242 Fifth Avenue near 28th Street is a building that's always interested me, maybe because its easily viewed from the waiting room of my son's doctor's office. So I've spent a lot of time staring at it, wondering about the provenance of a handsome cast iron building so far from SoHo, and why it has been allowed to rust and go vacant for so many years.
The other day, as sonny boy was getting a check-up, I noticed that it had been bracketed by a sidewalk shed, and a small army of workers were busy sprucing up the slender, four-story structure.
The reason for the scrub job is most likely that the old boy in on the block, as this LoopNet listing testifies: "4 story plus full usable basement with high ceilings, elevator loft retail and office building, 20 feet wide and approx 9000 SF with additional air rights. Delivered 100% vacant, needs complete gut renovation, except for the new roof. Huge ceilings and windows with bright light."
Price: $8.7 million.
This inspired some sleuthing. The building was erected in 1892. Architect, unknown. It was home to the once great hat concern Dobbs & Co. from 1909 to 1914, after which the company moved next door to 244. (I like any building that has a history with hats.) A tailor Rupert Ryley lived and worked there roundabouts 1904. That's about it.
The last business resident was C.T. Wan & Co. It's a beautiful structure, a graceful mix of glass and iron. Bet it looks great once they're done cleaning it up.