Last week, I wrote about a World War I fighter plane on the roof of 77 Water Street. As it turns out, that’s just one of many surprises to be found around the building!
As I was waiting for my appointment to check out the plane, I took a few pictures outside the building from the street…
…then headed across to walk around the plaza. Again, nothing out of the ordinary stood out…
It was only as I approached the lobby that I noticed it, tucked into a back corner…
Was that…a turn of the century penny candy store??
Yes, and what’s more, it’s open for business!
I swear, I’ve walked by 77 Water Street a zillion times and never, ever noticed this. Like the rooftop plane, it’s a replica (I was hoping it’d been brought in from somewhere), but there’s something so great about finding something like this in the otherwise austere Wall Street area.
This is just one of the many whimsical embellishments created by building owners Robert and Melvyn Kaufman, who took over the William Kaufman Organization from their father in the 1950’s. I met Robert for my Wall Street Journal article last week, and it was a real pleasure talking about all these unexpected eccentricities.
One such example – note the numbers beside the Candy Store sign:
Now look at the addresses of various Kaufman properties: 77 Water Street; 757 3rd Ave; 767 3rd Ave; 777 3rd Ave; 437 Madison Ave. Apparently, 7 was their mother’s lucky number, and whenever possible, the Kaufmans try to acquire properties with a 7 in the address.
On one side of the candy store…
A Bo-Ko Cigars sign from the 1920’s (American Pickers fans might have noticed it on a recent episode):
An old Chesterfield sign and Ringling Bros. posters over the window:
Another really great surprise can be found right out front. Sure, tons of buildings in New York have the pool of stones in their plazas…
But what’s especially neat about the one at 77 Water Street…
…is the school of fish swimming up it!
Created by artist Pamela Waters in 1985, it’s really amazing how this whimsical addition causes you to completely rethink the nature of what you’re looking at.
Entitled “Herring-Like Fishes Swimming Upstream,” the pool of rocks does take on a stream-like feel, especially when it passes under this bridge:
Located in another corner of the plaza is “Rejected Skin,” a sculpture by William Tarr made from aluminum panels rejected for use in the building’s construction, as well as from a red ambulance.
A little further back – a very cool retro-futuristic payphone design:
And near the Front Street side, a series of benches entitled “Month of June,” by George Adamy. The discs turn when you push them:
And of course, the rooftop plane:
The plane was installed on a cold day in 1969. It was assembled on the street…
…rigged to a crane…
…lifted up 26 stories…
…and finally, dropped into its final resting place on the roof:
And, as you go up the final set of stairs to the roof access door…
…a number of paintings of the Sopwith Camel biplane in action line the wall:
Getting to see the plane up close was a thrill, but the real pleasure was in meeting Robert Kaufman.
Mr. Kaufman has been in this game for quite some time – he took over the company after serving in World War II – but man did his face absolutely light up when we started talking about the plane. As we continued to talk about the little additions to his other buildings, he was glowing with pride.
After meeting endless numbers of soulless developers while scouting, you come to believe that this must be how the world works: every inch of square footage is a dollar sign, and if you don’t maximize this to the penny, something’s wrong with you. And who the hell really cares what it looks likey? And then you meet someone like Mr. Kaufman.
I think there was only one question that he didn’t particularly like answering, and frankly, I only asked because I need a quote: “Why?”
Because isn’t it obvious?
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