The foundries that built cast-iron Soho

Cast-iron architecture is all over New York City. But Soho just might be the cast-iron capital of the world—a handful of streets packed with dozens of beautifully preserved iron buildings (like these on Broadway between Prince and Spring, circa 1905.)

Besides their lovely facades, cast-iron structures had a few other advantages: They were less susceptible to fire, and they allowed for huge windows, providing lots of light and air.

But someone had to supply the iron and the manpower to construct them. If you look closely at the base of the buildings, you can still see some of the plaques bearing the names of the foundries who did the work.

Lindsay, Graff & Mecquier helped build several Soho buildings, including 83 Grand Street—a former silk warehouse put up in 1872.

S.B. Ferdon’s work can be seen on Wooster Street:

This Aetna Iron Works inscription is interesting because of the street the foundry was located on: Goerck Street.

Goerck Street? It doesn’t exist anymore. It used to be a bleak little strip near the Williamsburg Bridge renamed Baruch Place (after physician Simon Baruch) in 1933.

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9 Responses to “The foundries that built cast-iron Soho”

  1. Devyn Says:

    SoHo likely is the cast iron capital of the world. Cast iron allows for a seemingly unending variety of ornamentation, however, its use was short lived (1860s-1870s) because of its structural problems and low melting point in fires.

    From Wikipedia “Cast iron has some architectural advantages, and some weaknesses. It is strong in compression, but weak in tension and bending. Its strength and stiffness deteriorate when subjected to high heat, such as in a fire. In the early era of the industrial revolution cast iron was often used in factory construction, in part owing to the misconception that such structures would be fireproof.”

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Yeah, it was definitely a misconception that cast-iron buildings were truly fireproof. they didn’t call Soho Hell’s Hundred Acres for nothing:

    http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/new-york-is-a-hell-of-a-town/

  3. John Warren Says:

    I would go for Troy as the cast-iron capital of the world. Before Pittsburgh, Troy was the leading foundry city in the nation.

  4. petey Says:

    foundries right here in manhattan!
    i worked in an iron foundry once, briefly; hellish work.

  5. Diane Says:

    Yes, thirding what has already been said–they melted!

  6. The coal hole cover of West 13th Street « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] cover was made by a company on Goerck Street, near the Williamsburg Bridge, which was renamed Baruch Place in [...]

  7. Alex Says:

    I would love to visit some iron foundry once…

  8. dobraszczyk Says:

    I am starting a project on decorative cast iron in Britain but it seems that American was just as important in the second half of the 19th century. I’d love to get to New York to visit some of these sites…

  9. francisco Says:

    Cast iron did not melt in fires. In some cases cast iron structures did weaken due to the heat and thus collapse, but not as routinely as is sometimes stated. This is now understood to be somewhat exaggerated and also dependent on the quality of the cast iron. Like steel though, cast iron should be fire proofed to be safe from the heat of a building fire.

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