Discover The Beauty Of NY’s Old Fashioned Storefronts

Discover The Beauty Of NY’s Old Fashioned Storefronts

Image: Flickr

New York City is constantly evolving, renovating, expanding, and recreating itself to accommodate its changing and growing need for real estate.

What makes the landscape of Manhattan unique is its dichotomy of old and new, modern and old fashioned. Little by little, however, the ornate historic architecture characteristic of old New York is giving way to ultra-modern edifices that reflect the times in which we live.

Commercial, retail, and residential space in Manhattan has always been at a premium, with vacant real estate becoming more and more scant every day. Some cite that efforts to recover from the latest recession, and the increasingly high stakes associated with Manhattan property, have added pressure to the city’s real estate demands.

Manhattan’s physical limitation of 22.8 square miles continues to pose challenges for city planners and real estate developers in expansion and renovation projects. With only so much existing square footage to work with, something has to give in order to keep the steady flow of progress, opportunity, and cash flowing through the second most populated city in the world.

Sometimes the city’s landmark preservation laws fail to protect a historic structure and, unfortunately, it winds up being sacrificed for the city’s “hunger for space.” Some recent victims include The Rizzoli Bookstore, the Bancroft Building, and even an automotive showroom on Park Avenue designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Whether or not they are designated as landmarks, the old buildings of New York City add character and classic design to the neighborhoods in which they are located and embody the rich history and culture of Manhattan. Here is a sampling of just a few of the old-fashioned storefronts scattered across the city that remind us of a bygone era and the diverse group of architects, designers, and craftsmen that built this great city.

Image: Shutterstock

Delmonico’s Restaurant

This eight-story building located at 56 Beaver Street and South William Street was built in 1891. Lewis Del Monico had the original restaurant at this location torn down after his uncle’s passing and hired architect James Lord Brown to design this structure where Delmonico’s Restaurant is operating to this day.

The building is designed in the French Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts) tradition which is characterized by heavily ornamental and elaborate details, Greek and Roman influences (such as the restaurant’s massive front columns) and large masonry elements. Noteworthy diners include Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Diamond Jim Brady, many American presidents and more, who all passed under Delmonico’s famous marble portal that the Del Monico’s brought from Pompei.

Image: TimeOut

Porto Rico Importing Co.

Since 1907, the Longo family in Greenwich Village has been synonymous with the finest coffee and tea shops in Greenwich Village. Before moving into their 201 Bleecker Street location, it was remodeled in the late 1920s to combine two storefronts into one.

The four-story building is charming from the street level storefront up to the three residential apartments above. Porto Rico’s storefront is inviting and warm, from its red façade framing two large display windows, to its benches out front and friendly red awning. You are easily drawn in by its simple grace and relaxed atmosphere. It gives you a glimpse into how differently people lived and shopped during a time when life moved at a slower pace, and people frequented specialty stores to complete their shopping list.

Image: IneTours

McSorley’s Old Ale House

New York City’s oldest bar – McSorley’s Old Ale House at 15 East 7th Street – has been around for 150 years, serving locals, tourists, and famous patrons from John Lennon and Woodie Guthrie to Dustin Hoffman, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and more. McSorley’s was one the city’s original “men only” establishments and didn’t admit women until the Supreme Court forced them to do so in 1970.

On the outside, McSorley’s looks like a picture postcard of what you would expect to see on a cobblestone street in Ireland; it is no-nonsense and uniquely Irish, featuring black paned windows with painted gold Olde English-lettered phrases, green barrels out front and well-weathered double doors that lead to an interior chock-full of memorabilia and sawdust on the floor.

Image: Huffington Post

Ralph Lauren Men’s Flagship

One of the earliest families to make a mark in New York City were the Rhinlanders, making their fortune in sugar refinery and shipbuilding. Their mansion – The Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo House at 867 Madison Avenue – dates back to 1898, and was purchased and completely overhauled by designer Ralph Lauren. Lauren spent upwards of $15 million to restore and renovate the building in order to make it his flagship retail establishment.

It is a magnificent building inside and out, designed by architect Francis Hatch Kimball, taking inspiration for his design from a chateau in France. The limestone mansion is a French Renaissance masterpiece which now provides and elegant and truly unique shopping experience.

A Proud Legacy

These are just a few examples of some of Manhattan’s oldest storefronts. Like all things in this fair city, there is great diversity, innovation, and history in the styles of architecture that grace its streets.

Look for next week’s blog, “Outstanding: Some of the Oldest Restaurants of New York”.