Matching New To Old


That’s a view up Broadway from just south of Bowling Green, looking very Metropolis-like. I want to talk a bit about the horizontally-striped corporate-deco building in the center, 29 Broadway. Specifically, I want to talk about the five-story extension just north of the main tower. Here’s a close-up:



That’s the base of the main tower in the center, 25 Broadway on the left, and the extension on the right. The facade of the extension matches the general pattern of the main tower and the floor heights, but it’s a little off. What’s going on here?

According to the current city map, it’s one building on one lot:



In 1921, it was completely different. The site of the main tower was the Columbia Building, one of the earliest skeleton-frame buildings in the city; the site of the extension was a two-story bank:



Here’s the Columbia building around 1900, with its cute conical mansard:



The white building on the far left is 11 Broadway; the low-rise buildings between that and the Columbia Building would soon be torn down for the construction fo 25 Broadway; and the low-rise immediately north (right) of Columbia would soon be torn down for the bank.

By 1930, the Columbia Building had been torn down as being functionally obsolete and too small, leaving an empty lot. The bank building had become a Schrafft’s, a semi-fast-food restaurant chain:



The new building, with its striped facade went up in 1931 with the exact same footprint as the Columbia Building. Here’s the 1955 map:



Schrafft’s is still there, having survived the Depression intact. But the chain declined in the 60s and at some point the building was replaced by the five-story extension to the new 29 Broadway, and the lots combined. The details are specific to this site, but the general process of a large building more or less absorbing an adjacent lot happened with some frequency in the 1900s. The extensions were often, as here, given matching architectural styles. But the facade at the base and northern bay of the original 29 is carved limestone, which is expensive, so the extension was built with brick. The brick comes close to matching the southern bay of 29, but the decades between the construction of the two facades mean that the pattern matches but the color and texture are a bit different. A for effort, B for execution.

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