13 February 2012

Mystery of "Mary" Solved

Years ago—back in April 2008—I wrote about a little SoHo building from the 1860s that fell to the wrecking ball to make way for the swank Crosby Street Hotel. It was a sweet little thing. At the time I described it as "just the sort of small, understated, graceful, ancient, irreplaceable building New York is losing by the dozens." 

I also asked "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 puts 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." (The photo is courtesy of Curbed. It's the only one I've ever seen.)

My supposition proved correct. The building was owned by one Charles J. Ursitti, a billiards historian who lives in Florida. Yes, a billiards historian. Today, I received a message from Charles' cousin. He saw my post, and asked Charles about "Mary." "He said it was the builder's wife from the 1800's," reported the cousin.

How unspeakably sweet. I miss the cornice even more now.

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