Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Threatened 1910 John J. Stradar Stables - 276 West 25th Street


In the first years of the 20th century, the Utah Livery Stables operated at 276 West 25th Street, just east of Eighth Avenue.  A "chattel mortgage sale" liquidated its contents on May 14, 1909.  Included were 17 "fine driving and delivery horses," "one very elegant pony, [which] was used by a lady," 15 vehicles ranging from surreys, hansom cabs, and wagons to buggies and other models, as well as the hay, feed and trappings.

Charles A. Clark demolished the old structure and hired architects Chappell & Bosworth to replace it with a more substantial stable.  Their plans, filed in May 1910, projected the construction costs at $4,500, or about $132,000 in 2023.

Interestingly, the architects design drew from the Italianate style of a generation earlier.  The plot's narrow proportions (just 19 feet, 11 inches wide) precluded the expected stables configuration of a centered carriage bay flanked by a window and door.  Instead, the wide bay engulfed the eastern two-thirds of the ground floor with a single (exceptionally tall) doorway to the side.  The two windows and hayloft of the second floor were elliptically arched, their lintels and sills executed in brick.  The dentiled cornice was also made of brick, a considerable cost savings for Clark.

Taken during a snowfall, this 1941 photograph depicts the original appearance of the former stable.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Clark had a proprietor lined up for the stables before the first brick was laid.  On April 30, 1910 he signed a 10-year lease with John J. Stradar.  

Both Charles A. Clark and John J. Stradar may have underestimated the change that motorcars would bring to the stables industry.  When the new stable was completed, automobiles were a luxury item, owned only by the wealthy, and trucking was still almost entirely by horse-drawn wagons.  But by the end of World War I, that was changing.

Around 1917 Stradar broke his lease and established a trucking company at 239 West 23rd Street.  The former stable was now home to the George F. Helds Company.  

In July 1930, the California-based West Side Lumber Company signed a five-year lease.  It started a decades-long tradition at the address.  It was most likely at this time that the hay loft opening was shortened.  West Side Lumber Company was supplanted by Midtown Lumber in 1962.

The Kopf brothers purchased the building and co-founded the firm.  Initially providing custom-cut wood for locals' projects, Midtown Lumber evolved to supplying contractors and other large customers.  In 2013, Michael Kopf, a son of one of the founders, established The Splinter Factory in Pennsylvania to build custom-built furniture.  Pieces have been purchased by galleries and the Museum of Modern Art.

After being in the space for six decades, at this writing Midtown Lumber is threatened.  The vintage building was purchased recently by developer John Catsimatidis who has started eviction proceedings.  According to Bloomberg, he "plans a high-end residential project" on the site.

photographs by the author
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  1. Catsimatidis is a rightwing Republican, who owns the Gristede's supermarket chain. I noticed on a recent visit that a book he wrote is for sale in my local store right near the cash registers.

  2. The lumber yard is now, sadly, officially closed. The end of an 81 year run for Midtown Lumber, which closed its doors for the last time just a week or so before Christmas of 2023. Here's hoping that a giant eyesore doesn't replace this historical property.