shopping 06.24.15

Urban Archaeology

In 1963, after the City Planning Commission allowed the demolition of Penn Station to proceed, Ada Louise Huxtable had an article in the Times titled How to Kill a City. She wrote about the impending loss, "It's time we stopped talking about our affluent society. We are an impoverished society. It is a poor society indeed that can't pay for these amenities; that has no money for anything except expressways to rush people out of our dull and deteriorating cities."

Two years later, Mayor Wagner signed the law that created the Landmarks Preservation Commission. At about the same time, a Brooklyn high-school student placed a bid on the interior pieces of an old-fashioned drugstore/ soda fountain that was auctioning off parts of the interior as it was closing.

What high school kid would do that? A kid named Gil Shapiro, who seemed to understand what Ada Louise Huxtable was trying to say. Mr. Shapiro opened Urban Archaeology 143 Franklin [Hudson/ Varick] 212.431.4646 and 239 E. 58th St. in 1978, one of the first stores to feature salvaged pieces from hotels, apartment buildings, banks, hospitals, theaters, bars and, indeed, train stations.

Over time, the business has emphasized careful reproductions fabricated on site, including custom tile and stone work. Important original pieces include gates from St. Patrick's Old Cathedral and a mermaid statue originally from the Place de la Concorde. One of their best-sellers is the reproduction of Helena Rubinstein's medicine cabinet.

The old Penn Station is gone but you could argue that, as a result, New York discovered its past.








Soho

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