Thursday, July 6, 2017

Columbia College 1851 - (1896 illustration)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Did part of Ben Franklin's House exist up until the early part of the 20th Century?

Did part of Ben's house exist up until the early part of the 20th century? Background.

I ran into this photo circa 1910 regarding Franklin Court and I was reminded of a discussion on a NYC architectural interest forum, two years back, about how the original King’s College Main Hall of the original Columbia University in New York City, downtown and a block or two from city hall, how it probably got chopped up into sections, and sold off piecemeal rather than being totally demolished in the 1850s. 

The conversation was part of the then current so-called controversy of the Cordoba Mosque being built two blocks over from the World Trade Center. The so-called World Trade Center mosque was a foreign real estate thing with the taking over of the old Sym’s Men’s Clothing store and turning it into a mosque where mostly cab drivers could say prayers in a busy schedule.

The eventual plan was to tear down what was left of some nineteenth century cast iron fronted buildings tied together in that old clothing store, where I used to buy a few suits BTW, and build a thirteen story building to also contain office space, health/gym center and of course a place for prayer. 

In the course of the discussion it got mentioned that 49-51 Park Place was on the site of the original King’s College building. With the help of online lot maps with the city of New York, some interesting ideas developed. One was that the lots on Park Place were irregular in size. That the smallest lot on Park Place was likely to have been the structure directly beneath the cupola in the photo. 

There is a sketchy history attached to the move of King’s College before the revolution, Columbia College after the revolution, moving uptown to the present site of Rockefeller Center until about 1910 when it moved further uptown to the Morningside Heights campus on a hill overlooking Harlem at 116th Street and Broadway.

A modern idea is that you demolish and build fresh. (Urban Renewal?)

It would appear that the old King’s college building got sold off piecemeal with some parts demolished and some others still standing as stores until late in the nineteenth century. That some of the the basement walls of the old Sym’s store may be in fact part of still intact foundation walls of the original King’s College etc. But that is New York and money trumps history every day of the week there especially when it comes to real estate.

That to do this suggests a great deal of frugality on the people, their time and mindset, buying pieces of the building, recycling them, and also buying a chunk of a previous continuous building that could stand in pieces that stood on solid foundation walls and or solid interior supporting walls. Thus the irregular nature of some of the lots on Park Place according to that discussion documented below...

Getting back to Franklin Court, Hudson Street, S. Orianna St. and or the original Ben Franklin house torn down around 1810 to be subdivided into lots and make money for his descendants, the thought occurred to me that this, what looks like a large building 17 S. Orianna Street, would be built from scratch in almost an alleyway and described as a street. Perhaps it could be a recycled part of the original Franklin house or part of a three story addition built in 1785.

Considering Franklin’s wealth and interest in solid fire proofing with plaster in the construction, that the addition may have survived because it could stand on its own and that the street was positioned accordingly. Frugality plus room for a tidy profit too.

Can’t find anything online regarding when 17 S. Orianna Street was demolished, probably in the great tsunami of urban renewal in the 1950s.


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