from the building.  He was convicted on May 30 for petty larceny, his second such offense.  He was incarcerated in the City Reformatory.

The Browne family finally sold No. 430 Broome Street in April 1920.  The buyer, newspapers said, “will occupy most of the building.”  In reporting the sale the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide noted “It is the first time the property has changed hands in 84 years.”

The garment and millinery districts were steadily moving out of the area.  S. Wanders & Sons Chemical Co. had been in the building at the time of the sale, but moved out in 1921.  The building became home to the Stein Cosmetics firm, “specializing in [the] theatrical trade.”  The make-up firm would remain here for decades, into the 1960s.

The Soho neighborhood suffered neglect during much of the 20th century; but by 1988 when Lulu’s restaurant opened, the area was seeing a rebirth.  Lulu’s was termed by one magazine an “old fashioned Italian restaurant.” 

The late-Victorian storefront survives little-changed.
The street level space had already seen a succession of restaurants, beginning in 1958.  It continued in 1991 when Onda opened, an Italian-Asian restaurant which closed only a year later.  It was followed by Cala di Volpe, a Sardinian restaurant, in 1995, and Sweet Ophelia’s in 1996.  Owned by sometimes-opera singer Alexander Smalls, it featured “low country” Carolina fare.   In 2008 L’Orange Bleue Punters, offering French-Moroccan food, was here; and in 2014 it was home to Chicane, which served Meditteranean fare “rooted in the Riviera.”
There was no doubt a conical cap above the decorator corner support.

In the meantime the upper floors, once factory space for hat and suit manufacturers, were converted for residential use--one “joint living work quarter” per floor.   And outside, Kastner’s eye-catching design holds its own after more than a century.

photographs by the author

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