Freitag, Dezember 03, 2010

Devlin's Clothing Warehouse


Nur ein kleines Kapitel möchte ich heute mal aufmachen, quasi als Sidespin zu einem der interessantesten Themen der New Yorker Stadtgeschichte, nämlich der "Lost Subway" oder auch "Pneumatic Tube" von Alfred E. Beach aus dem Jahr 1870.

Und zwar geht es um das Geschäftsgebäude an der Ecke Warren Street / Broadway am City Hall Park, aus dessen zweitem Untergeschoss heraus Beach die Röhre für seinen pneumatisch betriebenen U-Bahn-Prototyp grub, einen Straßenblock unter dem Broadway lang und ohne entsprechende Erlaubnis.
http://nygeschichte.blogspot.com/2006/10/die-vergessene-subway-von-alfred-e.html

Starten wir mal im Jahr 1820 mit einem Blick auf den Schauplatz, als die Welt angeblich noch in Ordnung war.


Es folgt ein älterer Broadway Street View aus dem Jahr 1865. Devlin's Clothing Store müsste der fünfstöckige Bau sein, der in der dritten Reihe - linker Abschnitt - auftaucht. Bevor er an den Broadway zog, lag er an der Nassau Street, wie man dem Bild aus dem Jahr 1853 entnehmen kann, mit dem dieser Beitrag eingeleitet wurde.


Auf dieser Abbildung, mit der 1865 Werbung für Devlin's Clothing Warehouse gemacht wurde, ist die New Yorker Filiale auf der rechten Seite zu sehen.


Wir springen weiter vor in das Jahr 1870, dem Jahr der Pneumatic Subway. Devlin müsste das markante Gebäude in der Bildmitte mit der hellen Fassade sein.



Ein erneuter Sprung 18 Jahre in die Zukunft in das Jahr des Tower Buildings, 1888. Das gesuchte Gebäude sieht man hier in der rechten Bildhälfte, fünfstöckig, helle Fassade vor dem nächsten Gebäude mit sieben Stockwerken und dunkler Fassade.



1894 entstanden mit gutem Grund diese Bilder vom Straßenblock zwischen Murray und Warren Street, denn es gab dort nun zwei spektakuläre Neubauten: das "Postal Telegraph Building" links und das "Home Life Insurance Company Building (mit dem spitzen Dach) rechts. Und rechts daneben - nun etwas mickrig und unscheinbar - das Gebäude von Devlin's Clothing Warehouse.




Hier eine weitere Aufnahme aus den 1890ern, die nur die Basis der Gebäude zeigt. Devlin liegt etwas in der Mitte, man kann man es erkennen an den Merkmalen 5 Stockwerke, helle Fassade neben 7 Stockwerke, dunkle Fassade.


Aber wahrscheinlich hieß das Gebäude in den 1890ern schon gar nicht mehr "Devlin's Clothing Warehouse", sondern lief unter dem späteren Namen "Rogers, Peet and Company".



Ebenfalls aus dem Jahr 1894 entstand diese Frontalaufnahme, die auch die Nähe zum Rathaus der Stadt New York zeigt und zugleich die Brisanz von Beachs U-Bahn-Projekt, der einfach mal einen 200 m langen Tunnel in diese Umgebung hineingegraben hat.



Wir kommen zum Jahr 1898, das mit dem Zusammenschluss von Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, der Bronx und Queens zu Greater New York begann.


Am 05. Dezember 1898 stand "Rogers, Peet and Company" lichterloh in Flammen und die Geschichte dieses Gebäudes endete wie so viele in New York mit einem großen Feuer.




Dazu dieser Bericht in englischer Sprache (leider keine Zeit zum Übersetzen)
http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/beach/chapter25.html

"The Devlin’s building was destroyed in a spectacular fire on December 4, 1898.


New Yorkers were still digging out from a freak early snowstorm on November 27 that had dropped almost ten inches of snow, when a fierce nor’easter whipped into the city after noon December 4. Winds increased from 20 mph at noon, to 40 at 2:00, 60 at 8:00, and 75 mph at 9:30 that evening, accompanied by increasingly heavy rain. Temperatures remained above freezing into the night.3


In the fierce wind and rain, on a Sunday night when shops had been closed all day, a fire broke out at 260 Broadway. Two police officers on patrol heard an explosion between 9:00 and 9:30 but could not find the cause. Five minutes before 10:00 they saw flame come from the basement of Rogers, Peet near the corner and they turned in the alarm. As the first fire company arrived at 10:00, the fire blew out the plate glass windows of the ground floor and the building was ablaze. Despite the driving rain outside the fire raced up through the interior of the building. By 10:15 the winds were throwing flaming pieces of wood onto the United States Life building across Warren St, and when the fire reached the roof of Rogers, Peet at 10:30 the flames began to attack the ‘skyscraper’ Home Life building next door. The fire shot a hundred feet in the air and burning debris showered for blocks around.


