19 July 2011

How About That Soeller Building!

Of all the crazy, patchwork edifices in New York City, the Soeller Building on Sheepshead Bay Road must take the cake. Believe it or not, that pell-mell collection of facings and facades is a single building. The Soeller Building, as a matter of fact. Look beyond the layers of different color paint and aluminum sidings and you'll spy common brickwork. 

The Soeller Building was owned by Mary Soeller, who ran a hotel back in the late 1800s. It was thusly described in a legal document at the time (Mary was being sued): "a double  house with a veranda in front, and the veranda roof is extended at the sides so as to cover a room, which is the barber's shop, at one end of the house, and at the other end to cover a room used as a billiard room." It was called the Island View Hotel, and probably catered to the beach and racetrack crowd that flocked to Sheepshead Bay during the summers. Barber shop, billiards? Sounds like a great place to stay.

How it came to be covered in the various colors and materials it now bears is, I'm sure, a long story of good commercial intentions gone wrong. But the accidental result is really quite wonderful. You couldn't have possibly planned such a visually pleasing crazy quilt.

There aren't any open businesses in the Soeller Building except for a Citibank branch. This is certainly what's paying the rent and keeping the place safe from the wrecking ball. In its way, Citibank adds another layer to Soeller's nutsy, century-old surface. I'd like to think the bankers appreciate their home. But, probably, they shake their head and wonder when the rest of the building is going to get its act together.

No comments: