As early as the mid-1850's a house stood at 303 West 19th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. The owner took in boarders who (not surprisingly given the location near the Hudson River) were all laborers. Whether the building was replaced, or simply heavily remodeled around 1860 is unclear. Either way, the three-story, brick-faced house now had a cast iron commercial space at ground level. The upper windows were given handsome cast iron Italianate lintels and sills, and a pressed metal cornice with scrolled brackets was installed.
In 1861 the ground floor was home to John Kennedy's roofing business. He lived next door at 305 West 19th Street, and had another stop nearby at 205 West 17th Street. He seems to have done a variety of types of roofing. An advertisement in the New York Herald in 1864 sought, "Two Tin and Four Slate Roofers. Apply to John Kennedy, 303 West 19th st."
The block was renumbered in 1868, giving Kennedy's business the new address of 443 West 19th Street. Rosanna Devlin, the widow of John Devlin, ran the upper two floors as a boarding house at the time.
That all changed in 1873 when the upper floors were converted for business, as well, and Kennedy moved his operation to Ninth Avenue. An advertisement in April that year offered: "To Let--The Second floor of 443 West Ninteenth street; size 25x75; well lighted, and suitable for a shop or light manufacturing business. Apply to James Kennedy, 450 West Nineteenth street." (Whether James and John Kennedy were related is unknown.)
There were soon three businesses in the building. Furniture maker Philp Lahr was here by the end of 1873; Cable's piano factory occupied space by 1875; and John Sweeney's blacksmith shop was here in 1876.
Yet another renovation came in 1887 when the ground floor of the building was converted to a stable. The upper portion continued to be used for small manufacturing. A rental advertisement in the New York Herald on October 30, 1887 offered, "New Stable, 16 stalls and wagon room, also two Lofts."
One of the upper floors soon housed the a cabinetry shop which fabricated store fixtures. An advertisement in June 1890 read, "Counters, shelving, partitions, refrigerators, ice-boxes; every kind of store fitted. Mills, 443 West 19th st." One client seems to have defaulted on his order that year. The following January an ad offered, "Butter Store; elegant upright refrigerator, marble counter, milk box, dirt cheap. Fixture Factory, 443 West 19th st."
In the meantime the stable seems to have been thriving. In 1891 the owner was looking for a stableman, as well as a carriage washer. "The latter must understand cleaning harness," said the help wanted ad.
The owner leased the stable in 1892 to a man named Mulligan. The ad he answered described the "stable, feed and wagon or truck room at $20 a month" (about $580 today). It continued doing a successful business. Later that year Mulligan offered for sale three hansoms at "$25 cash, balance weekly payments," and a coupe for $40. He continued assisting his clients in selling their vehicles or horses. In 1895, for instance, he advertisement a "black, gamey, spirited, fearless, sound Gelding; very fast; reliable; 15-1/2, $80."
The Mills cabinet shop remained upstairs at least through 1891. Around 1892 Charles King moved his machine shop into one of the upper floors. He listed his business as "manufacturer of triple expansion Engines." He remained until around the turn of the century.
The stable changed hands in 1895, and again in 1905 when Couch & Davidson took over the lease. It was described as accommodating "15 horses and wagons, [with] high ceiling, washstand, concrete floor."
As the days of horse-drawn vehicles gave way to automobiles, the building was yet again reconfigured in 1908. When owner Victorine S. Cole leased the property to Thomas Ward & Co. that year, The Sun remarked, "The building will be used for storage purposes."
The Thomas Ward's Storage Warehouse housed all manner of goods. That was reflected in his warning to patrons who were behind in storage fees in February 1919. Listing each one by name in the New-York Tribune, he threatened to sell their things at public auction. Included were, "Household furniture, personal effects, trunks, pianos, merchandise, office furniture."
The building seems to have been vacant in the post-Depression years. via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services
It was not an idle threat, as evidenced in a Sheriff's auction announcement in 1925. On April 15 that year an on-site auction sold a "piano, three pieces of furniture, pictures, tables, electric lamp, stands, &c. Terms cash. Immediate removal."
There would be another renovation to the building in the late 20th century. Although no Certificate of Occupancy has ever been issued, there are two apartments in the building. The upper floors are essentially unchanged since the 1860 make-over, and the cast iron piers of the ground floor reflect the configuration of a single door to the left and a centered carriage bay.
photographs by the author
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