I stopped in the middle of the street and stared at this rusted facade on Canal Street for about 20 minutes the other day. With its new signage torn off, I thought I glimpsed the shadows of an older painted sign among the wreckage. If I only stared long enough, I thought, I would figure it out, like one of those optical puzzles in which a word is spelled out in slightly different colored dots.
The address is 232 Canal. That was clear enough on either side of the sign. And "E A T" was visible enough, making me think for a while the space had been a restaurant of some kind. Then a perceived and "E R" later on in the letters, which gave me the idea that the word I was looking at was THEATER. But that seemed a long shot, as the building had no earmarks of a theatre. Finally, I figured it out: LEATHER. Not a business that leaps to mind in the modern mine, but a trade far more common a century ago.
In 2008, the City shut down this address for trafficking in counterfeit merchandise.
The address is part of a distinctive triangular shaped building that has been around since the 1800s, and now serves primarily as a place to stick a huge billboard for iPad2.