Friday, March 1, 2024

The New York Mills Building - 458 Greenwich Street


In the mid-1860s, the two-and-a-half-story Federal style house at 458 Greenwich Street was home to the Bailey family.  At the time, commerce had already been invading the neighborhood for years.  On April 1, 1873, Isaac Dixon purchased the 25-foot-wide property for $16,000 (just over $400,000 in 2024).  Two decades later, he testified, "There was an old dwelling-house on it when I bought it."

Dixon owned a coffee and spice business, the New York Mills.  Initially, he ran it from the former residence.  In February 1874, he hired builder Peter McManus to make "front and interior alterations" to the building; and in 1880 he added an extension to the rear.

The success of the New York Mills was such that in 1883 Dixon demolished the old structure and hired architect James S. Wightman to design what his plans described as a "five-story brick and Ohio stone trimmed warehouse" on the site.  Wightman clad his neo-Grec style structure in red brick above the cast iron storefront.  Each of the identical floors included recessed, vertical panels between the openings and horizonal panels between floors.  Stone bandcourses connected the sills and a single lintel with delicate, incised carved vines served all four windows on each floor.  

The neo-Grec style forewent the curvy Italianate decorations in favor of more geometric lines, and Wightman pulled out the stops with his cornice.  It rested upon brick, stair-stepped corbels atop a row of saw-tooth brick.  Between each bracket were recessed panels below brick dentils.  

Despite occupying the entire building, Dixon ran his operation with a bare-bones staff.  In 1895, he employed just six men who worked 59 hours per week.  The ground floor held the firm's office which was "visited from time to time for the purposes of placing or removing merchandise," according to the Board of Standards.  The fifth floor was used for coffee roasting, and the second through fourth were used for storage of coffee and spices.  In 1901, the New York Mills still operated successfully with the same number of employees.

Isaac Dixon died in 1897 and his widow Agnes transferred title to the building to Frederick J. Dixon (presumably a son), who took over the business.  While coffee and spices were the company's mainstay, a mention in The Spice Mill in April 1910 noted that the "New York Mills, 458 Greenwich street, New York, also roast wheat, etc., besides coffee."

An ad shows that the building originally had a triangular pediment on the roof.  The Brewers' Journal, October 1, 1915 (copyright expired).

The firm remained at 458 Greenwich Street until around 1931 when it moved a block to the south.  It was replaced by the Fred W. Lange Trucking Co., which altered the ground floor by adding a loading platform in the southern bay.  It was apparently at this time that the pediment was removed from the roof.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

The Tribeca district saw striking changes in the last decades of the 20th century, as industrial tenants were replaced by galleries, restaurants and residences.  The lofts at 458 Greenwich Street were among the earliest to be unofficially renovated for residential use.   Living here in the early 1970s was C. John Kingston and his wife, the former Emily Rutgers Fuller.  He was a vice president of the S. D. Fuller & Co. investment firm.

The ground floor where the Fred W. Lange Trucking Co. had loaded and unloaded freight, became a Closet King store in the 1980s.   An official renovation of the upper floors to apartments--one per floor--was completed in 2001.  The transformation of 458 Greenwich Street into a trendy Tribeca spot was complete in 2006 when the Mediterranean restaurant Turks & Frogs Tribeca opened.  It was described by The New York Times food critique Florence Fabricant as "an antiques shop and wine bar."  In 2009, Inside New York reported it was now "a full-fledged restaurant."

The eatery remained until 2013 when it was replaced by The Greek, which Florence Fabricant said was "a gastro-taverna offering dishes from northern Greece."  It remains in the space.

photographs by the author
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1 comment:

  1. North Bar TriBeCa now occupies the store at 458 Greenwich Street. (The Greek is gone.) The prior structure was occupied in the late 19th century by a pre-prohibition liquor business owned by the Steinhardt Bros.