22 September 2009

Storefronts, Old Style

I like this stretch of uniform, mainly empty storefronts on W. 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Midtown. They remind me of a time when even the humblest shop could present a handsome, dignified face to the street, and when the builders of large buildings with mercantile space on the ground floor cared about adorning the sidewalk with a sort of organized architectural harmony.

There are three spaces on either side of the building's main entrance. The doors to the shops are arched and recessed, set back from the street, with a bit of marble leading up to the threshold. There's plenty of room for display in the bay windows and I'm betting that the transoms above the windows and the doors were once made of transparent glass (they're been painted over).

This started out as the Hotel Renaissance back in 1891. One can imagine a tobacconist, a barber, and shoe shine shop, a parfumerie in these spaces—all the sorts of the shops typically associated with a hotel. There was an elaborate courtyard in the center when it was built. I don't know if it's still there. It was owned by David H. King, Jr. and billed as a "high-class family and bachelors' hotel." King was a huge deal in construction. He built the base of the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden and the Washington Arch. He lived in the Renaissance, and died there, in 1916.

He was worth two-and-a-half mil when he kicked. That was some money then. Still is.

Later, in 1918, it was the Columbia University Club for many years. To bad these lovely storefronts aren't filled.


Ken Mac said...

the detail in the second shot is amazing

Carol Gardens said...

Um... I believe that is the building owned by the Unification church (formerly known as the Moonies). Which may explain why they don't care much about filling the ground floor with shops. I'm pretty sure they've been there for decades (like since the 70s...)

ChickenUnderwear said...

"organized architectural harmony"

I like that.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

You're right, Carol. Might be the reason. A shame.