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That Certain Something

About a dozen years ago, the Republic of Tanzania bought this building on East 53rd Street to serve as, among other things, the Permanent Mission of Tanzania to the United Nations. Looking at the building I felt sure that it was constructed before 1900 and that it was industrial or semi-industrial in its origin. (Obviously the interiors have been modified for its current use. I am interested in the building for its history, not for the Tanzanian connection.) It’s hard to pinpoint some of why I was so certain. The brick ornament is more Victorian in style than anything else, but could have been built later, I guess. The height, lack of setbacks or light-wells, and the apparently-original elevator bulkhead push it towards industrial, as does the location. Turtle Bay was a poor neighborhood for a long time, full of industry and tenements. The construction of the UN, on a site formerly used by a slaughterhouse, started to change the area; the construction of various nations’ missions and staff housing pushed it along.

In any case, the city’s database lists it as 1888.

In 1892, it was a box factory, apparently connected by some kind of structure to a cigar…excuse me, a segar factory on 54th Street. Note the elevator in the front right corner, where we see the bulkhead in the photo:

In 1907 the segar-making had taken over the building, and the bridge remained:

And in 1916, modern spelling caught on: