Recognized in Passing, Part II

Mott Street at Canal, c 1905
Mott Street at Canal, 2013
Not my most elegant post, perhaps, but it makes up with raw enthusiasm what it lacks in style. I happened to be down in Chinatown, crossing Mott street where it meets the Bowery, and stopped in my tracks. I recognized the view. I knew I had stashed away a vintage image (by way of Shorpy, "the 100 year old photo blog.") of a funeral processing down that very stretch of street, c. 1905. Once you study it, you realize quite a few of the buildings remain, they're just encrusted with a visual blight of signs, altered by bad storefronts and obscured by a welter of street furniture. And of course the cars.

In the first 2 photos, the building at far left with arched windows even retains the shutters and the very same fire escape. Further on (second from bottom photo comparison) you'll see the 2 tenements with ornate cornices as well as their plainer neighbors and the church remain. The Church steeple has lost its ring of tiny dormer clerestory windows on the slanted roof but its otherwise unchanged.

Most puzzling is the fate of the building mid-block on the left, identified in the vintage shot as #5, the Imperial Restaurant. It has beautiful ornate iron grillework on the second story balcony and is hung with paper lanterns. On street level is a pagoda-style entry. It's a 6 story building. Today the stunted yellow structure at number 5 stands only 4 stories tall. Oddly, it too is a restaurant ("Buddha Bodai Nature Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant") and has a second floor balcony, but for no apparent reason. Could it be a remnant of the former building left during remodelling—rather than a new building? Nothing about 5 Mott Street seems particularly logical or planned (a blocked up 4th floor for instance) which led me to think it might be the original building, with an expedient, rather than sensitive, overhaul. A quick look on Emporis lists the construction date as 1910. Although thats notoriously unreliable it does indicate the building is "old." Further research finds the building was described as "new" in 1903. The image, bottom, from the Museum of the City of NY shows the building, full height, in 1940.

Check out my previous Recognized in Passing with Elizabeth Street.

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