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Fire Hits Manhattan Landmark

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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A historic building in Lower Manhattan that has been home to some famous artists, and a canvas for others, was damaged by a fire Monday evening (Aug. 8).

The former Germania Bank Building at 190 Bowery, which had most recently been a private residence and was reportedly undergoing renovation for a conversion into office space, caught fire just before 8:00 p.m. according to reports.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze. No injuries were reported.

Building History

The building has a storied past: Built just before the turn of the 20th century and designed by architect Robert Maynicke, it served as a bank until the 1960s. It was sold in 1966 to photographer Jay Maisel for $102,000. He and his wife and daughter lived there for decades, mostly occupying the 72-room house themselves, though the building was home to other artists briefly, including Roy Lichtenstein.

190 Bowery before renovation
By Jim.henderson - Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, 190 Bowery was covered in graffiti, and served as something of a landmark, largely unchanged in a neighborhood that was changing rapidly.

As time went by, the six-story building became a favorite of graffiti taggers, and was reportedly often used by Keith Haring as a place to leave his signature chalk babies. In recent years, it was covered in graffiti, and served as something of a landmark, largely unchanged in a neighborhood, known as Nolita, that was changing rapidly.

Landmark Status

In 2005, the building was designated as a landmark by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, citing its Beaux Arts features, its copper cheneau, and the very fact that the facade survived more than a century, largely intact.

The building’s granite facades also include ornate features like round-arched windows on the first and sixth stories, and cornices and crown molding on the first, second and fifth stories.  

In 2015, Maisel sold the building  for nearly $55 million to developer Aby Rosen, who has been working to renovate the inside, and who scrubbed the exterior clean of most of the years’ worth of graffiti. (One large tag by the late artist Sean Griffin has been allowed to remain.)

Roof Fire

In photos and videos taken from around Manhattan, flames and thick, black smoke can be seen shooting from the roof of the building. One shot appears to show fire damage to the copper cheneau that runs around the edges of the roof. A video appears to show an explosion taking place amid the flames.

Curbed NY reports that the fire was contained to the roof, and the building suffered only minimal damage.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Artists; Asia Pacific; Developers; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Graffiti; Graffiti removal; Latin America; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Renovation

Comment from Catherine Brooks of Eco-Strip, (8/10/2016, 3:23 PM)

How sad. I hope high heat guns were not being used and overheated the inner walls.

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