The Remains of a 1920s Cruise Ship Office At One Broadway

You never really think of Broadway having a beginning or ending. It’s the oldest north-south thoroughfare in NYC, and is derived from a Native American trail, the Wickquasgeck, which once carved through the swamps and rocks of the island. The avenue passes through so many important hubs of New York life that the idea of it actually terminating somewhere seems almost unnatural.

And yet, as we all know, one of its ends (actually the beginning) can be found down in southern Manhattan’s Bowling Green. And marking the beginning, this is the building that proudly bears the address: 1 Broadway.

One Broadway 01

One Broadway is a fascinating building with a long history. If you were standing on this site in 1776, you would’ve found a mansion belonging to General Israel Putnam, which was once used as headquarters by George Washington during the war.

The house was converted into the Washington Hotel, and then was later torn down in 1882 to make way for the 10-story Washington Building. The new structure was built of red brick, with brownstone detailing and multipaned windows in wooden frames. At 258 feet high, it dominated the New York skyline at the time.

One Broadway 03

This leads to a curious situation – the Washington Building was never torn down, yet the structure in the above picture certainly features no red brick or brownstone detailing. How is this possible? In 1919, new tenants the International Mercantile Marine Company, a shipping firm with 120 vessels, chose the site for its new headquarters. To save on construction costs, they decided to renovate rather than rebuild, and the entire facade was covered in limestone, simply covering over the original brickwork.

In other words, there is a building beneath the surface of this building, and it apparently still exists. In 1992, during a $2 Million facade restoration project, some of the original brick and brownstone was briefly revealed as crumbling limestone was removed and replaced.

One Broadway 04

The lower levels feature some great detail inspired by the shipping company. The first floor was originally a booking office for the company’s cruise line, and the doors still have First Class and Cabin Class designations (not sure if this was actually used in practice or just a cute design aspect):

One Broadway 05

Also, whether or not you have a Citibank account, make sure to check out the lobby at some point – it still retains much of the old office, including antique maps and towering ceilings.

But what I really love above about this building are the mosaic seals from ports around the world lining the second story. They’re difficult to appreciate from the street, but each is beautifully rendered in colorful and sparkling tiles. I started taking pictures of my favorites, and then thought, what the hell, why not shoot them all? So here is a gallery of One Broadway’s stunning port seals. Enjoy! (And uh, can we all agree that New York’s is essentially the lamest?).

One 22

One Broadway 07

One Broadway 08

One Broadway 09

One Broadway 23

One Broadway 12

One Broadway 10

One Broadway 11

One Broadway 13

One Broadway 14

One Broadway 15

One Broadway 16

One Broadway 17

One Broadway 18

One Broadway 19

One Broadway 20

-SCOUT

-New York Times: Streetscapes – 1 Broadway

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15 comments

  1. Great find! I remember my Dad telling me about this whenever he went to New York for business – he used to work for Citibank before it became Citigroup – and travel. I find it interesting that the only port seals with their destination names listed above the seal are London and New York.

  2. > And uh, can we all agree that New York’s is essentially the lamest?

    I dunno – beavers and beer hitting the fan? Looks like a good time to me. ;-)

  3. Man, I’ve been in that Citibank branch so many times… and never noticed those!! Thank you yet again for showing me what is always right in front of my face…

  4. Bless you, Scout! You just helped me identify this tabard as having the arms of Antwerp!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/2557725799/

  5. Hi Scout-
    Great pictures.
    I worked on an tenant construction project in this building in the early eighties. I think – I’m not certain – that some of the uppermost floors are not original but were added in the 1920′s.

  6. is this the same building thats acorss from the giant bronze bull? i guessing its the old Cunard shipping building. am i wrong? i was in the Cunard building last year with a friend of mine who let me in to take pics of all the old maps and giant towering ceilings. there was nothing in there when i was there.

    • No, the Cunard Shipping Building is, two doors, eg, the third building up. This is ONE Broadway, next to this is the Bowling Green Building, and next to that is the Cunard Building, which is a much larger building.

  7. Thanks for the interesting page and pictures. I presume when you say that the “upper levels of this building are somewhat uninteresting” you’re referring to the exterior. I’ve been working on the 11th floor (the one with the balcony) for 23 years. It’s actually quite nice, and the view from the balcony is terrific.

  8. I know this is an old article, but i think the mosaic for NY is as interesting as most of the others, as far as design interest more so than Naples and at least as interesting as Pltmouth, Southhampton and Sydney. The ones that are really beautiful are Gibraltar and Montevideo – THAT is my fave…

  9. I knew this building as the headquarters of the United States Lines steamship company. My father was skipper of the SS American Reporter (and other ships) for that company, and, in the 1950s, when he returned from a voyage, I would pick him up at the pier in Manhattan and drive him to One Broadway to file his voyage papers. The International Mercantile Marine Company folded in the early 1940s and United States Lines inherited the building and some ships from them. Glad that it is still standing and in good repair. US LInes operated the famous ocean liner SS United States, the fastest ship in the world (and still holds that record), which is now owned by the SS Unites States Conservancy, which is trying to raise money to preserve her. See http://www.ssunitedstatesconservancy.org/ for more information.

  10. they say that the interior courtyard was not altered when they applied a new limestone surface during the 1922 remodeling. I would love to see pictures of that courtyard, if anyone has same. Arnie

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