Mysterious Name & Address Cast in Iron Reveals Layers of History
Walking on East 9th Street the other day I saw a new and surprising element on the Mud Cafe storefront at 307 East 9th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, that I never before noticed. The inviting bench that is usually outside was moved for a delivery, and one could see what at first appeared to be a perplexing mistake. At the bottom of one of the columns it read “Boyce & McIntire, 706 E 12th Street.” But that location is almost a half mile away, between Avenues C and D.
After a little research, however, I discovered this was no mistake at all, and that this stamp revealed a very important and common element of this neighborhood and our city’s history and development.
Boyce & McIntire was actually the name of the superintendent and owner of the foundry that made this and so many other cast iron storefronts throughout Lower Manhattan (this one dates to the 1870s). Daniel D. Boyce and John Rogers McIntire’s foundry was called Atlantic Iron Works, and was located at 706 East 12th Street, where P.S. 34 now stands (for more history of the foundry, see this page).
The above ad from 1883/4 reveals that Daniel Boyce continued as the superintendent of the works even after McIntire’s death in 1873. A number of foundry marks for Atlantic Iron Works are found throughout the East Village and Lower East Side, and throughout the city. Once you start looking down, you notice them more and more.
Of the numerous such founder’s marks from the Boyce & McIntire foundry, you can find one on the Germania Fire Insurance Company Bowery Building, 357 Bowery, landmarked in 2010. From the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report:
“The ground floor features a historic, almost certainly original cast-iron storefront, which is simple in design, Italianate in style, and has panels on its piers; a foundry mark from the firm of Boyce & McIntire, which was active from approximately 1862 to 1877, is present on the storefront’s northernmost and southernmost piers.”
They are remarkably pervasive, once you know where to look for them.
According to The New York Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America history on cast iron buildings:
“Cast iron was used as an architectural material for entire facades of American commercial buildings in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, and was particularly popular in New York City, which today has the world’s largest collection of cast-iron architecture. An inexpensive alternative to masonry façade materials like brick and stone, it could be cast in highly decorative designs that often mimicked masonry. Cast-iron-fronted buildings were constructed by machine-made and mass-produced interchangeable parts that were simply bolted to the facades and that allowed for exuberant designs in many different architectural styles. Cast-iron building technology allowed for larger window expanses in comparison to masonry buildings.”
And although from a few decades prior to the era of Boyce & McIntire’s firm, the below image by John Penniman shows a foundry on East 12th street at the foot of the East River, the same location indicated in the 1884 ad above.
So next time you can sip a coffee or other beverage from Mud Coffee on their bench on East 9th street, look down for the founder’s mark from 12th street where the red circle below indicates. Keep your eye out for other founder’s marks at the base of cast iron storefronts too. And if you spot one, snap a picture for Instagram and tag us at @gvshp_nyc so we can see it too.