February 23, 2011

Buildings to Know in NoHo: An Illustrated Self-Guided Tour and Map

(revised 2013) NoHo, the nickname for the neighborhood in New York that generally sits north of Houston and sprawls up Broadway and Lafayette to Astor Place, serves as home to some of the city's most flamboyant architecture. Most of the exuberance comes by way of the existing commercial buildings from the 1880s and 1890s, structures with rich ornamentation and fanciful figures designed to show off the companies that built them. In even earlier days, the 1820s, Lafayette and Astor Place briefly served as one of the city's most fashionable districts for Old Money. While the Bowery is shaping up as one of New York's primary thoroughfares for experimental architecture, with the boldest yet to come, a new look at the old and new architecture of neighboring NoHo yields some pretty wild stuff. All that is required to appreciate this area's rich architectural heritage is to look up.

Schermerhorn Building
Schermerhorn Building, 376-380 Lafayette. NW corner Great Jones St.

A gaze upward reveals several gems of NoHo's visual culture - the two serene classically-draped women aside an oval window above the entrance to the Cable Building (Broadway 611), the fancy French mansard roofs of 1-5 Bond Street, the exaggerated French ornate arch of NYC Fire Department's Engine Company No. 33 (44 Great Jones St.), and dozens upon dozens of sculptured faces on several other buildings, some serene, others rather menacing, staring down on the street. Many of these wonders are the work of big name architects, past and present, from Louis Sullivan, Ernest Flagg and Henry J. Hardenbergh to Thom Mayne, the late Charles Gwathmey, and Herzog & DeMeuron.

Engine Company No. 33
Engine Company No. 33., 44 Great Jones St. 

Here's Walking Off the Big Apple's guide to buildings you must know in NoHo. The definition of the boundaries is a little slack here, so a few buildings near Astor Place and on the west side can be included. Many of these buildings house popular shops, cafes, or theaters, so it's quite possible that many of you already know these structures.

Buildings to Know in NoHo

• Astor Place Building, 750 Broadway. 1881. Starkweather & Gibbs. Great terra-cotta decorations and impressive arches on this rusty red corner building. Home to a Gap and other businesses on the retail level.

• Astor Place Hotel, 13 Astor Place. 1890. Originally Mercantile Library Building. Designed by George Harney. Previously on the site -the Astor Place Opera House, scene of the 1849 riots. A Starbucks is on the first floor facing Astor Place.

• Astor Place Tower. "Sculpture for Living," 445 Lafayette. 2005. Glass free-standing residential structure by the firm of Gwathmey Siegel.

Joseph Papp Public Theatre
On Lafayette, in the rose glow - a glimpse at left of the Wanamaker Building (1904), now occupied by KMart; the tall glass building is Charles Gwathmey's "Sculpture for Living:" the long red building with arches is the former Astor Library, now well-known as the Joseph Papp Public Theatre.

• Bayard-Condict Building, 65 Bleecker St. 1897-1899. Louis Sullivan, one of the most important designers and thinkers in American architecture history, is most associated with Chicago. This building here combines two of his well-known traits - a vertical tall building (he was known for his pioneering design for the modern commercial skyscraper - "a proud and soaring thing," in his words) and the floral designs, especially at street level, presumably to lure the feminine modern shopper. Another famous Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham, designed the Flatiron Building and also the nearby massive Wanamaker Building (1904) at 770 Broadway between E. 8th and E. 9th. That building's main current tenant is KMart. An outlet of Le Pain Quotidien has opened in the Bayard-Condict Building (below).

Bayard-Condict Building
Bayard-Condict Building, 65 Bleecker St. 1897-1899.

• Brooks Brothers (former home), 670 Broadway. at Bond St. 1873-1874. George E. Harney, architect. Glowing a deep rose color in the sun, the brick building draws interest for its arched windows and facade ornamentations.

• Cable Building, 611 Broadway at E. Houston St. 1892-1894. McKim, Mead & White. Built as headquarters for the cable car industry. Renaissance Revival. Look for the classically-draped figures on the Broadway side. The store Crate & Barrel is a main tenant.

• Colonnade Row, 428-434 Lafayette St., 1832-1833. The Corinthian colonnade that sadly looks like it's in ruins signifies this last survivor of similar buildings constructed for New York's upper crust. The Vanderbilts lived here. Now, it's home to the Blue Man Group. You'd think someone could find a way to may this historic building look more presentable. Or maybe, the look of a classical ruin is more in fashion.

Colonnade Row
Colonnade Row, 428-434 Lafayette St., 1832-1833.

