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258 Broadway

Between Murray Street & Warren Street

Carter Horsley
Reviewed by Carter Horsley
Carter Horsley Carter B. Horsley, a former journalist for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Post. Mr. Horsley is also the editorial director of CityRealty.com.
 

This handsome, Neo-Renaissance-style, 8-story building at 258 Broadway was erected in 1900 and designed by John B. Snook & Sons for the Rev. Eugene J. Hoffman and for many years it was known as the Rogers, Peet & Company building.  Rogers, Peet was a clothing concern that was founded in 1875 and was well-known for providing blazers for private schools and it occupied this building across from City Hall Park for about 70 years.

The building replaced a 5-story building on the site that had been designed by Mr. Snook.

A three-bay addition was constructed on Warren Street in 1909 by the architecture firm of Townsend, Steinle & Haskell that continued the original design. Rogers, Peet was founded in 1875 and sold ready-made men's clothing. The Warren Street store closed in 1976 and its top stories were subsequently into 48 cooperative apartments and the ground floor is occupied by a bank.

The commission said that the building, which is also known as 1-11 Warren Street, was an early example of a steel-skeleton-framed skyscraper influenced by the Chicago school of architects, and stands out among a group of important early skyscrapers located in the vicinity of City Hall, New York’s original skyscraper district, for its clear articulation of the structural grid and restrained use of stylized classical ornament.

 

Bottom Line

A handsome, 8-story building on Broadway across from City Hall Park with retail and 45 co-operative apartments.

Description

The building is clad in stone and buff brick and crowned by a deep molded and denticulated copper cornice.

Amenities

Roof deck, live-in superintendent, video security, laundry, storage, bicycle room and cats and dogs are permitted

Apartments

Apartments have high ceilings. 

Apartment 3C is a two-bedroom unit with a long entry foyer that leads to a 33-foot-long living/dining room with a 17-foot-long open kitchen next to a small, windowed office.  The bedrooms are on a mezzanine level. 

Apartment 3B is a two-bedroom unit with a small entry foyer that leads to a 31-foot-long living/dining room with a 13-foot-long open kitchen.  One of the bedrooms is on a mezzanine level. 

Apartment 2D is a two-bedroom unit with a long entry foyer that leads past a 9-foot-long home office to a 34-foot-long living/dining room with an open kitchen with an island and a 15-foot-long bedroom alcove.  A 23-foot-long loft bedroom is on the mezzanine level. 

Apartment 2A is a two-bedroom unit with a 32-foot-wide living/dining room with an open kitchen with an island and a 12-foot-long sitting room and an 11-foot-long bedroom on the main level with a spiral staircase to a 19-foot-long library, a 12-foot-long bedroom and an 11-foot-wide, 6-sided office on the mezzanine.

History

In its landmark designation report on this building, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission provided the following commentary: 

"Alexander Turney Stewart, an Irish immigrant who became one of New York’s wealthiest merchants, opened his first store at 283 Broadway in 1823, selling Irish lace and notions. As his business expanded, Stewart moved to increasingly larger quarters on Broadway opposite City Hall Park. In 1845 he acquired a site at Broadway and Reade Street, and began construction of a new store building designed by Joseph Trench and John Butler Snook that eventually occupied the entire block front between Chambers and Reade Streets. The new A.T. Stewart store was the largest retail establishment in the city and employed a novel arrangement in which different categories of merchandise were separated into individual departments, setting a precedent for the development of the American department store. While most early nineteenth-century commercial buildings had brick and stone façades, the Stewart store was faced with marble above a cast-iron store front with huge plate glass windows. Almost immediately, Stewart’s new marble palace became the favored store of New Yorkers and visitors alike. Imitators soon followed and, within a few years, Broadway and its side streets from City Hall Park to Canal Street became lined with marble, brownstone, and cast-iron commercial palaces. As the new retail district began to develop on Broadway in the late 1840s and 1850s, the wholesale dry goods merchants who had been located on Pearl Street near the South Street Seaport began to move their businesses to Broadway and the blocks to the west between Dey Street and Park Place. To a large extent this move was prompted by the growing popularity of the North (Hudson River) piers which were better able to accommodate the large steam-powered vessels used for coastal and transatlantic shipping. Two major railroads established freight depots in the area during the 1850s and several other railroads built terminals in New Jersey where goods were off-loaded for transshipment across the river to the West Side piers. This increase in trade and relocation of transportation facilities coincided with a city project in 1851 widening Dey and Cortlandt Streets between Broadway and Greenwich Street that made large tracts of cleared land available for redevelopment. Within the space of two years, Dey and Cortlandt Streets were almost entirely rebuilt with store and loft buildings for wholesale dry goods businesses and similar buildings were going up on Park Place, Vesey Street, and Church Street.... 

