Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ernest Flagg

Shooting photos of interesting architectural elements recently, I ran across a couple of buildings that immediately grabbed my attention. The Singer Manufacturing Company building, a 12-story structure, was designed by Ernest Flagg and completed in 1904. Flagg's design represented a departure from the thick masonry walls and small windows that defined architectural style at the time. The Singer building would feature an innovative structure of iron and glass, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering far more light than other buildings. Even its colors - red and green - proved innovative exceptions to the dull marbles and granites that punctuated New York's streets.

Today the building holds co-op residential units and commercial spaces. It received a renovation in the late 1990s that included significant work on the facade.

Mills House No. 1, in photos 2 and 3, is on Bleecker St. between Sullivan and Thompson Streets. Completed in 1897, the 11-story Mills House, designed to provide inexpensive housing for men in the city, it had 1,560 single-room-occupancy spaces that were no more than 5 by 7 feet in size. When it opened, the hotel charged 20 cents a night, and 10 to 15 cents a day for meals. (Mills also built two other single-room-occupancy hotels in Manhattan.) Converted to apartments in the 1970s, Mills House No. 1 became a co-op building in the 80s.

Although I didn't know it at the time I was taking these photos, Mills House No. 1 was also designed by Ernest Flagg. This structure doesn't possess the more innovative design elements of the later Singer Manufacturing Company building, but did reflect Flagg's keen interest in "fireproof construction, daylight, ventilation and housing policy."

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