Archive for the ‘Meat-packing District’ Category

Visiting the 1884 original Gansevoort Market

September 28, 2015

Gansevoort Street sure looked a lot different in 1884, the year the original Gansevoort Market made its official debut. This photo was taken a little later, dating to 1907.


Opened after Washington Market in today’s Tribeca became too crowded, Gansevoort Market was an open-air produce market bound by Gansevoort, Little West 12th, West, and Greenwich Streets.

In other words, the heart of today’s ultra-trendy Meatpacking District.


The market was a big deal at the time; Harper’s Weekly even wrote about it in 1888.

“During the dark hours of early morning, as hundreds of wagons of all descriptions converge upon the market regions, pandemonium reigns as traffic chokes the thoroughfares for blocks around,” an article stated.

Gansevoortmarket1890sOver the next decade, the city built the West Washington Market, for dairy farmers and meat sellers. The WPA Guide to New York City described the scene this way in 1939.

“Activities begin at 4 a.m. Farmers in overalls and mud-caked shoes stand in trucks, shouting their wares. Commission merchants, pushcart vendors, and restaurant buyers trudge warily from one stand to another, digging arms into baskets of fruits or vegetables to ascertain quality.”


“Trucks move continually in and out among the piled crates of tomatoes, beans, cabbages, lettuce, and other greens in the street,” the Guide continues.

Gansevoortmarketkings1893“Hungry derelicts wander about in the hope of picking up a stray vegetable dropped from some truck, while patient nuns wait to receive leftover, unsalable goods for distribution among the destitute.”

Over the decades, produce moved out to the more accessible Hunts Point in the Bronx, and meat purveyors moved in.

West Washington Market burned down in a 1954 fire. The Gansevoort Meat Market building put up by the city in the 1940s remained in use.


That is, until the Meatpacking District, as it was now known, emptied of meatpackers and began hosting fashion designers and faux French restaurants.

Today Gansevoort Market lives on in a very 2015 incarnation—as a trendy food hall.

Top photo: Museum of the City of New York; second image:; third photo:; fourth photo: MCNY; fifth photo:]

West Village modern brownstone makeovers

April 13, 2015

A big part of the New York’s beauty are the rows and rows of brownstones, with classic 19th century features such as a high front stoop and enormous parlor floor windows.


But every so often you come across a modernized version of the iconic city residence. The futuristic redesign or unique facade can be creative and impressive . . . or leave you wondering what the designers were thinking.


That’s the case with this former brownstone on Greenwich Street east of Gansevoort Street, with a front made of glass and what looks like a sheet of steel stretching down the facade. It’s a novel way to block out the sun.

West13th8thave1929Around the corner on Horatio and Greenwich Streets is this three-story residence.

The brick gives it a 19th century feel, but the cutouts on the second and third floor are an interesting touch.

Then there’s this modernized home on West 13th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, near where West Fourth Street ends.

In its earlier life, it was a three-story walk-up, not a brownstone, as this 1929 photo from the New York Public Library reveals (it’s taken the place of the first building on the left).

Now it’s very New York in the 21st century, sleek and trendy . . . and fittingly with a blow-dry bar right downstairs.


Check out other bizarre brownstone makeovers across Manhattan.

A faded ad hangs on in the Meatpacking District

September 22, 2014

From the 1890s to the 1960s, grocers Middendorf & Rohrs operated a wholesale store out of this red-brick building at One Little West 12th Street.


The grocers are long-gone, of course, like the rest of the wholesale markets (including Gansevoort Market down the block) that once called this grimy stretch of Manhattan home.

But what a treat to see that the name of the place is still visible on the facade!


Hmm, could this Rohrs be the same Rohrs who opened the beloved (and recently shuttered) coffee emporium on the Upper East Side in 1896?

Gorgeous neon signs illuminating the city

March 3, 2014

What’s more beautiful than block after block of glowing reds and blues and pinks and yellows, emanating light and heat?


These food-oriented neon signs also make you hungry. The Old Homestead sign looks pretty old, though not as old as this steak house (two words!) itself, from 1868.


The Donut Pub on 14th Street, a 50-year-old remnant of New York before cronuts and Starbucks, recently survived a competitive attack by an upstart Dunkin’ Donuts down the block, which quietly closed shop a few years ago.


DeRobertis Caffe and Pasticceria has been baking sweets for 110 years on First Avenue near 14th Street, when this was an Sicilian immigrant micro-neighborhood featuring Russo Brothers, Veniero, and probably hundreds of small shops lost to history.


Queen is an oddly named Italian restaurant (since 1958!) on Court Street in Brooklyn. You have to dig that crown.


And of course, Katz’s Deli, a treasure of New York neon and store signage—and sandwiches and Jewish soul food too.

More sublime neon beauty can be found here.

Mulberry Street’s grim 18th century nickname

October 14, 2013

Today’s Mulberry Street is a slender little strip of restaurants, cafes, and boutiques—part trendy Nolita, part Little Italy tourist district.

MulberrystreetsignBut it was a very different scene on Mulberry in the late 18th century.

The southern end of the street abutted Collect Pond, once a source of fresh water but by now the site of tanneries, pottery works, and other noxious industries that needed access to water.

One of those industries was the slaughterhouse business. After one opened in the 1770s, others followed, to the point where Mulberry Street was known as “Slaughterhouse Street.”


The rollicking Bull’s Head Tavern, on the Bowery (parts of which have been recently uncovered underground), catered to the butchers and cattle men who worked in the abattoirs on and near Mulberry Street.