"In 1827 the site was purchased from Trinity Church by Garrit Storm, a wealthy grocer and descendent of an old Dutch family in New York. The property passed in 1852 to Storm’s daughter, Glorvina Russell Hoffman, whose husband Samuel Verplanck Hoffman commissioned architect John B. Snook to design and construct a five-story commercial “palace” to replace the existing three row houses. Snook’s design, featuring a ground-story colonnade, pedimented window lintels, and a bracketed cornice, was directly influenced by the A.T. Stewart store, standing just a block north across Broadway. For many years after the building’s completion in 1854, it was known as the home of Devlin & Co., one of the first clothing houses to locate on Broadway. 

"In 1889 when Devlin & Co. moved to a new store on Union Square, following the northward trend of retail along Broadway, the men’s clothing firm of Rogers, Peet & Company moved into the building at 258-260 Broadway (3-5 Warren Street), occupying the basement, first, and second floors. 

"During the second half of the 19th century, the American clothing industry underwent a dramatic shift from custom-made clothing to pre-manufactured clothing as a result of industrial expansion and the corresponding growth of urban and national markets. An important element in this change was the emergence of advertising as an industry in its own right. For most of the 19th century, bombastic or outright false ad copy had been the norm in the retail trade, and the expectation among consumers. But as mass-production of standardized goods began to take hold, and as technology improved to facilitate mass communication, companies responded by modernizing their merchandising and advertising practices. 

"Rogers, Peet & Company was founded in 1874, when Broadway clothing merchants Marvin N. Rogers and Charles B. Peet joined their respective businesses to take advantage of the growing market for ready-made men’s clothing....Following the pioneering example of John Wanamaker’s retail establishment of the 1860s and 1870s in Philadelphia, Rogers Peet early on adopted a fixed-price, quality-guaranteed policy and began to rely on truthful advertising as a primary marketing tool. An 1876 newspaper article noted the firm’s huge inventory, low prices, and use of price tags, a novelty in retail at that time. The growing emphasis on honesty, respectability, and customer service in retail was reflected in the partners’ decision, in 1886, to introduce an employee profit-sharing system as a means of encouraging professionalism, salesmanship, and productivity. 

By the 1890s, Rogers, Peet & Co. had gained widespread recognition for these forward-thinking business strategies, and especially for their innovative and popular advertising style. Partner Frank R. Chambers (1850-1940) oversaw advertising for Rogers, Peet from 1880 until 1915, writing much of the ad copy himself, and gave this simple advice on advertising: 'Tell the truth. Understate. Never overstate.' The breadth, diversity, and creativity of Rogers Peet advertising demonstrated their commitment to the medium as a key to business success. In addition to publishing numerous richly-illustrated catalogs and booklets replete with detailed descriptions of clothing and accessories and advice on style, the firm advertised daily in newspapers, in theater playbills, on posters, and on street cars. A typical Rogers Peet newspaper ad of the 1890s featured a single column of text - conveying matter-of-fact information about the quality, style, and price of an item, delivered in an informal, upbeat tone using colloquial language and the familiar second-person mode of address - paired with a simple, eye-catching cartoon-style illustration that often played humorously on some aspect of the item being advertised. The Rogers Peet style of advertising stood out in contrast to the conventional clothing ad of the late 19th century, which usually featured a box of declarative text and a stock illustration, if any at all, and thus was quickly established as a standard to be emulated in the nascent advertising industry. Many Rogers Peet ads were illustrated in-house, which was more expensive than using stock “cuts” (graphics) provided by a manufacturer, but allowed for the development of a consistent and identifiable graphic style. 

