The mysterious furrier of West 46th Street

West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is shadowy and gritty; it’s a low-slung block of restaurants and small shops occupying converted brownstones and renovated office buildings.

Because it’s one of those unusually frozen in time blocks, it’s a stretch with many mysteries. One I’ve always wondered about has to do with the box-like structure with big windows at number 34-36.

Built in 1914 as a loft, the building’s entrance has what looks like a frieze with scenes of a charioteer and crowds of women and children, something right out of ancient Greece.

It’s a strange and mysterious scene. But even more mysterious to me is the sign in a small second floor window: furs.

West 46th Street is a little north of the city’s former fur district, where furriers and fur manufacturers reigned through much of the 20th century.

It didn’t take long to locate the furrier who occupied this storefront and find out that he worked here as far back as 1916. William C. Emerick advertised his “furs of the quality sort” in Harper’s Bazaar (above right) back then, 103 years ago.

In 1920, he also appeared in a fur trade journal (above center).

I don’t know when Emerick left the premises, but amazingly, his furs sign remains, slightly faded but perfectly legible.

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12 Responses to “The mysterious furrier of West 46th Street”

  1. Jeff S Says:

    I used to work up the street, and saw these first appear when the building next door was knocked down, and wondered about the history. Obviously the were plastered up from the inside (facing a brick wall, who needed em?) Thanks!
    (FWIW the building currently houses Metalliferous– one of the best jewelry equipment supply houses).

  2. Willi Prader Says:

    That pro Spa looks appealing!

  3. Bob Says:

    Emerick’s window signage was still visible on his front-facing window in a c. 1940 NYC tax photo for the building next door. (It is the 3rd floor, not the 2nd floor.)

  4. petey Says:

    glad you’re documenting these old signs. for ages i thought “they’ll be there forever” but with the recent blast of manhattan construction i’m getting seriously worried.

    when you say “It didn’t take long to locate the furrier who occupied this storefront,” can you tell what source you went to?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks Petey. For this I went to Google books, which includes digitized magazines and trade publications. Google books is also great for directories. Just a few keywords is all it often takes to turn up the address of an old business.

  5. David H Lippman Says:

    Did he leave behind the fur?

  6. Mark Says:

    There’s also a nice faux-greek frieze at no. 36

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