This circa-1800 sketch of the tavern and an adjoining pen belonging to a slaughterhouse provides an idea of what Slaughterhouse Street looked like. (What it smelled like, one can only imagine!)

New York’s Italian food stores are fading fast

July 11, 2013

As New York’s Italian-Amerian neighborhoods continue to shrink, more and more of the grocery stores, butchers, and bakeries that made the city’s many Little Italys so unique have packed it in.


Joe’s Dairy, the tiny cheese store on Sullivan Street (ah, the mozzarella!) was the latest old-school Italian shop to bite the dust.


But some of these little mom and pops continue to hang in there, brightening streets with their typically red, green, and white signs and 1970s-esque typefaces.


Court Pastry Shop and Mastellone Italian Deli, both on Court Street in Brooklyn, are still holding on. Home made Spumoni!


Milano’s Italian Sausage is on the outskirts of the Meatpacking District. What a list of delicacies! I wonder how much longer it will stay.

Was Columbus Avenue in the 80s once an Italian enclave? If so, I think the Zingone Brothers shop is the last survivor. The family-owned grocery has been in business since 1927.


 Albanese Meats & Poultry has stuck it out on Elizabeth Street since 1923, when this was a Sicilian block with  half a dozen butcher shops. It’s a wonderful holdout—but I’m not even sure it’s actually still open.

The last authentic Meatpacking District signs?

April 24, 2013

Could these really be the final remnants of the meat purveying industry that existed for decades at the splintered ends of far West 14th Street?


Super City Wholesale Meats decamped in December 2012 after occupying this spot on West 13th Street since 1979, the Sawkill Lumber Company tells us.

The sign remains, lending authenticity to retailers looking to move into the newly rebranded construction site 837 Washington Street.


Manhattan Hotel Supply Company was (is?) at 447 West 13th Street “for 4 Generations.”

They were among the “160 thriving meat-related businesses operating between 18th and Bank Streets,” in 1974, this illuminating 1997 New York cover story on the beginnings of Meatpacking gentrification explains.

Take a look at the article—a lot has changed in 16 years.

Spooky outlines of long-gone Manhattan buildings

February 9, 2013

New and old New York collide on the sides of buildings all over the city. Sometimes the faded pattern of a dormer window or chimney is visible for years, other times just a days before developers cover these remnants forever.

The building that once stood here on the corner of Greenwich and Vestry Streets in Tribeca, below, doesn’t look fancy. It was probably just a regular walk-up with six or eight apartments in what had been a neighborhood of light industry for most of the 20th century.

But it sure left a formidable impression.


I love the sloping roof on this long-gone building on Washington Place in the Meatpacking District, below. Was it a garage? Warehouse? Meat packager?


I have no idea when it went down, but it’s being obliterated forever in favor of another restaurant or boutique or luxury hotel.


On 31st Street near Fifth Avenue is the imprint of a sturdy chimney and a roof on a slight incline. A coat of paint almost covers most of it up, but a sliver remains of what was once someone’s home.


The best thing about this bulldozed building on East 29th Street? The phantom smoke coming out of the pattern of a chimney!

The sweet treats once manufactured in New York

February 6, 2013

TootsierolladTootsierollfactoryContemporary New York boasts of its artisanal gourmet chocolatiers and confectioners.

But decades ago, the city was home to big factories pumping out some of the cheap sweets that are iconic old-school brands today.

Like Tootsie Rolls. Invented by a Brooklyn candy maker in 1896 and named after his daughter, these chewy candies used to be produced by the Sweets Company of America in a factory at 325-329 West Broadway.

That factory has sat empty for years, but as you can see from the photo, a developer has big plans: it’s set to become luxury condos called the Chocolate Factory, reports Curbed.

LifesaversadLooks like the same fate is in store for the former Life Savers factory at Eleventh Avenue and 20th Street.

This is where the minty candies shaped like life preservers got their start in 1913, before the Mint Products Company moved the factory to Queens in 1916, according to

The new name of these opulent residences: the Lifesaver Lofts, of course!

LifesaverloftsTake a stroll through Chelsea Market, at Ninth Avenue and 15th Street, and you’re constantly reminded that this high-end foodie heaven was once part of the factory complex owned by the National Biscuit Company, or Nabisco, since the late 19th century.

Nabisco2It’s where millions of Oreos, Nutter Butters, Vanilla Wafers, Animal Crackers, and Fig Newtons were produced, packaged, and sent across the world.

Until the 1950s, that is, when Nabisco began baking all of its signature cookies in New Jersey and moved out.

[Left: A Nabisco building on 11th Avenue in 1913; Library of Congress]

Where survivors of the Titanic docked in 1912

January 23, 2013

TitanicIf all went according to plan, the R.M.S. Titanic would have pulled into the White Star Line’s Pier 59 off 18th Street at the Hudson River.

But fate intervened. So instead, the 700 or so survivors picked up by the R.M.S. Carpathia docked in New York around nine p.m. on April 18 at Pier 54, the Cunard Line pier, just south of 14th Street.

There they were greeted by thousands of panicked relatives and newspaper reporters, desperate for details on who had survived and what happened to the so-called unsinkable ship.


The lettering is ghostly and faint, but you can still see both company names on this rusted old metal entrance.

Former rivals, the White Star and the Cunard lines merged in the 1930s, trying to stave off bankruptcy.


Pier 54 had another tangle with a maritime disaster. It’s the port where the R.M. S. Lusitania sailed from in 1915 before being torpedoed.

Here it is arriving at Pier 54 in an undated photo. And yep, that’s the infamous Liberty Inn when it was a sailor’s dive known as the Strand Hotel.)


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