The most spectacular roofs are in Union Square

On a walk around Union Square, it’s impossible not to look up, thanks to the number of gorgeous roofs—stacked, sloping, multi-tiered roofs that top off the Gilded Age buildings like the elaborate feathered hats worn by stylish women of the era.

The four-story mansard roof crowning 201 Park Avenue South is perhaps the most impressive. This gorgeous building—close to the heavily German East Village back in the day—was once the headquarters for the Germania Life Insurance Company, built in fashionable French Renaissance style in 1911.

On the north side of the square at 33 East 17th Street is the Century Building, with it Queen Anne bells and whistles and two-story gambrel roof. Opened in 1881, the first tenant was a music publisher—and there’s a publishing link today, with Barnes & Noble occupying four floors.

A little farther up Broadway at 20th Street is a mansard roof like no other. Lord & Taylor built this Victorian blowout in 1870, when this stretch of Broadway was nicknamed Ladies Mile. The enormous store featured one of New York’s first steam elevators, and the company installed the first Christmas window decorations.

A detour to Fifth Avenue and 19th Street puts this double-decker Addams Family–esque roof in view. This is the former Arnold Constable Dry Goods store, also part of Ladies Mile.

Constructed between 1869 to 1877, the monster emporium spanned 19th Street from Broadway to Fifth Avenue.

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6 Responses to “The most spectacular roofs are in Union Square”

  1. Willie Snow Says:

    Dig those Mansards baby!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Adela Teban Says:

    Very interesting! The pictures are great and the arhitecture is also beautiful!

  3. trilby1895 Says:

    Oh, these buildings are absolutely superb!! Thank you for this, Ephemeral – going over within a couple of days to gorge on the beauty!!

  4. The “Big Store” blows away 1890s New York | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] even New Yorkers who shopped (or at least window-shopped) emporiums like Lord & Taylor, Arnold Constable, and Macy’s along Ladies Mile were blown away by the city’s first Siegel-Cooper store, […]

  5. A Gilded Age oddball and his mansion menagerie | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] in the 1870s. All around you is the bustling city of streetcars and grand emporiums, including Arnold Constable & Company’s magnificent store on the southwest corner, part of the Ladies Mile shopping […]

  6. Bill Wolfe Says:

    Having read Jack Finney’s great “Time and Again” several times over the years, I’ve always wondered what the Ladies’ Mile looked like. These photos give me an excellent sense of what it must have looked like in its heyday. Thanks!

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