Saturday, March 19, 2022

The American Express Company Stables - 46-48 Trinity Place

In the first years following the end of the Civil War, private express mail companies like Adams Express, Wells Fargo and the American Railway Express Company were rapidly growing. Founded in 1850 in Albany, American Express, which established its headquarters in Manhattan at Jay and Hudson Streets, essentially enjoyed a monopoly on the shipment of express goods in the state for two decades.  The scope of its operation by the early 1880's required several stables throughout the city in addition to its Hudson Street freight depot.

As late as 1875 a two-story house sat at 46 Trinity Place and a three-and-a-half story brick converted residence was next door at 48 Trinity Place.  Around 1880 they were demolished and replaced by a three-story brick stable, directly across from the rear entrance to the American Express headquarters building at 65 Broadway.  The unknown architect's Romanesque Revival design featured arched openings connected by decorative bandcourses.  The windows of the third floor wore brick aprons, and cast iron rondels decorated the areas between their brick eyebrows.

The stable extended through the block to Greenwich Street.  It was there at 5:30 on the morning of on September 19, 1889 that Policeman Thomas E. Coghlan came across a man lying in the doorway.  The Evening World reported, "He was in a dazed condition and could not talk.  There were no marks of violence on him."  The well-dressed young man, estimated to be about 30 years old, had been robbed.  "There was nothing found on the man, not even a match," said the article.  "It was evident enough that he had been drugged in some dive, robbed, and then turned out as soon as he was braced up enough to move."

He was taken to a hospital, but died of opium poisoning later that afternoon.  The Evening World wrote, "If any boat's crew has an able seaman missing he may be discovered in this man at the Morgue."

American Express did not own the Trinity Place property, but leased it from the estate of Elizabeth S. Hay.  In 1906 the owners commissioned architect C. G. Clark to enlarge the stables by adding two floors at a cost of $50,000--about $1.48 million today.  On January 30 The Sun reported, "The remodelled [sic] building will be a five story and basement structure, and is to be fitted with a new plumbing and lighting plant, sanitary floors and new staircases."

Other than its slightly different-hued brick, Clark's addition was remarkably seamless.  He deftly matched the original architecture, and took advantage of the slightly protruding, single-bayed section where the pedestrian entrance sat, to create a pseudo tower adorned with a large, terra cotta American Express bulldog logo.  Rather than a cornice, Clark finished the design with a crenellated roofline.

That same year, the United States Express Co. erected its new 23-floor headquarters building at 56-66 Trinity Place at Rector Street.  Two years later the rapidly expanding firm purchased 46-48 Trinity Place.  The Real Estate Record & Guide explained, "The American Express Co. has announced its intention of changing its home," adding, "The express center on lower Broadway is quickly being done away with."  Nevertheless, the American Express headquarters remained at 65 Broadway.  And before the year's end, the United States Express Co. sold 46-48 Trinity Place to the Adams Express Company.

The old stables structure seemed doomed in 1910 when the Adams Express Company announced plans to replace it with a 10-story office building designed by G. K. Hooper.  But the plans stalled, and then died.

The firm retained possession of the building until 1921, when the import and export firm of Smith, Kirkpatrick & Co. moved its offices into the building.  Two years later, it was joined by three departments of the American Railway Express Co.  In its April issue that year the Express Gazette Journal reported that the firm's Traffic, Law and Loss and Damage departments would move from 51 Broadway "to the old Adams Express building at 46-48 Trinity Place, directly in the rear of the American Express building."  

A renovation completed in 1950 resulted in modern offices throughout the building.  Any trace of the old stables, like the truck bay, were erased.  

The rear elevation is a toned-down version of the Trinity Place facade.

On June 25, 1956 The New York Times reported that Smith, Kirkpatrick & Co. had purchased its own building at 47 Beaver Street and would be moving out.  An alteration in 1965 changed the ground floor to a restaurant space, home to Country Life in the 1980's.  In its October 1984 issue, Vegetarian Times wrote, "This large, old-fashioned store and restaurant is operated by a group of twenty Seventh-Day Adventists."  Saying the menu focused on grains, fruits and vegetables, the article added, "Patrons eat on dark wooden tables.  The female staff wears modest, long calico dresses, and serves with a gentle spirit."  In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant offered classes in "cooking, nutrition, stress management and Bible study."

Country Life was replaced by Scallions in the early 1990's.  Vegetarian Times described it in April 1993 saying its vegan buffet included "no eggs, no dairy products."

Today a delicatessen operates from the much abused ground floor.  The upper facade, however, is amazingly unchanged since G. C. Clark added three floors in 1906--and the terra cotta bulldog deserves a pause.

photos by the author
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to

No comments:

Post a Comment