Two Prince Street relics on a pre-SoHo building

SoHo’s cast-iron commercial buildings have long been repurposed into expensive lofts and boutiques.

But hiding in plain site on the handsome, two-story brick and iron building between Greene Street and Wooster Place are two relics, nods to the neighborhood’s late 19th and 20th century manufacturing past.

These metal signs, advertising the services of a lithographer and engraver as well as an office supplies seller, flank the ends of 120-125 Prince Street, actually two separate buildings constructed in 1892-1893 with a common facade.

“Stationery, Office Supplies, Paper, and Twine” states the one on the right. Twine? To wrap packages in an era before masking tape.

The sign on the left must have advertised the latest technology in printing at the time. Lithographing, engraving . . . manifold books? Special forms?

What they were for we may never know, but these businesses must have been right at home in the area at the time, when this post–Civil War red-light district was the 20th century commercial hub known as Hell’s Hundred Acres.

Imagine the area back then: few residents, no shopping, and all day in nearby buildings machinery churned and whirled and pulsed with the energy that comes from making things.

[Bottom photo: Wikipedia, 2012]

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6 Responses to “Two Prince Street relics on a pre-SoHo building”

  1. Ty Says:

    In the 1920s my grandfather worked on Broadway and Spring engineering machines that made buttons.

    My mother worked on Spring Street n the 1940s as a bookkeeper for a company that made embroidery.
    She used to say that it was so quiet after six you could hear your own footsteps but she was never afraid. She’d wait a beat look at me and say -“Not like now” as if I was personally responsible for the crime wave.

  2. Paige Says:

    A “manifold book” would have been an order pad, maybe with carbon sheets, like you can still see used in restaurants, dry cleaners, etc. See https://www.wordnik.com/words/manifold%20writing. Special forms were probably just that, special forms designed for use in various types of businesses (contracts, job applications, payroll forms, that kind of thing).

  3. Zoe Says:

    Another neighbourhood w/ the word ‘Hell’ in it! I’ve never heard that before. (Off to read your post linked above about that after this…).

    I’ve never noticed nor heard of “cast iron… buildings” either. (In this neighbourhood or elsewhere). I wonder: What parts of the building were iron? Wouldn’t the iron have rusted? (Despite presumably years of painting it).

    • Ty Says:

      Just the facade was cast iron as was bolted onto the building. It allowed architects to design fancy facades without the high cost of stone masons.

    • Stanley K Patz Says:

      Although not visible from the street, the interior support columns are also made of cast iron. Some of these have very fancy capitols and bases.

      Stan P.

  4. David Lippman Says:

    As Napoleon said of Andorra: “It is a political curiosity. It must be preserved.” So must those signs.

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