The silk workers of a Fourth Street loft building

ThesilkbuildingtowerrecordsThe Silk Building (right, back in the day when Tower Records occupied the ground floor) has been a celebrity-studded condominium since the 1980s.

But as the name of this East Fourth Street edifice suggests, it began its life as a factory space for workers who produced silk garments.

The Silk Building fit right into the neighborhood at the time, which was packed with loft buildings housing clothing manufacturers, part of the city’s enormous garment industry.

Decades after the industry moved out of lower Manhattan, two friezes in the building’s handsome lobby continue to pay homage to the female workers who spun silk into clothes.


The first, “Silk Textile Workers of New York,” shows female employees designing and sewing silk over machines and looms.


The second depicts ancient silk production in China; explaining how silk is made, starting with the cultivation of silkmoth eggs.

Thesilkbuildingeggs The Silk Building isn’t the only manufacturing space from the city’s Garment Center days that has been repurposed for luxury residential or office use.

The Spinning Wheel Building and the American Thread Company are remnants of an older New York, and the bronze Silk Clock of this Park Avenue South loft building is an especially charming reminder.

[Top photo: City Realty]

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One Response to “The silk workers of a Fourth Street loft building”

  1. Bob_in_MA Says:

    Great post.

    Interestingly, silk production at the time the building was put up might not have been much different than in ancient times.

    I happen to live in Florence, Mass., seat of a 19th century silk cultivation craze. People planted huge groves of mulberry trees and tried to get the silk worms to do their things here in the Eastern U.S., but it had about the same success as the emu ranches of the following century.

    There were a number of large silk mills in the area, but they left it to the Chinese to produce the silk.

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