New Era Building (New York City)
The eight-story brick and masonry building has been described as a "gem" and a gorgeous example of Art Nouveau architecture. Eschewing the then-popular Beaux Arts style, this is one of the few and possibly the earliest Art Nouveau building in Manhattan still standing. Four squat rounded Doric columns seem to support five stories with three vertical rows of large windows separated by brickwork and iron ornamentation, culminating in three large arches at the sixth floor. This is topped with a two-story copper fronted mansard roof, now coated with verdigris, reminiscent of Parisian architecture. The 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) building is served by a freight elevator and two passenger elevators. Average floor size is 10,000 square feet (930 m2). The building goes through the block west of Broadway so that it also fronts on Mercer Street, which is parallel to Broadway.
Sources differ as to the architect, developer, and year of construction. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, in its 1973 report on the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, says the building, at 495 Broadway, was designed by Alfred Zucker for Augustus D. Juilliard and was completed in 1893. Several other sources shown below say the building was designed by Buchman & Deisler for Jeremiah C. Lyons, who had previously developed real estate in other areas of Manhattan, and was completed in 1897. However, many of these same sources mistakenly show the address as 491 Broadway. The Landmarks Preservation Commission says 491 Broadway, the somewhat thinner 12-story building adjacent to the south of the New Era Building, is the 1897 Buchman & Deisler building.
Although its lofts were originally intended for the New Era Printing Company, the building was soon occupied by an office of the Butler Brothers company, an early mail-order business that had 100,000 customers at the time they moved in. Later, in 1927, they began franchising the Ben Franklin Stores.
On December 29, 1927, a fire in the building caused one million dollars worth of damage. The fire burned for two hours before being noticed and caused the partial collapse of eight floors toward the rear, or Mercer Street side, of the building. The fire began among some crates in the company's basement shipping room. The collapse was caused when three unprotected 14-inch diameter hollow cast iron support columns buckled because of excessive heat, bring down the eight stories above. Fire-resistant insulation might have prevented the collapse.
The Swiss Institute Contemporary Art New York occupied the third floor loft from 1994 until 2011. In September 2011 the institute moved to 18 Wooster Street, nearby.
- Five Hundred Buildings of New York by Bill Harris and Jorg Brockmann, p. 568
- The Architectural Guidebook to New York City by Francis Morrone and James Iska, p. 68
- New York: a historical atlas of architecture by Alejandro Bahamón and Àgata Losantos, p. 20
- AIA Guide to New York City by Norval White, Elliot Willensky and Fran Leadon, p. 114
- Metro Manhattan Office Space, accessed July 22, 2011
- New York for New Yorkers: a historical treasury and guide to the buildings and monuments of Manhattan by Liza M. Greene, p. 45
- Daytonian in Manhattan blog, accessed July 21, 2011
- 70 Firemen Escape Tumbling Debris, The New York Times, December 30, 1927, accessed August 19, 2011
- "Killing Fires High in the Air", Popular Science Monthly, December 1928, p. 50
- History and Mission, The Swiss Institute, accessed July 25, 2011
- Photos at New York Architecture
- Art "think tank" - a Swiss face in New York, May 12, 2008 article about the Swiss Institute, at www.swissinfo.ch