Robbins & Appleton Building

Art & Culture | History

A landmarked legacy of art and manufacturing

Robbins & Appleton Building noho architecture

About Robbins & Appleton Building

 & why it made the Carpe City list

“Just another Mansard Monday…” oh, is that not how the song goes? We were too busy looking at the beautiful mansard roof on the Robbins-Appleton building!

This sprawling building with majestic columns and crazy-big windows spans 1-5 Bond Street, making a big impression on this small and lovely block between the Bowery and Broadway.

Look at the clock on the top story. That’s not just an element of the building’s elegant “Second Empire” style; it’s a key to its history. The building was originally home to the American Waltham Watch Company, founded by Daniel Appleton and Henry Robbins.

The Company’s first building on this site burned down, and architect Stephen Decatur Hatch was tapped to design this one between 1879-1880. It’s done in cast iron, which was so common in this area that Soho is actually home to the highest concentration of cast-iron architecture in the United States.

The building remained a commercial and manufacturing site for a century and was landmarked in 1979. By the late 1980s, the building was converted to residential, and its lucky-duck residents (like Kristin Stewart, who snagged a loft here in 2017) get to sprawl out in industrial-chic splendor.

And, if this beautiful building is giving you artistic inspo, you’re in the right place! It just so happens that the ground floor is home to a “Blick Art Supplies” store – one of the largest, finest, and most beloved art supply stores in New York.

Carpe City Trivia

Why is everything in this area cast-iron?

Cast iron was like the "Ikea furniture" of the post-Civil War era. Because it was pre-fabricated, it could be put up very quickly by people who were not necessarily skilled builders or masons. That made it ideal for industrial buildings, such as factories and lofts, which virtually all the buildings in this neighborhood were at the time.

Also, cast iron was marketed as fire-proof, a highly sought-after feature for industrial structures. That was particularly important in New York City, since it's a city that likes to burn down! (see: The Great Fires of 1776, 1835, and 1845. And, as we mentioned, the original Robbins Appleton building on this site actually did burn down in 1871!)

So, since it was cheap, easy to assemble, and considered fire-proof, cast iron was the go-to material for New York's late 19th-century industrial buildings.

Lucky us, it's also fabulously beautiful!

By: Lucie Levine

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