08 August 2011

A Mysterious Pair in Chinatown

These buildings interest me. Look at them. A couple of narrow, two-and-a-half-story brick boys with single dormer windows. The way they lean on each other, sloping toward the middle, tells of great age and little upkeep. They must be one hundred years old at least. Building of such modest proportions haven't been erected in Manhattan in a century.

This being mysterious Chinatown—the addresses are 298 and 300 Grand Street—I uncovered little about the addresses, aside from the usual reports of arrests of various shady citizens who once lived in the houses over the years. What can have happened here? One can only wonder.

UPDATE: A reader alerted me to a post on Manhattan Unlocked from earlier this year that featured this photo. The photo is from 1932, and the post indicates that the buildings were already 100 years old by then. So they're almost two centuries old now. Amazing. As you can see, the buildings haven't changed much (even the drainpipe down the middle is the same), just then they contained Jewish businesses and today they have Chinese businesses. No doubt before that they were Irish businesses. And way back in the misty past they functioned as modest homes.


Mitch said...

When I was a lad (in the 60s and 70s) there were a fair number of such houses still around downtown, and I was always told that they predated the civil war.

Here is a post on another blog about these very houses that says the same thing:


Anonymous said...

Not necessarily Jewish businesses in the old photo. The proprietor of the linen business on the left appears to be named Haddad, which is a common Lebanese Christian surname. He probably came to America during the first wave of Lebanese immigration, which was in the 1900-1920 period.


Brooks of Sheffield said...

Oh. I was reading the name "L. Liebovitz" on the cornice and assumed that was the name of the business owner. But it may just be the owner of the building.

upstate Johnny G said...

Brooks, another great find. You certainly have an eye for these things! Good on ya! I wonder whether Leibovitz is the name of the business upstairs from Haddad? When I blew up the shot I can see a name painted on the 2nd floor window in flowing script sweeping up to the right. I think I see something that sort of looks like a "t" and a "z" at the end, but can't say for sure. Also, did you notice there's another hanging sign perpendicular to the facade jutting out just below the big Leibovitz sign? Can't tell what's on it though, but there's another one way down below at the building's corner, which I assume would be a sign for Haddad.

I got a chuckle out of Haddad's selection of mechandise....bed linens and silk underwear!! They definitely go together. Looks like the guy in the store all the way on the right sells boots. Love that beautiful car parked in front!!

Thanks for sharing!

Alex Romanovich said...

I also really like the house down at 47-49 Madison Street. Check it out on Google Street view.
Not much info about it, but I found this and this.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Yes, I've noticed, and liked, that building, too.

Citypath said...

very odd!

Anonymous said...

47-49 Madison looks like it has a couple of apartments right on the sidewalk level. You don't often see that in Manhattan.


Bon said...

Number 300 Grand Street was my great, great grandfather's home and shop for many years in the mid 1800s. It is in the census record as well as the Civil war registration in 1863 I think it was. He was a hatter and he was born in Prussia. Bonnie