The excellent French bistro Balthazar is just round the corner. Make sure you book well in advance, though
Built in 1857 and standing at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway in SoHo, the E.V. Haughwout Building is a five story building with distinctive cast-iron sections for its two street fronts and windows borrowed from the 1536 Sansovino Library in Venice.
Having two cast-iron street fronts was a novel challenge: the structure would have to support much more weight than a mid-block building with just one street front. Rather than hanging the facades off the brickwork, as was usually done, they actually used the iron framework to strengthen the masonry structure, in a sense making this building a predecessor of the steel and iron framed skyscrapers to come.
The building originally housed Eder V. Haughwout’s chinaware emporium, which was famously frequented by the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln who purchased custom-made pieces for the White House there. Other clients included the Czar of Russia and the Imam of Muscat. In other words, it was the place to buy your thimbles.
The building was also home to the world’s first passenger elevator, which ascended at a searing speed of 0.2 metres per second. Years before electricity, a steam generator in the basement was used to power the newfangled contraption. Although the five-story structure was not really any taller than other buildings at the time and had no special need for an elevator, Haughwout knew that people who come to see the novelty, and stay to buy his merchandise. It was a savvy marketing gimmick.
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