The firefighters had to battle not only the fire but hurricane winds and torrential rain that was turning to steam as it hit the white-hot buildings. Also on the scene within the first half hour were thousands of spectators, unmindful of the weather, filling Broadway and City Hall Park. Some came down the Sixth Ave El to Park Place station, where the Manhattan Railway had to station men with buckets of water to extinguish burning debris as it fell onto the crossties.


By 10:30 the interior of the Rogers, Peet building had completely collapsed, and the firefighters concentrated on putting out the firebrands that the wind carried to nearby buildings. The United States Life building was brought under control quickly and it suffered minimal damage. The Home Life building was a different story because to the intense dislike of the fire chief it was too high for his forces to fight the fire from the ground. It was the seven upper floors that caught fire from the flames coming off the roof of Rogers, Peet, all blazing by 11:15. The fire then spread from Home Life to the upper floors of the last building on the block, the Postal Telegraph building, which was evacuated at 11:30. The Postal Telegraph company had staff working round the clock and the evacuation during the next several hours interrupted communications between the United States and Europe. The fires were not considered under control until the morning of December 5.

Of the Rogers, Peet building nothing was left but the exterior stone and mortar walls, now weakened by the heat of the fire and cooling of the rain. The Warren St wall began to fall before 11:00, and portions continued to fall as the night went on. The upper floors of the Home Life Insurance building were gutted, but the ‘fireproof’ building remained structurally sound, and was repaired. It is still there today. The Postal Telegraph and United States Life buildings had limited fire damage but much water damage from the firefighters’ successful efforts at containing the fire. Among the offices damaged was that of the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners on the ninth floor of the Home Life building.


The cause of the fire was never determined. The clothing in the store was acknowledged to be good fuel for a fire once started. In the basement were steam boilers for heating and an electrical plant. There was no night watchman, and no janitor either from Saturday evening until the time of the fire.


The next day John R Waters, a ‘veteran at fire inspections’ representing Rogers, Peet, said he thought it was ‘incendiarism’ (arson) although he admitted he had no evidence. Only a few days ago, I made an inspection of the basement, and found it in first-class order. The floors were cemented and clean, and no inflammable stuff was allowed to accumulate. The boiler was new and seemed to be working all right. The only way we can account for the fire is that it was of incendiary origin. Some Anarchist or discontented person must have crept in with combustibles and set it on fire. That is all I can say now.6 There can be no doubt that the fire started in the basement, but how, unless some discontented person piled up the combustibles and applied the match, I cannot tell. Nothing of a combustible nature had been allowed to accumulate in the basement … The floors of the cement were absolutely clean. There was a furnace, but no woodwork near it to catch fire. The furnace was in thorough working order and I do not believe it could have been the cause. The only way I can account for it, is that some one crept into the cellar with combustibles and set them blazing.7 But the fire chief discounted the Anarchist theory for lack of evidence.

F R Chambers, a partner in Rogers, Peet and Company, was not able to say what the rebuilding plans would be. The Tribune reported, The Hoffman estate, which owns the property, has however for a long time wished to put a more modern structure on the site, but has been prevented because of the lease owned by the firm of Rogers, Peet & Co. The impression prevails now that the trustees of the Hoffman estate will utilize the present opportunity to put up a tall office building, which, with those of the Home Life Insurance and Postal Telegraph companies, will transform the block into one of the most imposing in the city.


More of the Warren St wall fell the morning of December 6, and that night the rest of it and the Broadway wall were pulled down by men pulling at cables. The walls were pulled into the interior, filling the basement. By 1:00 in the morning of December 7, the old Devlin’s building was rubble."