"The original Rogers Peet store was located at 487 Broadway, on the southwest corner of Broome Street. Within five years the firm had expanded to a second location on Broadway, and within ten years had opened a third Broadway location. In 1889, Rogers, Peet & Company opened their fourth store in the Snook-designed building at Broadway and Warren– thereafter known as their Warren Street store. By the 1950s, there were four Rogers Peet stores: the Warren Street store, the Union Square store, a Fifth Avenue store at 41st Street, and a second Fifth Avenue store, at 48th Street. 

"During the 19th century, commercial buildings in New York City evolved from four-story structures modeled on Italian Renaissance palazzi to much taller skyscrapers. Made possible by technological advances, tall buildings challenged designers to fashion an appropriate architectural expression. Between 1870 and 1890, nine- and ten-story buildings transformed the streetscapes of lower Manhattan. During the building boom following the Civil War, building envelopes continued to be articulated largely according to traditional palazzo compositions, with mansarded and towered roof profiles. New York's tallest buildings - including the seven-and-a-half-story Equitable Life Assurance Co. Building (1868-70, Gilman & Kendall and George B. Post) at Broadway and Cedar Street, the ten-story Western Union Building (1872-75, George B. Post) at Broadway and Liberty Street, and the ten-story Tribune Building (1873-75, Richard M. Hunt), all now demolished - incorporated passenger elevators, iron floor beams, and fireproof building materials. 

"Beginning in the later 1870s, tall buildings were characterized by flat roofs  and a variety of exterior arrangements, often in the form of multi-storied arcades. The period through the 1880s was characterized by stylistic experimentation in which office buildings in New York incorporated diverse influences. Fireproofing was of paramount concern as office buildings grew taller, and by 1881-82 systems had been devised to 'completely fireproof' them. Ever taller skyscrapers were made possible by the increasing use and refinement of metal framing. In 1888-89, New York architect Bradford Lee Gilbert used iron skeleton framing for the first seven stories of the 11-story Tower Building at 50 Broadway (demolished). Beginning around 1890, architects began producing skyscraper designs that adhered to the tripartite base-shaft-capital arrangement associated with the classical column, a scheme that became commonly employed in New York. As steel skeleton framing was adopted for tall buildings in New York, architects and engineers introduced caisson foundations which carried the weight of the skeleton frame down to bedrock. Architects [Francis H.] Kimball & [G. Kramer] Thompson and engineer Charles Sooysmith were leaders in this effort with the Manhattan Life Insurance Co. Building (1893-94, demolished), 64-66 Broadway, credited with being the first skyscraper with a full iron and steel frame, set on pneumatic concrete caissons. This was followed by the American Surety Co. Building (1894-96, Bruce Price), 100 Broadway, also with Sooysmith, which was the first New York skyscraper with a full steel frame, set on pneumatic concrete caissons, and is today a designated New York City Landmark. 

"An additional consideration in office building design was to provide maximum light and ventilation, for which contemporary architects devised several solutions, including interior and exterior light courts. 

"John Butler Snook, born in England, immigrated to the United States and by 1835 was established in New York City as a carpenter/builder, then as an architect in partnership with William Beer in 1837-40. By 1842, Snook found work with Joseph Trench, and they later formed the firm of Trench & Snook, which helped introduce the Anglo-Italianate style to New York with buildings such as the A.T. Stewart Store (1845-46, a designated New York City Individual Landmark) at 280 Broadway, the country’s first department store and the catalyst and architectural precedent for commercial development of lower Broadway. With Trench’s departure for California in the 1850s, Snook rose to head the firm. He became a prolific architect-builder who designed structures of all types, in virtually every revival style, and expanded his practice into one of the largest in New York. The first Grand Central Terminal (1869-71, demolished) was one of his best-known works. In 1887, Snook took his three sons, James Henry (1847-1917), Samuel Booth (1857-1915), and Thomas Edward (1864?-1953), and a son-in-law, John W. Boyleston (1852-1932), into his office and the firm’s name was changed to John B. Snook & Sons.... 