• Cooper Union Foundation Building, Astor Place. 1853-1859. The big heavy brownstone is a marvel of architectural and engineering achievement, the first in the U.S. to be built on steel frames.

• Cooper Union academic building by Thom Mayne, of Metropolis with Gruzen Samton. 2009. A contemporary building makes a statement about the future of New York architecture. Read more at this post.

• DeVinne Press, 393-399 Lafayette St. 1885-1886. We know it mostly by shopping at Astor Wines & Spirits, but look up and see a sleek building fit for the Roman Empire. Notice the elegant carving of the original business across the top. That font is awesome.

DeVinne Press Building
DeVinne Press, 393-399 Lafayette St. 1885-1886. 

• Engine Company No. 33., 44 Great Jones St. 1898-1899. New York has many great-looking fire houses, but this one with the great arch and fire engine red paint job is a real eye-catcher. (picture above)

• 40 Bond, 2008. Herzog & DeMeuron. A recent vestige, if that's not a contradiction, of pre-recession New York. (Walking Off the Big Apple wrote about 40 Bond when she was much younger and didn't know what she was doing with her life.)

• Joseph Papp Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette. 1853-1881. Originally the Astor Library, the brick and brownstone building and its wings were built over a long span in the second half of the 19th century. Diversion: Joe Papp lived near here.

• Manhattan Savings Institution Building, 644 Broadway. 1889-1890. Imposing corner stone building with many terra-cotta and cast-iron trimmings, topped with a corner cupola.

• Merchants Building, 693 Broadway. Have you ever thought you were being watched by great wing-ed stone owls?

owls, Merchants Building
Merchants Building, 693 Broadway

• Merchant's House Museum, 29 E. 4th St. 1832. Operated as a museum, the former Seabury Tredwell House reflects the area's residential life of Jacksonian America.

• New York Mercantile Exchange, 628 Broadway. 1882. As noted in the AIA Guide to New York, the architect, Herman J. Schwarzmann, was the main architect for Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exhibition. (AIA Guide, p. 151). Urban Outfitters is the prominent retail tenant.

• 1-5 Bond, between Broadway and Lafayette. 1879-1880. French Second Empire building dresses up the area, especially with its Mansard roof. Blick Art Materials is a tenant.

1-5 Bond
1-5 Bond, between Broadway and Lafayette. 1879-1880.

• Schermerhorn Building, 376-380 Lafayette. NW corner Great Jones St. 1888-1889. Henry J. Hardenbergh is best know for The Dakota and The Plaza, but here in NoHo is his wonderful reddish and cleverly decorated work in brick. (see picture at top of page)

• 31-33 Great Jones Street, 1870. Former stables side by side. Now used for residential.

Also of note - the 700 block of Broadway on the east side features several fascinating buildings, including a classically-inspired structure with lounging toga-ed figures on a high window pediment, the gargoyles on 716 Broadway, and at 732, the building with the scripted name "Treffurth's" at the top. For more on this block, or all of Broadway for that matter, consult the ever-useful New York Songlines. Personal favorites also include the facade of the Gene Frankel Theatre on Bond Street, festooned with gold dancing figures; the old Federal-style brick house at 58 Bleecker (Bleecker Street Bar); and 684 Broadway, with monstrous lion gargoyles high above the street.

View Buildings To Know in NoHo in a larger map

While taking this self-guided architectural tour (just knock around), consider self-guiding to one of the area's many good restaurants and bars. A handful of Walking Off the Big Apple personal recommendations are noted on the map. One additional note: NoHo could use a few more trees.

More details and buildings in NoHo may be found in the always useful AIA Guide to New York: Fifth Edition (2010). The books provided the details of architects, dates, and styles for many of the buildings listed above.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple, from December 2010 -February 2011. View this slideshow on Flickr WOTBA for the full armchair tour.


Jess and Garrett said...

We've always like the decayed air of Colonnade Row, but you're right, it's surprising no one has spruced it up.

Great photos, by the way.

rr said...

See Aug 8, 2010 article and video Streetscapes and other recent "columns" for interesting resting home of the demolished pylons and tumbled marble columns. LaGrange Terrace was built in 1833 and JJ Astor lived there. Over 100 large discarded intricately-carved Greek Revival marble pieces lay in parking lot at Delbarton School in Morris Twp, NJ. only 4 of the 9 residences remain behind the 28 Foot high Corinthian columns.
Great map and tour. Thanks for sharing, Teri T!

Teri Tynes said...

I've been meaning to include the Streetscapes story for this and earlier posts where I mentioned the building. Glad you brought this to our attention. Thanks for these comments about Colonnade Row.