Tuesday, November 4, 2008


On Saturday I was down in Chinatown, visiting Pearl Paint, a multi-floor rabbit warren of art supplies on Canal Street. I enjoy the spectacle of Chinatown, but really dislike the pushing and shoving of the elbow-to-elbow crowds. And on this occasion the vendors hawking counterfeit movies, handbags and watches seemed more aggressive than ever. Perhaps with the current economic downturn they're desperate to sell their wares to dwindling crowds of tourists and bargain hunters.

Sam and I decided to walk home, taking Thompson St. from Canal, uptown to the intersection of Bleecker. Thompson St. is one of those great Soho arteries lined with cool shops and restaurants. With many small business already closing, one has to wonder how many of these doubtless under-capitalized shops will fare as the recession continues.

The first photo is of an old bank building at the corner of Canal and Broadway. I love the art deco relief, especially the stylized eagles. I'm sorry to see that the space for a clock is now empty. Unfortunately, the building has been chopped up and converted into a bazaar of little shops and trinket stands. The other three photos come from a building at 100 Sixth Avenue. All I could find on this 17-story gem is that it was constructed around 1930 - hence the art deco style of its reliefs - and was known as the Green Sixth Avenue Building. These images, vaguely suggesting "industry" in an idealized design idiom very typical of the 1930s, are repeated on the other sides of the building. For most of its history it has served as a home for lithographers, engravers, and printing shops. Indeed, many of the buildings in this neighborhood, located near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, housed printing works. The building is now owned by Trinity Church, which, like many other landlords in this section, has forced the printers and engravers out. Offering large renovated spaces, the property now holds more traditional office space - no doubt demanding much higher rents than older tenants had paid.

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