17 August 2009

M. Kessler of Grand Street


One of the great things about old New York buildings—and one of the reasons I don't like to see them torn down—is almost every one of them tells a story, or looks like it could if we could only crack the code.

A quick glance at 229 Grand Street is enough to make you wonder what went on inside in years past. The ornate cornice and upper windows are more than a little unusual. One thing we know for sure: it once housed M. Kessler Hardware. Part of the sign is still visible. I would guess from the look of it that the tile floor in front of the entrance to the upper apartments is original.


What became of M. Kessler, I don't know. But I found this item from 1954 in the New York Times archives:

Morris Kessler, 64 years old, a former hardware merchant of 308 West 13th Street, jumped or fell to his death yesterday from the third floor of St. Vincent's Hospital, the police reported. They said Mr. Kessler, who had been undergoing treatment at the hospital for pleurisy since Monday, climbed through the window and dropped to the Eleventh Street sidewalk.


Given that 308 W. 13th likely refers to his home address, not his place of business, I'm thinking this may be the Kessler of Grand Street. The dates of his life sound right; the 229 storefront looks at least 50 years old. And how many M. Kesslers living on the Lower East Side were in the hardware line back then?

UPDATE: My assumption about M. Kessler was incorrect. More than a year after I posted this item, I heard from the grandson of M. Kessler, the owner of this hardware store. Only M. stood for Milton. Thus, the unfortunate Morris Kessler, while also in the hardware biz on the Lower East Side, had no connection to this store.


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