Friday, November 3, 2023

D. & J. Jardine's 1869 84 Franklin Street


In 1836 Patrick Julius Bujac and Matthew L. Bujac, presumably brothers, erected a residence at 84 Franklin Street.  The upscale neighborhood was filled with similar Federal style homes occupied by merchant class families.  The Bujacs, who lived in Philadelphia, apparently built the house as an investment.  Living there until 1845 when he returned to France was merchant Anthony S. Perrot.  The elegance of the residence and the neighborhood in general was evidenced in the auction of the Perrots' furnishings on April 24, 1845.  The catalog listed "the entire splendid French furniture of a gentleman going to France."  All of the furnishings had been imported from France, including the mahogany side chairs, "two French gondole arm chairs," a "French piano forte," and mahogany center tables.  There were also bronzes of Voltaire, Rosseau, Napoleon and other historic figures; ormolu lighting fixtures, and French gilt clocks.

By the Civil War years, 84 Franklin Street was being operated as a high-end boarding house, even as commercial structures began invading the district.  Then, on September 19, 1869, the brick dwelling suffered fire damage.  Dry goods merchants Adolph and Leopold Bernheimer, whose business was located nearby at the corner of Franklin and Church Streets, purchased the house and hired D. & J. Jardine to completely remodel it into a modern commercial building.

The architect brothers raised the facade four feet, inserted a cast iron storefront, and gave the building a rusticated sandstone cladding.  Large upper floor windows allowed natural light into the loft spaces, and an overhanging Italianate metal cornice with scrolled brackets completed the design.

Samuel E. and Ferdinand E. Halle moved their tie manufacturing firm, S. E. Halle & Co., into the new building.  In 1871 the only way to present goods to potential retail customers across the nation was through traveling salesmen who would take their sample cases onto trains and visit town after town.  In December 1871, S. E. Halle & Co. was looking for "a salesman controlling a good Western and Southern trade."

On June 3, 1872, the Bernheimers sold 84 Franklin Street to Henry Neustadter for $66,000--about $1.63 million today.  He inherited S. E. Halle & Co. as a tenant, along with James L. Stevens, who operated the dry goods business of Moser & Stevens.

On the night of January 3, 1874, a burglar used what The New York Times described as "false keys," to break in to Moser & Stevens and steal 69 shawls valued at $300.  (The amount would equal about $7,950 in 2023.)  A month later, working on a tip, detectives broke into rooms on East 16th Street, which were being rented by a tailor named Alfred Jacques.  The New York Times described Jacques as "a well-known receiver of stolen goods."  There was no furniture in the front room, but an open chest had "about 100 skeleton keys, 50 lockpicks, and 15 files."  In the back room were 30 theatrical costumes, 22 cases of druggists' scales, and a sewing machine, "all recognized as stolen property."  Included in the stash of loot were three of the shawls belonging to Moser & Stevens.  

Alfred Jacques was tried on February 4, 1874 on charges of burglary and receiving stolen goods.  An indignant New York Times reported, "Although the case against the prisoner...was fully proved, the jury, to the astonishment of everybody, found him not guilty."

The building continued to house dry goods firms, like importer Thomas A. Harton & Co.; John S. Owden's linen company; and importers Eugene Despres and Richard C. Field, who occupied 84 Franklin Street in 1878.  

Typical of the tenants was Ambrose Wood, who imported British dress goods and was here by 1886.  Wood was described by The Great Metropolis of the United States that year as "prominent among the leading and most thoroughly representative members of the wholesale dry goods trade."  Born in England, he came to America in 1856 and opened his business in 1867.  The article described Wood's stock within 84 Franklin Street, using some terms completely lost on most 21st century readers:

The premises occupied are very spacious and commodious, well arranged and heavily stocked with a valuable assortment of the finest imported British dress goods, embracing a full line of black alpacas, mohairs, brilliantines, silk warp henriettas, bombazines, cashmeres, Biarritz and Italian cloths.

Perhaps the first of the tenants not involved in the dry goods industry was the umbrella factory of Goldman & Lazarus, here by 1892.  The firm routinely advertised for workers.  An ad on January 31, 1892 included a caveat that would be scoffed at by potential employees today.  "Umbrellas--Wanted, experienced hands to run covers and do own tipping; must furnish sewing machine."  Another advertisement in March 1896 sought, "Umbrellas--Experienced boys at framemaking."

The substantial operation of Goldman & Lazarus necessitated regular help-wanted ads.  In 1896 the firm employed five men, one boy under 18 years old and another under 16, 15 women, and four girls under 21 years old.  The staff worked 54 hours during the week and another nine on Saturday or Sunday.

The building was sold on December 31, 1903, and two new tenants moved in shortly thereafter.  The Philadelphia-based shirt manufacturing company Tutelman Brothers & Faggen relocated from West Broadway on February 1, 1904, the same day that Erlanger Brothers moved in.  The latter firm was a manufacturer of shirts and overalls.

Textile and apparel firms continued to occupy the building throughout the first decades of the century.  In January 1912 the newly-formed cotton commission firm of Eugene Galland & Son moved in.  The Dry Goods Guide explained, "The new firm will represent several cotton mills and will prosecute a converting business for white goods and cotton novelties."

The New York Times, October 6, 1912 (copyright expired)

Eugene Galland & Son was joined by another cotton converter, Greene, Sloane & Co., by 1919.

The Tribeca neighborhood saw tremendous change in the third quarter of the 20th century.  The tenants of industrial lofts were squeezed out as one-by-one buildings were converted for residential use and storefronts became trendy shops, galleries and restaurants.  A renovation to 84 Franklin Street completed in 1995 resulted in a commercial space at ground level and one apartment each on the upper floors.

photographs by the author
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