"On December 4, 1898, a catastrophic fire destroyed the building at 258 Broadway, and severely damaged its neighbors to the south, the Home Life Insurance Company Building (256- 257 Broadway,1892-94, Pierre Le Brun of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons, a designated New York City Landmark) and the Postal Telegraph Cable Company Building (253 Broadway, 1892-94, Harding & Gooch, a designated New York City Landmark). The fire began in the basement of 258 Broadway, which was used by the Rogers Peet Company as a store room. In the wake of the fire, critics of skyscrapers cited the extensive damage to the upper floors of the 16-story Home Life building as evidence in the case against creating tall buildings, while supporters of modern fireproofing technology argued that the Home Life building’s structure, as well as that of the Postal Telegraph building, had actually withstood the fire well and indeed prevented further spread of the fire.  It was in this climate of heightened public awareness of safety concerns and general uncertainty about the future of tall buildings in New York City that the owner of the property at the southwest corner of Broadway Warren Street set out to redevelop the site. 

"The building’s interior was designed to be open in plan on the ground floor, with an elevator bank and stairs along the south wall towards the front of the building, as well as an interior light court on the south wall above the fourth story to provide light to the interior offices. The upper stories were partitioned into offices accessed through a double-loaded central corridor running east-west. The main building entrance and a storefront entrance were located on Broadway, and the second-story was devoted to cast-iron show windows. Constructed in just under a year and completed in April of 1900, the eight-story, steel-framed Rogers, Peet & Co. building embodied the latest technologies in skyscraper construction. Snook & Sons’ completed design for the Rogers, Peet & Co. building was notable principally for a strong expression of the structural steel frame on the building’s exterior, the defining characteristic of the Chicago school and comparatively rare in early New York skyscrapers. The structural grid of the Rogers, Peet & Co. Building is articulated by thin projecting masonry piers rising from the second story to the cornice, and wide window bays framed by spandrels, pilasters and thin mullions; the high ratio of window to wall area was made possible by the non-load bearing walls. In addition to its spare appearance, the building is visually distinct from its skyscraping neighbors of the 1890s because it does not conform to the established base-shaft-capital composition. The steel columns supporting the building at the ground story were originally recessed behind the storefront (with the exception of a corner pier), giving the upper stories a floating appearance; moreover, limestone rustication at the second and third stories gave the appearance of a proper base, but the 'shaft' of the fourth through eighth stories, clad in buff brick, is bisected by a substantial entablature at the sixth story. Thus, a horizontal division of one-two-three-two stories is created. 

"At 258 Broadway, plain brick piers divide the building’s Broadway façade into two wide window bays. On the second and third stories, show windows are framed by cast-iron pilasters and divided by a deep cast-iron spandrel featuring a Greek key; the cast iron shows an unusual level of detail, giving the material a sumptuous quality. Above the third story, brick spandrels are decorated with terra-cotta plaques featuring stylized anthemia, foliate ornament, and escutcheons. The spandrels at each story accentuate the building’s horizontal framing members. Ornament is confined to the classical motifs decorating the spandrels, pilasters, mullions, and sixth-story entablature, but the main building entrance on Broadway is framed by a grand Italian Renaissance-inspired surround. Another prominent feature of the Chicago skyscraper was the flat roof, which is emphasized at 258 Broadway by a boldly projecting molded-copper cornice. 

"The Rogers, Peet & Company Warren Street store stayed in business from its re-opening in 1900 until the late 1970s. Rogers, Peet & Co. remained an independent retail house until 1962, when it was acquired by Cluett, Peabody & Co., Inc., manufacturers of the Arrow label in men’s clothing. The Rogers, Peet & Co. brand remained strong until the 1970s, when the urban retail landscape began to change as a result of widespread retail consolidation, suburban growth and the increasing popularity of malls, and competition from emerging national chains. Other challenges to an old-fashioned retail house such as Rogers, Peet were changing tastes in men’s fashion and the increasing acceptability of casual clothing for the workplace. The Rogers, Peet & Co. Warren Street store closed its doors c. 1976, and by 1978 no Rogers Peet stores remained in New York. 

"By 1981 the upper floors of the Rogers, Peet & Company building had been converted into apartments, with six or seven units per floor...."

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