1984

This site is included in LMCC’s Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.

In 1977 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the South Street Seaport Historic District. This civic action coincided with plans by the Rouse Company (leaseholders at the time) to create a “festival marketplace” along the East River in which the various historic structures would be restored as a museum or adapted to new commercial uses. In addition, the Commission would approve the construction of several new buildings, including the so-called “Bogardus” Building, sited at the southwest corner of Fulton Street and Front Street.

This four-story building honors the achievements of James Bogardus, the American inventor and entrepreneur who helped introduce cast-iron construction techniques in the United States during the late 1840s and 1850s. Using wood patterns and molds, fire-resistant iron components could be quickly and inexpensively manufactured. Though he never operated an iron foundry of his own, four classical style buildings associated with Bogardus can still be viewed in Lower Manhattan, at 63 Nassau Street, 75 Murray Street, 85 Leonard Street, and 260 Canal Street.

This silver gray building also recalls an especially sad chapter in the history of architectural preservation. In February 1970, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated “262 Washington Street, Bogardus Building,” a group of five cast-iron storefronts at the corner of Murray Street. Erected by Bogardus for coal merchant Edgar Laing 1848-49, they were believed to be the earliest surviving examples of cast-iron construction in the United States. The western blocks of Tribeca were then part of the Washington Street Urban Renewal Project and the deteriorating four-ton facade was carefully disassembled during 1971 and stored for future reassembly. These plans, however, were thwarted twice, first in 1974 and later in 1977, when the majority of components, which had already been cleaned and primed, were stolen from a city-owned lot and sold for scrap.

The new “Bogardus” Building was designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, an architectural firm known for preserving historic structures and designing buildings that fit sympathetically into historic districts and neighborhoods. Completed in 1984, this four-story building occupies a site that is similar to where the five original Laing storefronts stood on Washington Street. Though none of the original iron pieces could be used, the new aluminum facade has corresponding rhythms, as well as a similar curved corner, columns, cornice, and awning.

Matthew A. Postal