Looking Up: The Beginning of Bond Street

Looking Up: The Beginning of Bond Street
1-5 Bond Street.

This is the first in the Looking Up series of posts, which will explore the unique architectural and historical stories that can be discovered when we raise our gaze above the sidewalk, the storefront, and the second floor.

1-5 Bond Street.

1-5 Bond Street.

Located at 1-5 Bond Street near Broadway, the Robbins & Appleton Building is a prime example of the remarkable cast iron architecture that one can find throughout NoHo and up and down Broadway. The building is both an individual New York City landmark and included within the city’s NoHo Historic District. At street level, this building looks like many other cast-iron commercial buildings in the area, but a glance upwards reveals a striking mansard roof. Perched at the very top of the building below the central pediment is a gold clock that reflects some of the building’s history.

Depiction of the fire that destroyed the original Bond Street building in 1877. Image via NYPL.

Depiction of the fire that destroyed the original Bond Street building in 1877. Image via NYPL.

It was in 1871 that merchants and manufacturers Henry A. Robbins and Daniel Fuller Appleton hired architect Stephen Decatur Hatch to design a new building to house their American Waltham Watch Company, which was a noted manufacturer of watches and watch cases. Located on Bond Street, this new commercial building reflected the transformation of the street from a fashionable residential enclave during the early part of the nineteenth century to a commercial and manufacturing center by the mid-to-late 1800s.

Hatch’s 1871 building had a short life, as on the night of March 6, 1877 a massive fire destroyed the structure. Robbins and Appleton again sought out Hatch to create a replacement, a grand Second Empire style factory building which was constructed between 1879 and 1880, opening on April 30, 1880.

1-5 Bond Street facade.

1-5 Bond Street facade.

As the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission notes, “the present building, erected two years after the fire, is a stylistic variation on the [commercial] palace theme. Although designed by the same architect in the same style with the same façade material for the same clients as the 1871 building and retaining such features as the mansard roof, the function of the new building was different. The new building was to serve as a factory with the exception of some floor space which was leased to D. Appleton & Co., the notable book publishing firm. Lush and intricate architectural embellishment was unnecessary on a utilitarian structure such as a factory. With the exception of the ground floor, roof, and shallow end pavilions which give the building its Second Empire character—unusual for this date and probably retained at the insistence of the client—the façade consists of a single window bay unit reproduced twelve times across each of the upper four floors in disciplined regularity. The bay unit is a deeply recessed one-over-one double-hung window flanked by smooth columns with simple necking and stylized capitals carrying a shouldered arch. The strength and beauty of the building lie in the strong horizontals of the cornices above each floor and the three-dimensional quality created by the deeply recessed windows.”

The American Waltham Watch company left the space by the turn of the twentieth century, replaced by a variety of small-scale manufacturing and commercial firms. Converted to residential use in the late 1980s, the building stands as a majestic anchor to the architecturally eclectic Bond Street.

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Drew
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Drew was GVSHP's Director of Administration until March 2015.

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One comment on “Looking Up: The Beginning of Bond Street
  1. Drew Ken Sacharin says:

    Great story! Other history about the location (from my database):

