Thursday, March 21, 2024

The 1896 Everard Storage Warehouse - 277-283 West 10th Street (667 Washington Street)


Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1831, James Everard arrived in New York with his family when he was four years old.  Following his father's death, the youth worked as a brick mason to help support his family.  Like the hero of a Horatio Alger novel, Everard purchased real estate with his savings, eventually establishing his own masonry jobbing business, opening a brewery in Greenwich Village (at a time when most New York brewers were German), and erecting a sumptuous Turkish bath at 26-30 West 28th Street.

Everard's brewery, founded in 1885, was originally named Shook & Everard and produced "ales and porter."  It was located at the northeast corner of West 10th Street and Washington Street.  By 1893, when a factory inspection noted its 35 men worked 59 hours per week and nine hours on Saturdays, the name had been changed to the James Everard's Breweries.

That would be the last inspection of the brewery at this location.  Everard moved the operation to 12 East 133rd Street, demolished the West 10th Street structure, and hired architect Martin V. B. Ferdon to design a massive storage warehouse on the site.  On August 4, 1894, the Record & Guide reported that the "huge ten-story warehouse which Brewer James Everard is about erecting on the northeast corner of Washington and West 10th streets" was projected to cost "a quarter of [a] million dollars."  That figure would translate to about $8.87 million in 2024.

Calling the building "the finest storage warehouse in the city" a year later on August 24, 1895, the Record & Guide reported, "Mr. James Everard has just completed the very handsome storage warehouse on the corner of Washington and 10th streets."  The article said that no flammable materials were used, only "stone, brick, steel and other fire-proofing."  The sturdy construction made the floors capable of holding 400 pounds per square foot.

Ferdon's Romanesque Revival design featured a two-story arcaded base of undressed granite and a gently curved corner.  The six-story mid-section was defined by two molded intermediate cornices.  Paired openings separated by brick pilasters with stone bases and capitals created soaring arches that terminated in double-wide arched windows.  Pediments on each side of the cornice announced "Everard."  Taking advantage of the river views, an observation tower perched upon the curve of the cornice.

The Record & Guide glowed, "The building is architecturally a distinct and attractive addition to the neighborhood in which it is situated...It is without [a] doubt the best located, built and arranged edifice in the city to-day for storage purposes."

An observation tower provided 360-degree, unobstructed views of the city.  Real Estate Record & Guide, August 24, 1895 (copyright expired)

A year after the building opened, tragedy struck.  On August 10, 1896, Christian Bray and Frank Bulger were painting the cornice, sitting upon a wooden scaffold.  The New York Times reported, "When they tried to lower the scaffold one of the ropes slipped and Bray slid from the scaffold."  Bulgar managed to grab a window sill and "crawled to a place of safety."  The 50-year-old Bray, however, fell the 12 stories to the sidewalk, where he was instantly killed.  "Bulger says that the dead man was married and had a family," said the article.

The vast array of companies and individuals that used the facilities was evidenced in the periodic auctions of goods, the storage charges of which had gone unpaid.   In May 1907, for instance, Everard hired auctioneer Edward P. Holahan to hold an auction.  The listing ranged from small items owned by individuals--like Thomas McElroy's "one case [of] effects" and Marie Varbusk's "three packages scenery"--to corporate storage like The 1900 Washer Co.'s "100 washing machines," C. J. H. Robinson's 12 barrels of wine; and the Lehigh Valley Railroad Co.'s five chests of tea.

Newspapers nationwide reported on the scandalous elopement of James Everard's daughter Olga Julia in 1909.  On December 3, The Sun reported, "Society circles are somewhat surprised today at the report from Greenwich, Conn., that Olga Everard, daughter of James Everard, a wealthy brewer, had married William Williams, her mother's secretary."  The article said, "She was eighteen years old on December 1, and was to receive a large sum of money from her father at that time.  Mr. Everard is nearly eighty years of age, and Olga is his only daughter."  

Williams had originally been Everard's chauffeur.  James Everard's initial anger--which threatened to disinherit his wayward daughter--cooled.  The Sun later explained that Olga and Williams "were soon forgiven by the brewer, who installed his son-in-law as his private secretary."

Everard died in 1913, leaving nearly all of his $2 million estate to Olga, including the West 10th Street building.  (Her romantic eye wandered again the following year.  Now 23, she divorced Williams and wed the oft-married, 56-year-old actor Robert Hilliard.)

The Everard Storage Warehouse continued as before under Olga's ownership.  On May 9, 1914, for instance, a sheriff's sale was held of "six hundred and four sacks of seed potatoes," the storage charges for which were unpaid.

Another tragedy occurred here on April 6, 1917.  James Keating was working on the fourth floor that day when the 50-year-old "lost his balance and fell one story through the elevator shaft," according to The Evening World.  "He landed on the elevator on the third floor and was instantly killed."

It appears that by 1926 Olga Julia Everard Williams Hilliard had only one tenant.  That year the building was described in city documents as "for storage of tea."  Within three years she leased the West 10th Street structure to Shephard Warehouses, Inc.  The firm described its operation as "merchandise storage and distribution, express and general trucking, pool car distributers."  Now known as the Shepard Storage Warehouse, it may have been at this time that the pediments with the Everard name were removed.  (When the wonderful observation tower was lost is unclear.)

In 1942, the title to 277-283 West 10th Street was transferred to the 677 Washington Street, Inc. of which Roy H. Becker was president.  He was, not coincidentally, also president of Shepard Warehouses, Inc.  Title was transferred again in 1952 to the R. H. Becker & Co.  For decades going forward it would cater to a variety of tenants that stored goods like paper and twine, carpeting, hangers and even grave vaults.

Martin V. B. Ferdon's focus on fireproofing in 1884 proved critical nearly a century later.  On February 14, 1971, a three-alarm fire destroyed the Rolling T Trucking Company garage next door at 275 West 10th Street.  The New York Times reported the blaze spread to a building on Charles Street "and to Shepards Warehouse, a 12-story building at 667 Washington Street."

Three years later, the Rockrose Development Company appealed to the Board of Standards & Appeals to convert "the former residential use with two stores on the first floor," as reported by The Villager on October 24.   The approval would require zoning map changes, since the parcel was in a district "in which residential uses were not permitted."

The board approved the changes and in 1978 a conversion designed by architect Bernard Rothzied was completed, with twelve apartments per floor.  A subsequent renovation resulted in three, four or seven apartments per floor with two duplex units in part of the 11th and 12th floors.  At some point most of the Washington Street cornice was removed, leaving an awkward, unfinished appearance.

many thanks to reader Justine Lee for requestion this post
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  1. Once again, Tom Miller illustrates the prodigious research that goes into each of his informative articles. Thank you, Tom.