10 April 2007

The Two Suns of Chambers Street

The New York Sun newspaper (the first one) stopped publication in 1950, when it merged with the World-Telegram. But the building it occupied still sits on lower Broadway at Chambers Street and, more than most buildings, it carries heavy reminders of its former tenant. The side of the structure boasts the words The New York Sun in etched stone. And on the southwest and northwest corners of the building hang metal boxes, now green with age, which bear the paper's name and its motto "The Sun Shines for All" (surely one of the best newspaper slogans ever). The southern ornament (above) is a four-sided clock; the northern one tells the temperature. Both were broken for many years, but recently have been in fine working order.

I'm not sure why this is, but I think it has something to do with the new New York Sun newspaper, which was founded in 2003 and probably doesn't want to be associated with a busted clock or inaccurate weather readings. The new Sun is actually two blocks to the west on Chambers Street, in the cast-iron Cary Building (below), which was built just a decade later than the 1846 Sun building.

The old Sun is best remembered today for publishing the famous 1897 "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" editorial, which is either one of the most heart-warming pieces of journalism of all time, or one of the most mealy-mouthed, depending on your viewpoint; and for columnist Don Marquis, who invented the cockroach Archy and cat Mehitabel, who, he purported, snuck into the building at night and wrote some of his columns. The paper also employed John B. Bogart, a city editor between 1873 and 1890, who uttered the unforgettable maxim: "When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news."

The new Sun is primarily known for its arch-conservative views and for standing in as one of the scenes in "The Devil Wear Prada." Movie critics carped that newspaper offices no longer looked like the one in the movie, with its high ceilings, low-hanging lights, high windows and papers stacked everywhere. But, it turned out, the Sun does actually look like that.

One final note about this general area: there is a Duane Reade drugstore on Broadway and Duane Street, just one block from Reade Street. That's got to be about as charming as that chain gets.


Anonymous said...

Nice piece on the Sun Building, one of my favorites in New York. However, I think a typo crept in. (Damned hot type. Where are those Sun proofreaders when you need them?) You mention the building's date of origin as "1946." Surely you meant "1846," which reflects its greater history. The Sun Building started out life as a dry goods store built and operated by Alexander Turney Stewart, an Irish immigrant who made a fortune competing with the likes of Macy's and Lord & Taylor. The store became so popular, shoppers began referring to the building as the "A.T. Stewart Palace," or simply, "The Iron Palace." Not sure when the Sun moved in.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Yes, indeed, 1846. Thanks for catching that. It's been corrected.