A Cast Iron Gem That’s Worn Many Different Hats

 

We’ve already covered a lot of the building’s history in this past post. Built in 1868 to the designs of architect John Kellum, the cast-iron structure was featured in an 1869 issue of Harper’s Weekly. Although McCreery’s originally paid $300,000 to build it, they soon after sold it to the Methodist Book Concern (and then leased the lower floors).

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From “Broadway Illustrated” drawn in 1899. Source: NYPL.

McCreery’s remained in the building until 1902. This 1899 illustration above includes the cast-iron beauty as it looked when it still had its mansard roof. Check out the old-school street awnings, perfect for shade on hot summer days in July!

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In 1966, the building became one of the first structures in New York City to be considered for individual landmark designation due to its “overwhelming architectural and cultural significance.” But in 1971, a fire occurred before designation could take place. Cast-iron structures not only add so much beauty to the streetscape, they also tell an important chapter in the development of New York City architecture and building technology. Cast iron allowed for larger windows, which was particularly welcoming in the age before electricity. It was also said to be able to withstand fires, which was proven on that October day over 40 years ago.

The rooftop addition that now sits atop the structure was built in the 1970s. According to a piece co-written by influential preservation pioneer Margot Gayle, the owner at the time had thought of constructing a new building before deciding to convert McCreery’s to residential use. It was one of the first legal conversions of a cast-iron structure in New York, requiring changes in our city’s fire and Building codes, which ultimately allowed for the residential conversions of hundreds of our city’s other cast-iron beauties.

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Five ornate brackets just below the cornice show where the highest pitch of the mansard roof once was. These same brackets exist on the 11th Street side.

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As Gayle wrote, the 11th Street facade “presents one of the most stirring views of cast iron in the city. Endless architecture, every part identical — the best use of cast iron.” Despite the loss of the mansard roof, “801 Broadway unquestionably merits designation as a landmark,” added Gayle.

This building is in the area of Greenwich Village and the East Village between Union Square and Astor Place, along the University Place, Broadway, and the 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors, that are unique within these neighborhoods for having almost no landmark protections and inadequate zoning protections. As a result, woefully out-of-scale and out-of-character developments are rapidly rising throughout the area, including 300+ ft. tall office and condo buildings, and 300+ room hotels. This is in part fueled by NY’s rapidly expanding Tech industry, which has identified this area as the new beachhead for ‘Silicon Alley,’ the concentration of tech businesses for many years located to the north of here in Union Square and the Flatiron District in Midtown South.  GVSHP is fighting to make sure that any approval of the Mayor’s proposed Tech Hub on 14th Street includes neighborhood protections such as landmark or zoning protections which would protect buildings such as these.

Adding to this gem’s value, on the East 11th Street side it houses Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, our June 2017 Business of the Month.  Go visit them when you walk by this architectural wonder.

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