Friday, April 16, 2010

Architecture, After a Fashion

“There are three forms of visual art: Painting is art to look at, sculpture is art you can walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through.”
~ Dan Rice

Have a look at this building, home of the 14th Street Store. It was designed at the turn of the last century by Cady, Berg & See, who also designed the mysterious and cavernous American Museum of Natural History. The store opened in 1903. This photo was taken in 1906.

Henry Siegel, owner of Siegel & Cooper stores in Chicago and New York, envisioned the 14th Street Store as a major jewel in his retail diadem. The building's location — the corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan — was then the heart of New York City's most fashionable shopping district. Siegel & Cooper's magnificent New York flagship store, with its massive bronze columns, was just five blocks north on Sixth Avenue. (For more about this area, see the fascinating, architecturally obsessed blog A New York Songline, which charts 14th Street from the Hudson to the East River.)

Unfortunately for Siegel, the public's fancy was gradually moving north. The 14th Street Store went bankrupt in 1914 and Siegel was jailed for defrauding investors.

New York City's West 20s and 30s declined into grime and squalor for decades as fashion relocated to Fifth and Madison Avenues. But then, about 25 years ago, gentrification began to scrape the grime from the neighborhood now known as Chelsea. The old Siegel & Cooper buildings once again house retailers, although nothing like the grand department stores of a century ago — Urban Outfitters has the West 14th Street location and Bed Bath & Beyond and TJ Maxx are up at 18th Street.

And, alas, no trolley lines.

“Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”
~ Coco Chanel

1 comment:

  1. Loved 14th Street for decades. I've stood in front of that place dozens of times in the last century.