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    1-5 Bond Street
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    (1-5 Bond Street)
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    I also am flighty!
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    HereWas a defender of Alexander Hamilton, a most perfect system, an egg full of meat, a blood-letting personality, Cream Cheese from the Dairy of Heaven, a Raven on the sofa, Emmanuel Kant, a General of the Union Army, Freddy the Rat, a stuffy club, and an alley industrial complex.
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    Big Man on Bond. In the 1820s, 5 Bond Street was the address for Albert Gallatin. Albert Gallatin was an accomplished man. He was Secretary of the Treasury for twelve years under Presidents Jefferson and Madison, Minister to France for eight years under Madison and Monroe, and a member of Congress. John Quincy Adams appointed him Minister to Great Britain. Gallatin was also the first President of New York University. In 1823 Gallatin declined a seat in Monroe’s cabinet. In 1824 he declined to be a candidate for the vice-presidency, to which Gallatin was nominated by the Democratic Party. In 1828, at the suggestion of John Jacob Astor, he was made President of the new National Bank. In 1843 he was elected president of the New-York Historical Society, which he held until his death in 1849 at the age of 88.
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    The Most Perfect System Ever Formed. When Gallatin became Secretary of the Treasury under President Jefferson, Jefferson was reported to have given him these instructions: “Your most important duty will be to examine the accounts and records of your department in order to discover the blunders and frauds of Hamilton [Alexander, that is], and to ascertain what changes will be needed in the system. This is a most important duty, and will require all your industry and acuteness. To do it thoroughly you may employ whatever extra service you may require.” Gallatin investigated and reported back to the President: “I have, as you directed, made a thorough examination of the books, accounts and correspondence of my department from its commencement. I have found the most perfect system ever formed [!!!]. Any change would injure it. Hamilton made no blunders, committed no fraud, did nothing wrong.”
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    Residential Resume. After 5 Bond Street, as best I can figure it, Albert Gallatin lived at: 113 Bleecker Street, 103 Chambers Street (1834 Directory), and 57 Bleecker Street (1830s-1849, as verified by the 1839 and 1849 City Directories).
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    As Full as an Egg Is of Meat. 1 Bond Street was the home of Dr. John Wakefield Francis for 23 years–from 1837 until 1860. Dr. Francis was a historian of old New-York City and an authority in the medical world. For years he enjoyed the largest and most lucrative medical practice in the city. Dr. Francis was a notable character, known to most New Yorkers simply as “the Doctor.” “The Doctor,” recalled Frederick Cozzens, “is one of our old Knickerbockers. His big bushy head is as familiar as the City Hall. He belongs to the ‘God bless you, my dear young friend’ school. He is as full of knowledge as an egg is of meat.”
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    His Closest Blood Relation. Dr. Francis was the last New York physician of standing to continue the practice of bleeding. The story is told (in the “Life of Julia Ward Howe,” by her daughters Laura E. Richards and Maud Howe Elliott) that at a dinner party at his house Dr. Francis suddenly left the table and summoned his wife (Eliza Cutler) to an adjoining room where he proceeded to bleed her. In answer to her piteous protestations he stated that he perceived she was about to suffer a stroke of apoplexy and deemed it best to avert it.
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    Cream Cheese from the Dairy of Heaven. In 1829 Dr. Francis and his wife Eliza moved in with Samuel Ward and Ward’s family across the way at 2 Bond Street. Dr. Francis was the Wards’ cherished friend and resident physician. Francis’s wife Eliza Cutler was a sister of Julia Ward Howe’s mother. Eliza was “Aunt Eliza” to the Ward children (including Julia Ward, who later in life composed the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”), and Dr. Francis, the Wards’ family physician, was “Uncle Doctor.” Francis and Eliza lived with the Wards for 7 years, from 1829-1837. At the time, Samuel Ward’s house at 2 Bond Street was known to every cab driver in the city as “The Corner.” To the delight of the Ward children, Dr. Francis called them by singular pet names (“Cream Cheese from the Dairy of Heaven,” “Pocket Edition of Lives of the Saints.” etc.) In 1837 Dr. Francis and Eliza moved across the street to 1 Bond Street and the Doctor moved his office to the ground floor of Samuel Ward’s residential picture gallery, at 2 Bond Street (aka 662 Broadway).
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    Eliza, my dear…The Raven! Edgar Allan Poe said of Dr. Francis that his conversation was “a sort of Roman punch, made up of tragedy, comedy, and the broadest of all possible farce.” At that time, “The Raven” was newly published and the talk of the town. Dr. Francis invited Poe to come to his house on a certain evening, and straightway forgot the matter. Poe came at the appointed time. At the moment of Poe’s arrival, The Doctor was summoned to the bedside of a patient. Dr. Francis left the drawing-room hastily, and in the anteroom ran into a tall, cadaverous figure in black. Seizing Poe by the arms, Dr. Francis dragged him into the drawing-room and sat him down before his wife. “Eliza, my dear… The Raven!” Francis departed, leaving guest and hostess (who had never heard of “The Raven”) equally petrified.
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    I also am flighty! An eccentric young German philosopher was for some months one of The Doctor’s patients. The young man had a radical simplicity and staunch frugality that endeared him to Dr. Francis. The German’s lofty aspirations and hand-to-mouth existence made him an object of peculiar sympathy to his kind physician. The two discussed German authors, metaphysical theories, politics, and life. When the young patient proposed to marry the daughter of an impoverished lady, selected according to Goethe’s principle of the elective affinities, the prudent mother supposedly suggested that it was out of her power to bestow any wedding dress to her daughter. “Madam,” explained the suitor, “I also am poor.” The Mom replied that the object of his affection was in delicate health, and unequal to endure privation that marriage would entail. “Madam,” argued the persevering suitor, “I am also feeble.” As a last resort, and with great reluctance, the mother parried with: ” I feel it my duty to inform you that my daughter’s mind has been seriously affected; twice in her life she has been deranged.” “Madam,” eagerly exclaimed the lover, “I also am flighty!”
