675 Hudson and 53-61 Gansevoort
The appearance of the Meatpacking District is shaped by its eclectic industrial architecture, unique street grid—including diagonal streets—and trapezoidal and triangular plazas, which form a singular urban experience in Manhattan.
Built on a triangular lot, Meatpacking’s 675 Hudson, known as “the Little Flatiron,” forms an easily recognizable entry point and memorable landmark in the neighborhood. The building’s distinctive shape was determined by the property’s lot lines, which were delineated by the juncture where the 18th century street plan meets the 1811 grid plan (think of the West Village’s streets versus those of Midtown). Originally built in1849 as a small factory for the Herring Safe & Lock Factory, the building was expanded to its current form and height in 1884.
The building was purpose-built for the manufacture of secure and fireproof safes, then a newly patented technology. They gained currency because of the Great Fire of 1835 and the Panic of 1837, when nervous wealthy urbanites felt compelled to protect their assets. The building was painted with colorful and graphic advertising signage, in keeping with New York’s brash commercial atmosphere, even in those days. By the 1880s, the building use changed from a safe factory to ground-floor commercial spaces with working lofts above. Over the ensuing decades, tenants included grocers, butchers, saloons, an elevator company, a bowling alley, nightclubs, restaurants, reflecting the neighborhood’s dynamic evolution and changing demographics.
675 Hudson isn’t the neighborhood’s only triangular shaped building, 53-61 Gansevoort, known as “the Prow Building,” has an elegant curved point, which was documented by the famed photographer Berenice Abbott. Designed by Joseph M Dunn, the building was constructed in 1887 for the ES Burnham & Co, a clam cannery. A more refined example of industrial architecture, though less visible on the streetscape, the Prow Building’s exterior architecture is virtually unchanged since the late 1880s (look closely and you can still see the words “clam chowder” painted on the upper floors. It later housed meatpackers, NABISCO, and then offices, and restaurants.
These buildings are unique containers and eye-catching landmarks that encapsulate the neighborhood’s changing character.
Gansevoort Market Historic District: State and National Register of Historic Places Registration Form (2007).
Gansevoort Market Historic District: Designation Report. New York Landmarks Preservation Commission (2003).
The High Line website
Off the Grid. Village Preservation blog.