Friday, January 26, 2024

J. Morgan Slade's 1883 86-88 Franklin Street


On December 1, 1880, James O'Donohue sold the "two-story brick factory building and two-story frame shop in rear" at 88 Franklin Street to Isaac W. Howe and William P. Draper.  The sale came at a time when the transformation of the Tribeca neighborhood from residential to commercial was nearly complete.  Almost three months later, on January 31, 1881, the men (who lived in Nahant, Massachusetts) purchased the "four-story brick warehouse" next door at 86 Franklin. 

On April 23, 1881, The Real Estate Record reported, "Isaac W. Howe and William P. Draper will build a first class store in Franklin st," saying it would be six-stories high and come "from the designs of J. M. Slade."  The article continued, "It will have an iron front and all the modern improvements...The cost is $55,000."  Coupled with the $80,500 Howe and Draper had spent on the real estate, their total outlay would came to about $4 million in 2024 terms.

Early in the building's construction, tragedy hit.  On September 8, 1881, The New York Times reported, "Thomas H. Close, a carpenter, 46 years of age...fell from the sixth floor of the new building No. 88 Franklin-street to the cellar yesterday, and was instantly killed."

Completed in 1883, the 50-foot-wide cast iron structure was handsome and regimented.  Jarvis Morgan Slade had blended elements of Second Empire (in the gently arched openings, for instance), with the geometric lines of the currently popular neo-Grec, and whimsical elements of Queen Anne, seen, for instance, in the pencil-thin columns connected to the facade by decorative plates.

Two of the main selling points of cast iron facades were the quickness with which they were erected, and their fireproof qualities.  The remains of gutted interiors often smoldered behind intact cast iron fronts.  Surprisingly, therefore, after fire broke out on the top floor of 86-88 Franklin Street in 1895, the galvanized iron cornice had to be replaced and some of the sixth floor ironwork required repairing.

Among the early tenants was Bamberger, Oppenheimer & Co., manufacturers of umbrellas and parasols.  Founded by Herman Bamberger and Max Oppenheimer in 1868, New York's Great Industries said in 1884, "few have developed a larger and more widespread trade."

Also in the building were Manning & Co., selling agents for woolen manufacturers; and Loew & Schoenfeld, importers of embroideries.  The latter was a rather small operation, employing just six women who worked 54 hours per week in 1895.

Theodore Vogler was the proprietor of Vogler's Brooklyn and New York Express.  Somewhat surprisingly, he personally drove one of the firm's wagons into Manhattan on the afternoon of January 16, 1893 with a load of packages, one of which was destined for 86-88 Franklin Street.  Vogler pulled his wagon to the curb and took the parcel inside.  The Evening World reported, "he reappeared in time to see a short, stockily built man grab a package from the wagon and start to run away."

Vogler gave chase and, as he nearly closed the gap between them, the crook dropped the package and attacked.  The article said, "Vogler struck out full force striking the thief on the head, felling him to the sidewalk.  The man lay motionless, and blood began oozing from his mouth and ears."  He had not regained consciousness when he was removed to Chambers Street Hospital.  

Theodore Vogler went to the Leonard Street Police Station, explained what had happened, and turned himself in.  The police knew the victim, who had been in the Tombs just two weeks earlier charged with "attempting to rob a huckster's cart."  Several of Vogler's friends pleaded unsuccessfully with Justice Simms to release him on bail.  He was held in the Tombs "to await the result of injuries" on the man, which The Evening World described as a "fracture of the skulls, which, in all probability, will result fatally."

The turn of the century saw another umbrella maker, Worman, Simons & Co., in the building.  In 1901 it employed 10 men and 30 women who worked 57 hours a week.  Also here was the New York branch of the San Francisco-based shirt and overalls manufacturer, Neustadter Brothers.  

The Neustadter Brothers space was in the rear of 86-88 Franklin Street at a 90-degree angle to the rear of 273-275 Church Street.  Neustadter Brothers, expectedly, had several female employees.  One view from its windows looked directly into the washroom of A. Shrimpton & Co. in the Church Street building.  "Persons using it could be seen by the Neustadter hands through the open windows," said The New York Times on August 9, 1903, "and the latter's operatives thought a screen for the window would be about the right thing."  Rather than simply asking A. Shrimpton & Co. to erect the screen, the Neustadter Brothers manager, a Mr. Fischer, filed a complaint with the Factory Inspection Bureau.  It launched what The New York Times called a "merry washroom war."

"An Inspector was sent to Shrimpton's, and when the purport of his visit was made known, Mr. Schrimpton, Sr. was very angry."  He complied with the order to erect a screen, but placed a sign on it that read, "This is private property.  Look the other way."

Now it was Fischer who was angered, and he complained to the Factory Inspection Bureau a second time.  The New York Times reported, "Mr. Shrimpton was even more annoyed than at the outset, so he placed on the screen a large colored lithograph bearing the inscription: "Don't chew the rag."

The conflict escalated.  Fischer employed a photographer to take images of the "offensive ornamentation on the screen" and sent it off to the Factory Inspection Bureau with a third complaint.  The New York Times reported, "Meanwhile the neighbors were awakening to the fact that a lively controversy was on, and eagerly awaited developments, which followed in quick succession."  

Fischer insisted he had no personal feelings against Shrimpton, but would not back down even if it meant going to court.  "On the other hand, Mr. Shrimpton frankly admits that he is out for satisfaction, and that Mr. Fischer can secure peace only by making an apology for going to the authorities instead of first appealing to Mr. Shrimpton's sense of the eternal fitness of things."  The New York Times reported that he had "collected a large assortment of suggestive lithographs," and had placed a sign over the window near the screen that read "Watch this space for new attractions."

The building continued to attract tenants in the apparel and textile industries through mid-century.  M. H. Oppenheimer & Co., cotton converters, was here in the post-World War I years; and after World War II Multitex Corporation, "cotton and linen manufacturers" and "importers and exporters of textiles," operated from the building.

The last quarter of the 20th century, however, saw major change in Tribeca, as lofts became residences and stores were converted to restaurants, galleries, and theaters.  In 1978 the Islene Pinder Balinese American Dance Theater opened in 86-88 Franklin Street.  The New York Times explained on June 11, 1983 that it "draws on the traditions of Bali and modern dance."  

A renovation completed in 2001 resulted in one apartment each on the upper floors.   It was possibly at this time that the pediment atop the cornice was refaced.

Dune opened in the ground floor space.  The New York Times reported on June 28 that year that the store "sells an exclusive line of  furniture and textiles by contemporary designers."  It was replaced in 2012 by Aire Ancient Baths.

photographs by the author has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

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