Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The 1886 De Raismes Building - 111 Reade Street


When wealthy fancy goods importer John F. Q. De Raismes moved into his 25-foot-wide, three-story home at 111 Reade Street in 1833, the block was lined with similar, upscale residences.  The situation had dramatically changed by 1885 when his granddaughter, Maria L. Combes acquired the property.  The expansion of the Manhattan's commercial district had pushed homeowners further north, and the block had filled with businesses.  Combes commissioned the architectural firm of Berger & Baylies to design a five-story replacement building on the site.

The firm simultaneously designed a nearly matching building next door at 109 Reade Street for Patrick Ryan (who had been up to now leasing the converted De Raismes house).  Like its neighbor, 111 Reade Street was faced in red brick above a cast iron storefront.  Its neo-Grec design included projecting pilasters at the sides, segmentally-arched windows at all but the third floor, and touches of stone trim.  Decorative cast iron tie rod plates decorated the piers between the third and fourth floors, and a semi-circular pediment, announcing the building's name, was incorporated into the terminal cornice.

The De Raismes Building was leased to the Salvation Army.  Founded in London in 1865 by William Booth with assistance from his wife, Catherine, the Salvation Army waged "warfare against evil," complete with military-styled uniforms.  William Booth lived in England and the American work was overseen by his son Ballington Booth and his wife Maud.  On the ground level was a large assembly room, while the upper floors were occupied as various offices and meeting rooms.

One of those upper floor spaces was used for the organization's publishing operation.  Here were published periodicals like  the weekly Stridsropet, "containing interesting news and articles from Swedish comrades all over the world;" All The World, a monthly magazine about the Salvation Army's work; and The 'Deliverer,' a monthly journal concerning its social reform work.  It also published sheet music and occasional books, such as Ballington Booth's From Ocean to Ocean; or The Salvation Army's March During 1890, From the Atlantic to the Pacific. 

In her 1890 Beneath Two Flags, Maud Ballington Booth wrote, "The Headquarters, 111 Reade Street, New York City, has sixteen thousand square feet of office room for staff, secretaries, accountants, and other employés.  We own our printing-presses, type, etc., valued at $8000, and our War Cry is set up, printed and published on the premises."

The very symbol of women against sin, Maud Booth shocked a reporter from the New York World in September that year.  She began her article saying, "Cigarettes!  I fairly gasped with astonishment and could not credit the evidence of my senses."  Mrs. Booth had entered her office, having completed a "consecration meeting" in the large assembly hall, and sat down behind her desk.  As she began telling the reporter of the Army's good works, she was interrupted.  "Pray pardon me, if I am very ill-bred and inquisitive, but are those really cigarettes?"

Mrs. Booth's cigarettes were contained within a velvet case embroidered with her initials.  "Won't you try one?" she offered.  And when the reporter drew one out, it proved to be a small scroll of rice paper, inscribed with a Bible verse.  "Yes, these are Salvation Army cigarettes," Maud Booth said.  The interview then continued.

In November 1893, preparations were underway for the annual Salvation Army Congress.  On November 11, The Evening World wrote:

An army will invade New York next week, but its mission will be a peaceful one, and New Yorkers need have no fear of thundering guns and devastating bombs.  There will be no carnage and no pillaging, or looting or burning.  Only a sortie by the Salvation Army, who will hurl Christianity via rapid-fire oratorical howitzers with the deafening but non-destroying fanfare accompaniment of brass and cymbal and drum.

A journalist from Harper's Bazaar likened the headquarters to a beehive, "honeycombed with little offices, most of them airless and gas-lit; the passages are narrow and the stairs steep, and through and up and down them the busy workers are running."

By then the organization was outgrowing its Reade Street headquarters.  On May 26, 1894 the Real Estate Record & Guide reported that plans had been filed for a new building at 120-124 West 14th Street.  After the Salvation Army moved into its new building in 1895, 111 Reade Street was leased to the Enterprise Rubber Company.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Milton J. Meyer & Co., dealers in children's shoes, occupied the first three floors.  Also in the building were Cavanagh Bros., a wooden ware establishment, and the Nearwine Company, makers of "Nearwine," a non-alcoholic beverage.

On the night of March 14, 1905, fire broke out in the basement.  A second alarm was sent in by Fire Chief Croker, "owing to the proximity of the hotel," said The New York Times (The Cosmopolitan Hotel was directly behind the building.)  "Lines of hose were carried through the hotel cellar, and within a few minutes the fire was under control."  Croker estimated the damage at $2,000 (about $63,500 in 2022).

Despite the damage, Milton J. Meyer & Co. remained in the building until 1909.  The firm specialized in "school shoes" at a time when boys and girls were expected to dress appropriately for any occasion, including for school.

Boot and Shoe Recorder, June 27, 1906 (copyright expired)

In 1913 the ground floor and basement were leased to the Union News Co. for its news and cigar store; while C. H. Fischer & Co. operated from one of the upper floors.  Since 1875 the firm had manufactured Fischer's "Blue Ball," a laundry "washing crystal."  

from the collection of The Huntington Library

Sadly, although the firm had been operating in the United States for over four decades, C. H. Fischer's German roots made him a target of the Government when the United States entered World War I.  The assets of the firm were confiscated by the Alien Property Custodian for having "enemy interest," according to the 1919 "Administration of Alien Property Statement."

In 1938 the American Pistachio Corporation leased the building.  Run by Syrian-born Fathallah Coussa, on April 17, 1943 the Peekskill newspaper The Evening Star called it "one of the oldest importers of pistachio nuts in this country."

In 1941, both 109 and 111 Reade Street retained their rounded parapets.  from the NYC Department of Records & Information Services.

The firm suffered a financial and public relations setback in 1959.  On January 27, 1960, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported, "The State Pure Food and Drug Administration has destroyed 975 pounds of contaminated pistachio nuts shipped here in June and November, 1959."  The customer, Jimmy's Albalone Chips Company "discovered worms and bugs crawling in the cans," said the article.  Despite the embarrassing incident, the American Pistachio Corporation thrived in the building for more than two more decades. 

Then, in 1997, the Tribeca Renaissance caught up with 111 Reade Street.  The upper floors were converted to residences, one per floor, and the ground level became home to the Tribeca Playhouse.  The theater operated here through the early years of the 21st century, after which the space was occupied by the popular bar, Ward Three.  In 2022 it was replaced by Winston's, a bar created by Sage Laforte.

photographs by the author
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