Monday, May 16, 2022

The Lost S. & W. Dry Goods Store Building - 466 Pearl Street


466 Pearl Street (the white frame structure) contained a grocery street level in 1861.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

The Continental Army had abandoned New York City prior to the British landing in lower Manhattan on September 15, 1776.  On the night of September 20 fire broke out in the Fighting Cocks Tavern, near Whitehall Slip.  Fanned by strong winds, the fire grew to an inferno, spreading north and west and burning throughout the night.  By morning between 400 and 1,000 buildings were destroyed--upwards of 25 percent of the city's structures.  The British blamed the patriots of arson, the revolutionists accused the British of the same.

Whatever the cause of the devastation, a massive rebuilding effort was necessary following the Revolution.  Some charred blocks of Pearl Street became lined with handsome Georgian and Federal-style brick-faced homes by the 1810's and '20's, while others were more commercial.

Straddling the fence was 466 Pearl Street, just west of Chatham Street (renamed Park Row in 1886).  The clapboard house-and-store rose two full stories to a gambrel-roofed attic with a single prominent dormer.  Although almost assuredly new construction, its style harkened back to the Dutch architecture of two generations earlier.

The upper floors were operated as a boarding house by Martha LaGrave in the first years of the 19th century.  Among her boarders in 1811 was a new arrival in New York, who immediately offered his musical services:

F. Mellne, lately from Paris and Italy, begs leave to inform the Gentlemen of New-York, that he intends giving lessons on the Clarinet, Flute and Flagolet.  He flatters himself that those gentlemen who will honor him with their favours will derive great advantage from his manner of teaching, for their improvements.  For particulars and terms of tuition, apply at No. 466 Pearl-street.

At the time, the S. & W. Dry Goods store operated at street level.  (In the large corner building was Matthew Bolmer's "granery and grain chandlery" business.)  It is unclear whether Abraham Howard Quincy's stove showroom supplanted the dry goods store, or if the two businesses shared the space.  In either case, in 1813 his "Fire Proof Stone Stoves" were being exhibited in 466 Pearl Street.

Quincy's domestic stoves were innovative, using stone to insulate the cast iron.  Among their advantages, said an advertisement, were a "very great saving of Fuel," and "the safety with which they are used in nurseries, as children may approach and come in contact with them without injury."

An announcement in the New-York Evening Post on October 4, 1813 said, "A variety of beautiful models and designs by Mr. Holland, are exhibited at the Ware House, No. 466 Pearl street.  Applications are there to be made, and the requisite information will there be given on all points, for the satisfaction of purchasers.  The Ware House is open every day, from sun-rise till sun-set."

Abraham Howard Quincy's invention received an important vote of confidence when several stoves were purchased by the city in 1814.  Quincy wrote to former President Thomas Jefferson that year, saying the "system is in satisfactory operation at City Hall."  

Just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the intersection of Pearl and Chatham Streets was heavily commercial.  466 Pearl (left) has sprouted signage over the sidewalk.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Quincy returned to his native Boston in 1815.  The store space became home to a whole grocery business.  After years of operating the store, in preparation for his retirement in 1836 the owner advertised:

Grocers Stock For Sale & Store To Let.  To any person desirous of entering into said business, a change now offers to any one with a cash capital of from 2 to $3000 in a wholesale and retail business in such a situation as rarely offers.  The present occupant relinquishing the busines."  The top-end investment listed would equal about $86,000 today.

The space next became home to the Nelson Sherwood  & Co. grocery.  Sherwood and his family moved into rooms above the store.  His business would be here for decades.

In 1851 the Manhattan Building Association established its offices in the building, either in a ground floor back room or on the second story.  The association, which had been established four years earlier, held its annual meetings at Chatham Hall, not far away at 5 Chatham Square.  Its secretary, Samuel Jessup, used the association space here as his real estate office until around 1858.

Nelson Sherwood & Co. made way for James Kilpatrick's second-hand store in 1864.  Kilpatrick paid $25 to the city for his license, about $425 in today's money.  An advertisement on May 20, 1867 read, "Gentlemen having any cast off clothing to dispose of can get a fair price by calling on or addressing James Kirkpatrick, 466 Pearl Street, near Chatham."

The proprietor of the boarding house portion gave up the business in the Spring of 1872.  On April 10 the household furnishings were sold at auction.  The announcement listed, "Splendid parlor suit in haircloth, mahogany wardrobe, marble top centre tables and bureaus, chamber suits, feather beds, and hair mattresses, fine Wilton carpets, oilcloth, silver and china ware, silver plated counter case; also one small iron safe, &c."

The rooms once used by the Manhattan Building Association were taken over by the Second District Republican Association around 1879.  It would be the scene of political meetings and rallies through the turn of the century.  On July 22, 1884, for instance, the New-York Tribune reported, "The headquarters of the Republican Association of the 2d Assembly District, at No. 466 Pearl-st., were crowded at 8 o'clock last night with men who came to listen to speeches by Justice James R. Angel, of Morrisania, William F. Townley, and H. A. Matthews.  Previous to the speaking a handsome banner bearing portraits of the Republican nominees was swung across the street from the club windows."

Around 1885 the corner building was replaced with a five-story brick structure.  It seems that the developer coveted 466 Pearl Street, as well, and managed to negotiate the purchase of about one-third of the property.  The result was an awkward end to the former symmetry--the attic dormer now nearly snug against the western wall of the new building.

When Joseph P. Day purchased the property in January 1903, it was now just 25-feet-wide, "the usual city lot," as he worded it.  Day paid $27,000 for the vintage structure, or about $820,000 in today's money.

At the time Benno Borchard ran an "eatinghouse" from the commercial space.  In 1906 the United States School of Photo-Engraving was listed at the address, possibly having taken over the rooms of the Republican Association, which left around 1903.

By 1915 the ground floor space had become home to Joseph O'Rourke's saloon.  He lived in rooms in the upper section.  Prohibition, of course, would end that enterprise and during the Depression years the space was home to Sam The Tailor.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

The unlikely survivor held on until the 1960's, when urban renewal leveled blocks of properties.  The site is occupied today by the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, opened in June 1996.

image by Americasroof

many thanks to reader Louis Trazino for requesting this post has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

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