Monday, March 26, 2018

The Lost Bush Terminal Building - 100 Broad Street

A number of children play in the street around the recently completed building.  Note the gargoyles that line up along the first and third floor cornices.  from the collection of the New-York Historical Society

Irving T. Bush came up with an unexpected solution to shipping, storage and distribution costs in 1895.  Under the name of The Bush Co., he organized six warehouses and a steamship pier on the South Brooklyn waterfront as a freight-handling terminal.   The operation was successful despite of-- and, in fact, because of--its location outside of Manhattan.  Directly accessible to railways and ships, the terminal was able to offer storage, receiving and shipping services to wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers.

The name of the firm name became the Bush Terminal Company in 1902.  As the business grew, so did the complex.  Bush built a railroad, added factory lofts and warehouses to what was becoming a massive operation.

On May 2, 1903 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that Grace C. Snelling had sold the seven old buildings "at the junction of Broad, Bridge and Pearl sts."  The historic location, directly across from Fraunces Tavern, had once been the site of Manhattan's first church, erected in 1633.

The unwieldy pie-shaped property would now become the new headquarters of the Bush Terminal Co., which commissioned the firm of Kirby, Petit & Green to design the structure.  Completed in 1905, the completed edifice was like nothing in the Financial District.  The architects had produced a striking brick-and-stone Jacobean style building that would have been more comfortable in 16th century England than 20th century Manhattan.   Diapered brickwork, Gothic-arched openings, and diamond-paned windows, some with stained glass, added to the picturesque appearance.  The narrow Broad Street elevation featured a two-story angled bay which supported a stone balcony.

Not all architectural critics approved.  While The Architectural Record found no fault in the design itself, a June 1906 article derided the choice of styles for the location.  It complained in part, "there can be no doubt at all as to the impropriety of turning an office building in a busy thoroughfare into a Jacobean manor-house.  A house of this character, no matter how good it may be in itself, must necessarily look affected and out of place in the midst of a lot of office buildings; and when the offices of the Bush Terminal Company are surrounded, as they eventually will be, by skyscrapers, the impropriety will become still more conspicuous."

The Architectural Record, June 1906 (copyright expired)
J. Parker B. Fiske was kinder, focusing on the handsome brickwork.  Writing in the the same periodical on January 4, 1908 he said in part that "The new office building of the Bush Terminal Company, at 100 Broad street, constructed of the dark rich red 'Devonshire' stretchers with 'Gun Metal' headers" exemplified "the beautiful soft effects which may be produced by brick with an extremely rough texture."

The New York Times, April 19, 1911 (copyright expired)
The Bush Terminal Company leased extra space in the building.  The largest tenant was most likely the Jolly Mariner's Club.   Like other downtown clubs, its membership was composed of businessmen and it offered a respectable venue for quiet luncheons.  In the evenings the clubhouse restaurant was routinely used for meetings and dinners.  On November 23, 1908, for instance, the American Institute of Architects held its "folly dinner" here; and five days earlier it had been the scene of a dinner and meeting of the Merchants' Association during which Senator Nelson W. Aldrich spoke for more than an hour on European banking.

The fact that the Merchants' Association exclusively held its dinners and meetings in the Jolly Mariners' Club was, no doubt, not a coincidence.  Irving T. Bush was the chairman of the Association's Committee on Currency.

By 1911 a subsidiary company, the Bush Terminal Buildings Company, had been formed to handle the firm's vast real estate holdings.  On June 16, 1911 The New York Times reported that the Bush Terminal Buildings Company intended to remodel the three old buildings behind No. 100 Broad Street into "a highly improved office building;" creating an annex of sorts.

"At the present time the various floors are being used for miscellaneous purposes, but it is the company's intention to equip them for the most pretentious office needs, and in doing so the Tudor-Gothic style of architecture, employed both in the exterior and interior construction of the Bush Terminal Building proper, will be carried out."

The article explained that the 19th century facades were being stripped off, "to be replaced by ornamental terra cotta, embellished with leaded glass windows and other accessories in keeping with the general style."  The tallest building, No. 30 Bridge Street, would receive an "ornamental cupola" to match the Terminal Building.  The cost of the renovations were projected at upwards of $100,000--more than $2.6 million today.

from the collection of the New York Public Library
In September that same year No. 100 Broad Street got a new tenant with a ponderous name: the newly-organized New York State Branch of the National Citizens' League for the Promotion of a Sound Banking System.  The Branch boasted high-powered officers, including John Claflin, William Sloane, Isidor Straus, and George A. Plimpton.  Perhaps not unexpectedly, Irving T. Bush was also an officer, serving as chairman of the Executive Committee.

The group had been formed partly in reaction to the devastating Financial Panic of 1907.  Clafin told reporters on October 8, 1911, "The panic of 1907 was an unnecessary panic.  It has disclosed certain weaknesses in our banking system which can and must all be corrected."

By 1928 skyscrapers were rising along the downtown skyline.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
Another financial panic, the Stock Market crash of 1929 would hit closer to home for the Bush Terminal Company.  On September 29, 1936 The New York Times reported that the directors of the firm had adopted a resolution "for a reorganization of the company" under the National Bankruptcy Act.

Happily for the company and for its thousands of customers, the plan worked and the Bush Terminal Company survived.  And true to The Architectural Record's 1906 prediction, by the second half of the 20th century the Bush Terminal Building was hemmed in by towering skyscrapers.

In June 1961, three years before the demolition of Pennsylvania Station sparked New York City's historic preservation movement, the Bush Terminal Buildings Company sold No. 100 Broad Street.  Raymond F. Ryan, the real estate broker who brokered the deal, told reporters "the Bush Building with its gargoyles and leaded windows will be replaced by a two-story-and-penthouse structure."

The Bush Terminal Company announced it would move its headquarters to Brooklyn.  The New York Times headline on June 24 read simply "Bush Sells A Landmark."

The unique structure was demolished, to be replaced by the New York Clearing House Association's new building, designed by Rogers & Butler.

The newly completed New York Clearing House building in 1962. photograph via El Imperio Moderno 
The building as it appears today.  Real Estate Weekly, March 20, 2013


  1. What a wonderful masonry structure. I did not know this occupied the tiny triangular site just a few blocks from where I work. Like many other magnificent NYC buildings, demolished and long forgotten, it's replacement is boring and forgettable.

  2. The last two photos...well, they speak for themselves. The original and it's brick work and gargoyles was charming.