The Ridley & Sons Department Store building at 315-321 Grand Street is looking pretty good these days. As you may recall, a fire broke out in the “pink building” last December, raising concerns that the quirky 125-year-old structure would be allowed to wither away. But a fresh coat of paint, new windows and interior renovations have done wonders. It just so happens there’s a bit of news about efforts to protect the building from the wrecking ball.
Next week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on the Ridley & Sons application. The initial hearing took place in 2009. Lisi de Bourbon, spokesperson for the commission, tells us the session next Tuesday, September 11, was scheduled to give the building owner an opportunity to testify. She said it’s possible the commissioners will vote on landmarking the Ridley building following the testimony.
Alfred I. Goldman, a principal of the company that owns the building, told the New York Times last year, “I am not thrilled about it (designating the building).” He called the property, “just an ugly building.” Here’s a portion of the commission’s statement on the Ridley building prepared three years ago:
In the second half of 19th century, Edward Ridley & Sons was the largest department store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Founded by Edward A. Ridley in a brick row house in 1848, it grew in stages to fill an entire block of Grand Street, the area’s chief commercial district, as well as substantial sections of Orchard and Allen Streets. These three interconnected properties were mostly commissioned in 1886 by the founder’s sons, Edward and Arthur Ridley, and were part of this merchant’s most ambitious expansion to date. Five stories tall, this building campaign nearly doubled the store’s size and it was described in newspapers as the largest in New York City. By this time, Ridley’s covered approximately five acres and during the holiday season employed an estimated 2,500 people – many who were women and recent immigrants. Designed by architect Paul F. Schoen, his Classical Revival style addition had two distinct facades. On Orchard Street, the architect used brick and stone, while the more prominent Grand Street facade is cast iron, a material frequently associated with mercantile buildings and retail stores. A late example of this type of construction, the iron elevations feature many distinctive details, including rows of round-arched windows, fluted pilasters, and decorative relief panels. Of particular note is the rounded corner, where Grand and Orchard Streets meet.
The Ridley building has not served as a department store since 1901.