I was walking on the Upper East Side and came across this
beauty interesting building. A lot of Manhattan’s garages were originally built as stables, and the way that the doors have been modified suggests that might be what happened here. The modern doors, the sign, and the bad paint job are obscuring what appears to be some high-quality brickwork, terra cotta or stone trim, and a nice double-I steel lintel with cast-iron rosettes on the spacers. I particularly like the stone cantilever brackets holding the steel lintel.
The “SHAFTWAY” signs are at an old elevator, which may well still be in operation. They’re there to make sure that, in case of a fire, the FDNY doesn’t try to enter the building through those windows. Those signs are common on old buildings that had elevators installed after the fact, as those elevators are often abutting a street facade.
The public records say that this building was constructed in 1915, but that sounds wrong. The architectural style is wrong for that era. The building had a very early Certificate of Occupancy – issued in 1923 – showing it as a garage and saying the building had been altered. Here’s an 1896 map, showing it as a boarding stable and with an elevator on the side wall:
And here’s the city’s 1940 tax photo, showing the building before the white paint and before the entrances were completely altered for oversized modern vehicles:
The two eastmost doors (furthest from the camera) had already been altered but did not yet have the roll-down gates. If a new and larger-capacity elevator was installed in the switch from a stable to a garage, that wold explain why the elevator location changed.
So conversion from an 1880s or 90s stable to a 1900s garage seems likely. And there’s an argument to be made here that even an unimportant building for a background (and, in all eras, smelly) use can present a nice facade to the street if anyone cares enough to make it so.