Saturday, April 6, 2024

Henry Fernbach's 1868 52 White Street


In August 1866, a thief was apprehended in the store of Woolf & Sternback at 52 White Street.  The management pressed charges and the perpetrator was jailed in the Ludlow Street jail.  Two weeks later, the New York Dispatch reported, "On Friday evening a woman named Heyman...left her three children, aged nine months, two and a half, and three and a half years of age at the store of Messrs. Woolf & Sternback."  She told the clerk that the store was responsible for her husband's incarceration, "and as she had no means to support the children, she left them for the firm to take care of."

At the time of the shocking incident, the altered house in which Wolf & Sternback operated was slated for demolition.  The property had been purchased by brothers Mayer and Simon Sternberger who commissioned architect Henry Fernbach to design a loft-and-store building on the site.  Completed in 1868, the Second Empire style structure was clad in marble above the cast iron storefront.  Each floor was defined by an intermediate cornice and paneled pilasters at the sides.  A triangular pediment atop the ornate terminal cornice announced the date of the building's groundbreaking.  

Mayer and Simon Sternberger were the principals in the M. & S. Soap company, located at 190 South Fifth Avenue.  Although the first tenant to move into their new building was perhaps A. Langdon & Company, a wholesale boots and shoes dealer, almost all the other tenants were in the dry goods business.  In 1876 they included Alexander King & Co., importers and commission merchants; the Scranton Silk Co.; shirt maker Isaac Rosenstein & Co.; and the Magic Ruffle Co.

On April 20, 1883, the New-York Tribune reported that Mayer and Simon Sternberger had sold 52 White Street to Mrs. James A. Hayden for $114,000 (about $3.33 million in 2024).  Among her tenants were E. Spitzer's furrier business; and Adler & Schoenhof, which listed itself as "manufacturers of the 'IXL' and Victoria skirts, children's cloaks and suits."

They were joined around 1890 by A. N. Loeb & Co., importers and manufacturers of items like the Stuttgarter Sanitary Underwear.  By the mid-1890's, William Campbell & Co., makers of cotton and woolen goods; A. M. Warner  & Co., importers; and A. Friedlander & Co., which made ladies' waists and suits occupied space.  The latter firm was a large operation, employing 56 men, 34 women, and 15 teenaged girls all of whom worked 59 hours per week.

Arion Marcellus Warner was the head of A. M. Warner & Co.  Born in Connecticut in 1843, his firm imported household textiles, like "wool piano and table covers," Irish linens, napkins, and such.   He left the office early in 1897 suffering from stomach pains.  They became so bad that, according to The Sun, he was "confined to his bed fifteen weeks."  After three months of suffering, Warner died on March 30 "of paralysis of the stomach."  

The firm continued doing business at 52 White Street.  By 1901, when it employed two men and 26 women, A. M. Warner & Co. both imported and manufactured table cloths.  It remained until February 1, 1913, when the firm moved to 569-575 Broadway.

Textile and dry goods business continued to call 52 White Street home throughout the Depression years.  Among them were Arthur Bier & Company, who dealt in linings; and Lamb, Finlay & Co., Irish linen importers, here by 1929.

The Tribeca Renaissance caught up with 52 White Street in 1974, when the upper floors were converted to artists' joint living and working quarters (one per floor), and the former store space became the Collective for Living Cinema.  Founded in 1973, the Collective held filmmaking workshops and screened films weekly.

Patrons of the Collective for Living Cinema were treated to films not seen elsewhere.  In February 1976, for instance, it screened the 1934 Wonder Bar, a musical starring Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, and Dolores Del Rio.  On October 18, 1985, The New York Times described the films shown here as "avant-garde, foreign and generally neglected films."

In the first years of the 21st century, the ground floor space  became home to the Manhattan Children's Theater.  Then, on September 19, 2011, jewelry designer Ted Muehling opened his shop here.  It was replaced in 2022 by the James Fuentes gallery.

photographs by the author
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to

No comments:

Post a Comment