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    That’s Emmanuel, with an “E.” The young German philosopher snagged his prey. When they were expecting their first child, the couple sent for The Doctor. Dr. Francis practiced his birthing skills and then called young husband from an adjoining room to see his first-born son. The husband took the baby in his arms, knelt down, dipped his fingers in an improvised font, and, splashing the infant’s brow, baptized him “Emmanuel Kant.”
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    A Mover and a… Mover. Dr. Francis lived at 67 Chambers Street in the 1820s. When he moved into Samuel Ward’s house at 2 Bond Street, Dr. Francis kept the 67 Chambers Street quarters for use as an office. Dr. Francis lived with the Samuel Ward family from 1829-1837. Dr. Francis moved across the street to 1 Bond Street in 1837 and stayed for 23 years. At this time, he moved his office to 662 Broadway (the separately addressed private picture gallery of Sam Ward’s 2 Bond Street house). Dr. Francis’ last home was at 113 (was 37) East 16th Street from 1860-1861, where he died on February 8, 1861.
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    General Winfield Scott. In 1833, No. 5 Bond Street became the residence of one of America’s most distinguished soldiers, Winfield Scott, then a major-general and second in command of the army. (Scott was later Abraham Lincoln’s Commander of the Union Army at the start of the Civil War). When General Scott left in 1835 the house in Bond Street was taken by William Kent, judge of the Circuit Court and one of the leaders of the New York bar. For a number of years he was a trustee of New York University. In 1840 he moved to Fourth Avenue, near 15th Street, and No. 5 Bond Street was taken by the Pell family (previously at 13 Saint Mark’s Place). The Pells remained at 5 Bond Street for the next 15 years.
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    Stuffy Club. New York City’s Union Club was founded at 1 Bond Street in 1836. The Union Club was modeled after the famous clubs of London and was the province of New York’s old-money families, such as the Livingstons, the Griswolds, and the Van Rensselaers. The Union Club was then (and is now) New York City’s most exclusive and stuffiest club. According to an 1897 New York Times article, one member went all the way to Newport to slap the face of a foreign Count.
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    Cast-Iron. The surviving 1880 structure at 1-5 Bond Street is one of the best preserved cast-iron-front buildings in the city. 1-5 Bond Street (The 1879-1880 Robbins and Appleton Building) is a designated city landmark. It was built for the American Waltham Watch Company (for the manufacture of watch cases) and for the legendary book publisher D. Appelton & Company. It is now mainly a residential building.
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    Freddy the Rat. The alley that runs south and east from 1 Bond Street is called Shinbone Alley. Don Marquis used Shinbone Alley as the setting for his Archy + Mehitabel stories. Archy + Mehitabel were a talking cockroach (Archy) and an alley cat (Mehitabel). Archy was once a human poet, but he was reincarnated as a roach. Archy wrote stories every night by hopping from key to key on Don Marquis’ typewriter. Archy told stories about Mehitabel the cat, Freddy the Rat, and other denizens of Shinbone Alley. Since Archy couldn’t manage the shift key, there was little punctuation.
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    Alley Industrial Complex. The seemingly connected set of alleys (Jones Alley, Shinbone Alley, Great Jones Alley) begins east of Lafayette Street with the name Jones Alley (the section east of Lafayette Street that runs parallel to Bond Street). It becomes Shinbone Alley running east-west between Lafayette Street and Broadway, and stays named Shinbone Alley as it jogs north and exits near 1 Bond Street. The alley then continues across Bond Street going north,but changes names once again, this time to Great Jones Alley–which terminates just south of East 4th Street. Shinbone Alley is privately owned and always has been.
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    Don’t Tread on Me! Shinbone Alley started out in life as a road called Cross Street. It was Cross Street in 1806 then Jones Alley and then Shinbone Alley 1825. In 1825, the property of (the future) Shinbone Alley was owned by William Israel. Israel created Shinbone Alley as an extension of Jones Alley; Israel himself lived at 467 Broome Street. Israel wanted Shinbone to be a back service alley for Israel’s properties fronting Bond Street. I don’t know why Israel called the alley “shinbone.” If you find out, please tell me.
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    One of Manhattan’s Mysteries. Shinbone Alley is one of Manhattan’s Mysteries: Why is it named Shinbone? And what is the difference between Jones Street, Jones Alley, Great Jones Street, Great Jones Alley and Shinbone Alley? To start with, Jones Alley and Great Jones Street were named for David Samuel Jones, a lawyer and Father Of The New York Bar in 1789. Jones also served as New York City’s first comptroller. This same David Samuel Jones originally owned the land that would become Great Jones Street; he deeded it (the land of the future Great Jones Street) to the city. David Samuel Jones stipulated that if the city were to carve a street through this land, the city should at least name the street after him (David Samuel Jones).
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    Keeping up with the Jones’s (and Shinbones). When the city indeed opened a new street through David Samuel Jones’ (previously-owned) land, the city decided to call the new street Great Jones Street. The prefix “Great” differentiated this new street from the existing Jones Street (named for Gardiner Jones–who was, confusingly, Samuel David Jones’ brother-in-law. Jones Street was a one-block road in the West Village from Bleecker Street to West Fourth Street. The prefix for the new street, “Great” also made sense because Great Jones Street was wider than preexisting Jones Street. The term “jones-in” (to describe the feeling that a drug addict has when deprived of drugs) came from the description of addicts who used to congregate in Great Jones Alley at night. Shinbone Alley was an extension of Jones Alley that was created in 1825 by William Israel to be a private back alley for Israel’s Bond Street properties. Shinbone Alley followed the line of the previously named Cross Street.
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    Trivial Factoid. Rock star Mike Rutherford (of the band, Genesis) lives at 1 Bond Street in apartment 3AB (a combination of two previous apartments).
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