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Message - McKim, Mead & White's-  Cable Building

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Posted by  Randall on January 28, 2004 at 18:04:05:

My next web site featured building is;
 
 
611-621 Broadway, on the North West corner of Houston Street, facing Houston Street to Mercer Street was designed by the famous McKim, Mead and White firm in 1892. The building is a 9 story 200' by 100' 129' tall structure which was the power plant for the Metropolitan Street Railway Co. / Metropolitan Traction Co. ( Cable car) line on Broadway.  
 
Formerly the site of St Thomas Church which burned down in 1851, was rebuilt and then demolished circa 1890.
 
I have a copy of an 1894 Scribners magazine article on this railway and a Scientific American issue from 1897, with photos and line cuts.
I also have several stereo view cards I scanned, one from 1894 and I have one from before the Cable Building was built- St Thomas Church can just about be made out in the distance- both taken from a block South on Broadway at the Metropolitan Hotel.
 
I have an extensive knowlege of the building and a fair amount of material on it, I am axiously looking to obtain more material, specifically but not  limited to-  it's construction.
So far in extensive searching, which includes searching for hours on oldnewspaperarchive.com all I seem to find are articles about the cable car line in OPERATION, or about the cable car company's finances and the controversy when bribes to 21 city aldermen was discovered and people prosecuted.
 
Thus far I have not found one photo or even one article about the actual construction of the BUILDING and I find that very unusual given it was a McKim, Mead and White design, it was a main power plant for a then very new mode of transportation, and the building itself had to have it's foundations dug to an unusual depth- 40 feet in order to isolate the  heavy vibrating machinery from the office building itself.  
 
 I just last night found a DETAILED newspaper article from 1870 on that archive site, about the Grand Central Hotel's construction
 
The hotel article detailed how many bricks, workmen, costs, who the owner was, how much the property cost, how many rooms, and details about every floor!
 
Given that,  SURELY there were photos and articles of  the Cable Building's construction. It had (4) 1,000 Horse Power steam engines and 18 boilers in the basement, the engines had a 32 foot diameter driving drum and was the largest steam powered plant of it's kind, yet nothin about this anywhere? or even about it's demise and removal?  
This was major stuff, just the equipment was HUGE and all brought on site via horse and wagon, surely somewhere there must be pictures!
 
 
I am putting out the call for any additional material, articles, photos etc to add to this. I have at least  dozen more to add this week. I could use images, articles etc.  Also anything on the St Thomas Church there.
 
Does anyone know how one might obtain copies of floorplans/blueprints/elevation drawings of it?
I know there were renovations done around 1987 and it became a landmark around that time, so if nothign else there must be some blueprints the contractor/architects of that made.
 
I know about the "Hall of Records" as it was called when I lived there in the 70s  but I am now 1,000 miles away and have to do this remotely. In the 70s I went there and  searched records, but at the time I believe copies were NOT available since the xerox machine wasn't even in wide public use...
 
If anyone knows of someone who knows their way around their new system and would be willing to spend some time researching there for me for a fee, I would be most happy to be in contact.
 
Ideally I would love to obtain copies of some original drawings, floor plans, etc., especially the engine room details. Unfortunately when I lived and worked in that building around 1980 , ALL of the machinery was long gone- totally stripped out.  
And now, 24 years later I find all this material I never knew about then, and now I can't take the material I have and make mental connections to things I was able to see when I had access to the basement.
 
I have a sub section on the building here;
 
http://www.lostnewyorkcity.com/buildingphotos/Plate-51-b.html
 
 
Randall  
Webmaster, Randall's Lost new York City  
 http://www.lostnewyorkcity.com/

 
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