A Survivor

1940 NYC tax photo.

A favorite bookstore of mine is interesting for something other than its books. It is an important gathering place for people who love books, book readings, and intellectual discourse, and it’s a survivor. After 35 years in its present location, it almost went the way of many other neighborhood shops when it was bought in 2016. Fortunately the new owner worked out agreeable terms, and the bookstore still serves the West Village. Beyond the books, it is a historic building, pre-1828 per the New York Landmarks listing, load bearing brick masonry, with cast iron columns at the ground floor level. I do not know the extent of shop windows that are original, certainly those adjacent to the corner. Today there are essentially no ground level shear walls on the north and east facades, no lateral load system, yet here it stands. Yes, there are some signs of movement, the corner column and masonry above are not plumb, and there are repaired stepped cracks in the upper north facade walls. Looking at historical data, there have been approximately fifteen earthquakes (the largest in 1884 at 5.2 on the Richter scale) affecting Manhattan since this building was constructed, and yet, it still stands. As an engineer I cannot explain it, but as a bookshop lover I am grateful.


View of the east and north facades where a cast iron column supports the corner. Large windows are present on both sides of the entry.

View from the east, you can see that the cast iron post is not quite vertical; the wall above leans out to to the northeast.
Scroll to Top