In 1853 the firm dissolved and Charles Tiffany struck out on his own. He hired the architectural firm of R.G. & O. P. Hatfield to design his new store at Nos. 550 Broadway, midway between Spring and Prince Streets. Prominent during their careers, brothers Oliver Perry Hatfield and Robert Griffith Hatfield had opened their office around 1841. Decades later, in 1891, The Inland Architect commented, "At that time, architecture was much less of a fine art than it is now, and the Hatfields found themselves led by inclination to the scientific and practical side of the profession, in which they soon gained a wide reputation."
The Hatfields produced a five-story Italianate style retail palace befitting the jewels and silverware inside. The building was faced in white marble above the cast iron storefront made by Daniel D. Badger's Architectural Iron Works. Above the intricate cornice two stalking lions flanked a parapet topped with a elaborate cresting.
|The storefront was illustrated in the 1865 catalogue of the Architectural Iron Works of the City of New York (copyright expired)|
Reportedly Charles Tiffany feared that the second floor openings were "monotonous." He commissioned his good friend Henry Frederick Metzler to carve a 9-foot tall figure of Atlas to be situated over the entrance, holding a clock, four feet in diameter, upon his shoulder.
Metzler was a carver of ships' figureheads, or “bow portraits.” Naked except for a cross leather strap, the bearded, lanky figure was a distinct departure from the hulking, muscular Atlases produced by most contemporary artists. The carver did not attempt to present a heroic figure and instead created a realistic, natural human form. Carved of fir, when completed the figure was painted to mimic the patina of weathered bronze.
Newspapers described the new store as a "brilliant bijouterie" and described a "blaze of glittering temptations." The first floor was reserved for jewelry and silverware. Arched mirrors below the 16-foot ceiling alternated with frescoed panels. On the second floor shoppers wandered among an "infinite variety of exquisite work," including chandeliers, bronzes and clocks, and one floor above could be found porcelain, china and glass. Jewelry makers worked on the uppermost floors.
|The new Tiffany & Co. announced its location in the 1854 edition of Don Giovanni A Grand Opera. (copyright expired)|
The bowl is surmounted with a knotted cable forming a bold and massive border; the handles also are of cable, running out of hawser-holes, twining around and supporting an anchor of solid silver. The bowl stands on a foot or pedestal, the stem representing water-lilies and bulrushes, around which are Tritons springing forward out of the sea, blowing their horns--the whole resting on a base of shell-work. The body of the bowl is highly ornamented with shields and appropriate nautical emblems and devices--anchors, buoys, blocks, pennants, &c. Inclosed [sic] in the shield is a finely-engraved view of the race between the yachts Maria and America, before the latter sailed for England.
Soulard said goodbye, promising to come back later with his sisters. But he then reconsidered and asked to see some diamond rings and seals. He might have made a clean getaway with the breastpins, but now he drew the suspicion of another clerk, John F. Simons, who watched him from a distance. When his co-worker's back was turned, Soulard dropped a seal into his pocket.
|When this advertisement appeared on April 17, 1869, the firm was already planning its uptown move. New-York Tribune (copyright expired)|
The renovated building became home to the Meriden Britannia Company, makers of electro-plated silverware. The firm's ornate Victorian tea services, flatware, and vases were available at a fraction of the prices of Tiffany & Co.'s sterling silver pieces. It shared the building with Francis P. Freeman whose opening announcement listed "French clocks, artistic bronzes, fine fans, opera-glasses, Russia traveling-bags, dressing-cases, shell, jet and French jewelry, musical-boxes, &c., &c."
|New-York Tribune, December 12, 1874 (copyright expired)|
As Tiffany & Co. had done, Meriden Brittania Co. moved to Union Square in January 1878. William Waldorf Astor purchased the building in June 1884 and two years later again remodeled it. That year an advertisement in The New York Times for the ground floor store touted the "extra wide modern building."
|The building looked little different in the 1940's than today. via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services|