Posts Tagged ‘New York in 1908’

The silk workers of a Fourth Street loft building

December 7, 2015

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.

Thesilkbuildingny2

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

Thesilkbuildingchina

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]

The world’s tallest building for one year only

March 17, 2014

Opened in 1908, the slender, elegant Singer Tower, headquarters of the sewing machine company, rose more than 40 stories over Broadway and Liberty Street.

A marvel in its day, it spent one year as the tallest building in the world, only to be usurped by the Metropolitan Life Tower on 23rd Street in 1909.

Singertowerpostcard

Tourists paid 50 cents to visit its 40th floor observation deck. It was prominently featured in postcards, like this one above.

SingertowerLOCSixty years later, it met the wrecking ball.

“High above the intersection of Broadway and Liberty Street yesterday, a demolition torch blazed against the hazy sky as a steelworker cut into a beam on the tallest building ever to be demolished,” reported The New York Times on March 27, 1968.

“Yesterday the lobby looked as if a bomb had hit it. The Italian-marble surfacing and the bronze medallions with the Singer monogram were stripped from many columns and were being offered for sale.

“Holes pocked the elaborately sculptured pendentives that support the series of domes forming the ceiling. Plaster flaked onto a floor strewn with wood, shattered brick and discarded coffee cups.”

The women of John Sloan’s South Beach Bathers

July 16, 2012

Exchange the wool bathing outfits for bikinis, and female beachgoers today aren’t much different from their 1908 counterparts, as depicted in John Sloan’s 1908 painting “South Beach Bathers.”

“Sloan first visited South Beach, an amusement park on Staten Island that attracted primarily working-class clientele, on June 23, 1907,” states the web site for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

“Like many of his New York–themed works, his depiction of South Beach suggests a story that begins when one person looks at another. In South Beach Bathers a woman adjusting her hat is eyed appreciatively from the side and behind by men lounging on the sand.”

“Women play several roles at once in Sloan’s art: beyond being objects of desire, they record the new independence of modern New Yorkers, while also presenting a variation on old ideals of beauty in art.”