Amazingly, I have not already written a blog post about the Edgar Laing Stores…so here it is. The picture above was taken during a HABS survey in 1971, shortly before the building was demolished as part of an urban renewal project on Manhattan’s Lower West Side. The project wiped out everything you can see in this photo.
The building, designed and built by James Bogardus, was not the earliest cast-iron facade in the US, but it was among the first and was the oldest remaining in 1971. A plan makes it clear that this building – really a group of connected buildings – was, like nearly all buildings with cast-iron facades, mostly of traditional construction, with brick side and rear walls supporting wood-joist floors. The modern iron structure was literally skin deep on the street walls.
Because Laing was famous, the iron was disassembled rather than simply demolished, in the hopes that it could be re-erected on a new site. This is not preservation as normally conducted, but it would have been better than nothing. Unfortunately, nothing is what we got, as the stored iron was stolen in two separate robberies, apparently sold as scrap. It’s not realistically possible to steal an intact building, but it possible to steal sections of iron, and this fact can be aded to the many philosophical reasons to not disassemble a building to move it.