Description & Building Alterations
In 1859, No. 197 was constructed along with the nine others in this row of identical five-story tenements with basements. The development of these buildings, which started at 193 and proceeded east down the block, was a speculative real estate investment of William B. Astor, who sold each building as soon as it was completed. Jacob Herld purchased this building from Astor.
In the 1880s, this building was home to Breck’s Hall, a meeting place for political organizations such as the United Labor Party, the International Workingmen’s Association (also known as the New York Anarchists), and the Ballot Reform League. In 1939 the cellar and first floor were connected to its neighboring buildings — 201, 199, and 195 — and used to support a newspaper printing press. This building housed the actual printing presses on the first floor and cellar, both of which were expanded out into the rear yard to accommodate the equipment.
The Italianate lintels and sills have been completely shaved off and the window openings changed. The facade has also been painted white with black trim, giving it a stark appearance that was not the intent of the design. However, the building has managed to retain its original pressed-metal cornice.
Block : 400 / Lot : 59 / Building Date : 1859 / Original Owner : William B. Astor / Original Use : Residential/Commerical / Original Architect : Unknown