Der Tag danach, Devlin's Clothing Store ist Geschichte:



Und nun kommt ein Moment, der für mich zu den wirklich großartigen Geschichten in diesem Blog gehört. Der frühe U-Bahn-Versuch von Alfred E. Beach war 1898 schon wieder 28 Jahre her und längst in Vergessenheit geraten. Beim Besichtigen der Brandruine drang man auch in das zweite Untergeschoss des Kellers vor und entdeckte die Reste der Pneumatic Subway:

"The Beach Pneumatic Transit station was noted by the Times and Tribune in identical language from an unknown source. The building has a double basement, the lower cellar being the opening of the old tubular railway company, which ran across Broadway to Mail Street. The construction of this tunnel was the beginning of the underground railway system idea in New York. It was constructed about twenty-five years ago. After the underground railway idea was abandoned, the tunnel was used for a shooting gallery.9 Nothing was said of any remains of the station or machinery.


The remains of the old building were removed from the site in the early months of 1899. By the start of April it was possible to reach the bottom of the basement.


In clearing away the rubbish from the cellar of the Rogers, Peet & Company’s burned building … the contractors have brought to view the entrance to the Beach Broadway Tunnel under the sidewalk vault on the southwest corner of Warren Street and Broadway, which, since the tunnel was closed, has been walled up.11 Representatives of Scientific American were among the gentlemen invited into the tunnel. One of them was Stanley Yale Beach, son of Frederick, grandson of Alfred.








The third illustration (just above) shows the present appearance of the car, driven by pneumatic power, now located at the extreme south end. On the opposite side of the transverse brick wall is where the shield is buried. A glimpse of the wall is seen just beyond the car. The figure in the car conveys and idea of its size, the oval aperture having once been closed with glass. There were doors at each end opening on to small platforms. All are now missing, but we see just in front the remains of the car truck which once carried the car.11 The last point is wrong; there is no way this truck could be fitted under that car, as should be quite clear from the height of the floors. Illustrations from 1870 show that the enclosed car had separate axles for all four wheels. The truck in front is the base of the open car.

The large opening in the top of the tunnel just in front of the car is a vertical and horizontal smaller tunnel between 4 and 5 feet in diameter running in a northeasterly direction under Broadway to an air well covered by a grating in City Hall Park. This served as an outlet and inlet for air, according as the car was driven by pressure of air on its end down the tunnel from a huge blower, or drawn back to the place of starting by the suction of the air in a reverse direction. There was an air space of about 1½ inches around the car, but this leakage had no appreciable effect in reducing its speed.11 This description of the vent as ‘vertical and horizontal’, as if it turns, is interesting because the only description from the 1870s suggested a diagonal course by stating that it extends obliquely from the grating, passing under the sidewalk and carriage-way to the south end of the tunnel, a distance of 78 feet. 

In describing the tunnel the Scientific American writer carries on Beach’s usual style of commentary on underground rapid transit. The tunnel was built in 1869, just thirty years ago, and to-day it is still in a good state of preservation, demonstrating beyond a doubt its utility for rapid transit purposes and the fact that such a work could be readily carried on under Broadway without in the least disturbing the traffic overhead or damaging adjoining property. 

We think the opponents of the Rapid Transit Commission were mistaken in giving out the impression that there might be considerable damage done to adjoining property during the building of a road under Broadway ; for it appeared to be such a probability that … caused the commission to locate the road off Broadway on another street (the new widened Elm Street) parallel to Broadway and to terminate at City Hall Park instead of continuing on down Broadway between rows of new high buildings to the Battery, where its natural terminus should be. 

The fears of architects and engineers of former days, who contended that a tunnel passing through the center of Broadway at a depth of twenty feet below the surface might cause such a massive structure then as Trinity Church steeple to crack and fall over into the street, have been proved by actual experience, to be unfounded … During the past few years, on the west side of Broadway, in the same block, has been erected one of the highest buildings in lower Broadway, the Home Life, nearly to the height of Trinity Church steeple, yet its foundations are as solid and firm as they would be if no tunnel existed."


Wir kehren zurück ans Tageslicht zu den Broadway Street Views von 1899. Und siehe da, die Brandruine ist damals tatsächlich auch mit dokumentiert worden, als man die Straßenansichten des Broadways vor der Jahrhundertwende aufzeichnete.


Zum Abschluss noch ein Bild aus dem Jahr 1936, das dokumentiert, wie es knapp 40 Jahre nach dem Feuer an diesem Ort aussah:



Zusätzliche Quelle: NYPL Digital Galley

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