10 April 2008

It's a Grand Old Name

I am strangely sad about the news on Curbed that a little-old Noho building I've never heard of or noticed before—but one that bears the mysterious tribute "Mary" on its pressed-tin cornice—is going to come down so that the new Crosby Street Hotel can attain its full architectural expression.

Just look at the thing! It was built in the 1860s. This is just the sort of small, understated, graceful, ancient, irreplaceable building New York is losing by the dozens. And how can we possibly allow the structure to be flattened until we discover the story behind the word "Mary." Cornices, when they bear a message, typically proclaim the year of construction, or the builder's last name. No one put a first name on the cornice. Surely, this was a romantic gesture of some sort. The architect or developer meant to honor his wife or sweetheart, or perhaps a cherished daughter.

A bizarre footnote: the building seems to have been owned by one Charles J. Ursitti, who, as far as I can tell, is a billiards historian who lives in Florida. His can be found as a talking head on the "The Hustler: The Inside Story." Is friends with Paul Sorvino. Ursitti's father, also named Charles, used to run a miniature store (doll house stuff, etc.) out of the ground floor space. Here's a 1988 story from the Times. Nothing in it about "Mary."

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