25 March 2007

A Walk to Ward's

Since the papers say that Ward's Bakery Company at 800 Pacific Street is to come down post haste via Ratner, despite nascent efforts to get the structure landmarked, I decided to walk down and take a look at the building before it was transformed into rubble. (I admit, I have never gazed upon it before.) Once past Fifth Avenue, it was a bleak stroll indeed, the smell of death-by-development emanating from either side of the street. The south side of the street is lined by buildings silently awaiting the wrecking ball. The north side is lined by a garbage, broken pieces of cement barrier and a chain-link fence, behind which a steep drop leads down to a construction pit. Desoluation Boulevard, basically. (I'm sure a lot of this is old news to folks who live in the area.)

Ward's was built in 1911. It stands six stories and sets itself apart form the drab surrounding with its off-white, terra cotta-tiled front. It ceased operation as a bakery in 1995. I wouldn't call it an architectural gem, exactly, but it has an integrity about it and I would support its being landmarked, since whatever is erected in its place by Ratner will most certainly not be anywhere near as attractive. But that, of course will not be. Ward's is due to fall starting Monday, March 26. Teeny tiny bright spot: Ratner announced he would "recycle" 75 percent of the debris. Nice.

(By the way, does anyone remember that character from the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" called Mark "The Rat" Ratner? He was the dweeby guy who ends up with Jennifer Jason Leigh. I always wondered why no one has recycled this nickname and applied it to Bruce. Bruce "The Rat" Ratner. It seems obvious to me. He's pretty much a rat, isn't he? Looks a little rodentlke too.)

A strange thing happened while I was checking out Ward's. The block was bereft of all life save for one ramshackle, little, red four-door with the motor running. On the driver's side sat a stout, bearded Hasidic gentleman in a full gray beard and shirtsleeves. One the passenger said was another fat fella, bald as a cueball and what you'd call a tough character. (I kept thinking of the B-movie baddie Lawrence Tierney). They spoke for about 15 minutes, then baldie got out and walked back to a blue car parked behind the red one. They both then drove away.

I'm aware that embattled developer Shaya Boymelgreen once owned Ward's and hoped to turn it into a hotel, but later sold it to Ratner. The man in the red car bore a striking resemblance to Boymelgreen, though I can't say for sure it was him. But, if it was, I ask you: what kind of guy holds meetings in running cars on abandon streets? And why does a richie like him own such a dirty, broken-down rattletrap of a vehicle?

Things to think about. Meanwhile, the walk to Ward's revealed a number of plaintive streetscapes that follow.

This building once belonged to Tasty Provision, a meat-packing concern. I just love the name, and the stately way its presented. Apparently, this will be torn down.

You can see the faint outline of the (now ironic) words Winner's Circle on this building. I'm guessing it was once a bar, but can find no information on it.

This Spanish-American restaurant sits just beyond Ward's, sporting some bygone charm with its red-and-white stripe design and outmoded Coca-Cola signs.


Anonymous said...

Did you have your blinders on or something?


Brooks of Sheffield said...

No, no blinkers. I'm the first to admit that many others are covering the Ratner-Atlantic Yards development situation more thoroughly than I do. My hat is off to them. I only wanted to add my thoughts on the coming passing of Ward's, and contribute my impressions of the future demolition site as it now stands. Just another voice.

Anonymous said...

but you didn't focus on wards. you posted comments and photos of three other buildings, giving the impression that the whole place is abandon. the attention to the ward bakery building is appreciated, but the post skews the reality of the situation.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I did comment briefly on three other buildings, yes, but the focus was indeed Ward's. (See the title "Walk to Ward's," and the second paragraph.) The rest of the post had to do with things I saw and experienced during the walk there and back. I'm not sure want are looking for in this item. What "reality" of the situation on Pacific am I skewing? It really is a desolate stretch of street.