14 Maiden Lane
1894 rendering from the Real Estate Records and Builders' Guide
|Type||Residential (formerly offices)|
|Address||14 Maiden Lane|
|Town or city||New York|
|Height||120 feet (37 m)|
|Structural system||Wall-braced cage|
|Material||Steel, iron and brick|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Gilbert A. Schellenger|
|Developer||Boehm & Coon|
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the area around Maiden Lane and John Street became home to a number of early skyscrapers built speculatively to house businesses attracted to the booming financial district, which was expanding north. Maiden Lane was already established as the center of the city's jewelry district as early as 1795, and the area near Broadway was a busy shopping district. In 1892, Manhattan real-estate developers Abraham Boehm and Lewis Coon announced that they had acquired the property at 14 Maiden Lane and intended to demolish the existing structure, replacing it with a ten-story tower specifically intended for the diamond trade. At the time, the planned building would be among the tallest in the city, as elevators and new building techniques permitted ever higher construction and the city's rapid growth created an insatiable real-estate market.
Design and construction
Boehm and Coon hired prolific New York City architect Gilbert A. Schellenger to design the building for the specific requirements of diamond merchants and jewelers. The building was of fireproof construction, with a cast-iron and steel frame, and hollow-brick floor arches. The frame and floors were made unusually strong in order to accommodate the heavy safes required by the trade, large windows provided ample daylight, augmented by gas and electric lights, and the facade was ornately decorated. Constrained by the narrow 23.5 feet (7.2 m) lot, Schellenger emphasized the building's slenderness with three slim brick colonnettes flanking the large bay windows on the building's face. The tall, narrow building towered over the older, neighboring structures.
Cast-iron and steel construction were both relatively new techniques, and construction of the Diamond Exchange suffered a major setback in October 1893 when a powerful windstorm caused the incomplete cage to shift about 10 inches (250 mm) from plumb. The problem was eventually traced back to oversized holes in splices on the cast-iron columns. Each new story added to the cage permitted additional movement, and the force of the wind was sufficient to cause the whole structure to tilt. To resolve the problem, the builders were forced to install "knee braces" at the ceiling line of each story, converting the original unbraced cage to a braced design. In 1904 the same flaw lead to the collapse of the eleven-story Darlington Hotel, also in New York, which killed 25 construction workers.
Construction was completed in 1894 and the building was occupied by jewelers and diamond dealers. The ground floor, decorated in polished granite, was leased to retail tenants; in 1915 it became home to Tessaro's, a dealer in rare books. One year after it was completed, the developers sold the building for $375,000 (it had cost approximately $275,000 to build).
While many early skyscrapers have been demolished or dwarfed by modern neighbors, the Diamond Exchange, as of 2016[update], still stands above the adjacent buildings. In 1920, the buildings to the east were destroyed in a fire which killed several people. The buildings to the west were demolished in 2015 to make way for a planned hotel.
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