SE Corner Murray and Church StreetsOn the southeast corner of Church and Murray, wrapping around to Park Place, adjacent to two individually landmarked buildings which may well also become endangered (The Daily News Buildings), sits a humble 5-story store and loft building, known as 111 Church, or 27 Park Place.  Tribeca Trust has advocated that it be included in an extension of Tribeca East Historic District and our claim on it was part of ouongoingng lawsuit against the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  The building is now aflame. The fire is of unknown origin.  I could not learn if anyone was hurt, although it appears that the building was evacuated.

This is a tragic loss for Tribeca, one of the last “ordinary” store and loft buildings from the Civil War that stood outside our historic district borders. If it is irrevocably damaged, it is very likely that a skyscraper will replace it.  It was filled with tiny low-rent businesses, the small kind that once filled the neighborhood and gave Tribeca’s original gritty character for a good 100 years.

Our research suggests it was built in 1851.   It housed during the 19th-century many publishing companies of the 19th century such as “The Poultry Monthly”, the Scientific Publishing Company, The Christian Union, and various lawyers, engraver, manufacturers of knives and razors, and instrument makers. There is hint that part of it was a boarding house in the 1860’s and the ground floor often was rented to cafes.  There was once a billiard cafe as well.  It was famous from the 1930’s all the way to the 1970’s for its basement rifle range.

How could its owner have kept it so dilapidated that it became vulnerable to such a fire?  We do not know the owner, the name is hidden behind an LLC.  If anyone does know, please let us know the name.

Robert Stern, the famous architect, said the following when he wrote in support of designating Tribeca an historic district:

“ is only within the context of scores of less distinctive but nonetheless skillfully conceived and executed everyday masterpieces that they collectively present a powerful reflection f New York’s mercantile and industrial past….If the entire area’s architecture and urbanism are not legally protected, we risk losing not only individual, aesthetically significant buildings, but a vivid record- in stone, steel and glass – of an important phase in the city’s rise as a world economic power.”

As the helicopters hover ahead, as the firemen do their heroic work, and as the tourists take photographs, I cannot bear to watch.  I see the smoke from my window.  Part of our city’s collective history is burning.  We mourn this building’s loss and feel also a grief at what we know will replace it.