Former Ridley & Sons Department Store Buildings Designated as an Individual Landmark, Awaiting Full Council Approval [Update: Designation Approved By Full Council]

Edward Ridley & Sons Department Store Buildings. Credit: Christopher D. Brazee (2012).

Lower East Side department store, closed since 1901, approved for designation after adjacent property removed from consideration. On December 6, 2012, the New York City Council’s Land Use Committee voted to approve the designation of the former Edward Ridley & Sons Department Store Buildings. They voted to approve the designation after its Council’s Subcommittee on Landmark’s, Public Siting & Maritime Uses hearing on December 4, 2012.  Located at 315-317 Grand Street and 319-321 Grand Street, the buildings had been designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on September 11, 2012.

Ridley & Sons was established in 1848 by Edward Ridley, and grew to become the largest department store on the Lower East Side. The adjoining properties at 315-317 and 319-321 Grand Streets were commissioned by Edward Ridley’s sons in 1886 as part of the store’s expansion. The classical revival-style structures were designed by architect Paul F. Schoen. Schoen used a combination of brick, stone, and cast iron facades. 319-321 Grand Street’s rounded corner, where Grand and Orchard Streets meet, served as a major entrance and was intended to increase the store’s visibility from trolley cars traveling west from the Grand Street-Williamsburg ferry. By 1889, the store employed about 2,500 people, including many women, local residents and recent immigrants. The store closed in 1901 due to failing sales. In the early 1930’s, Allen Street was expanded and the building next to 315-317 Grand Street was demolished making it the new corner building. A new west wall was erected with tan brickwork in the Art Deco style by architect John N. Linn.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held its first hearing on Ridley & Sons on June 23, 2009. Four people testified in support of designation, including then local Council Member Alan Gerson, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and the Historic Districts Council. A second hearing was held on June 22, 2010 in order to consider whether to include 59-63 Orchard Street as part of the Landmark designation. Two representatives of the owner of 315-317 Grand Street and 59-63 Orchard Street spoke against the designation. On September 11, 2012, the Landmarks Commission approved designation without the inclusion of 59-63 Orchard Street. Chair Robert B. Tierney said this gave the Commissioner an opportunity to save one of the few cast iron buildings on the Lower East Side and a surviving reminder of the “heyday” of the Ridley department store. The owner, Alfred I. Goldman, changing his stance, now favored the designation.

Rendering of Edward Ridley & Sons Department Store in 1886. Image Courtesy: LPC.

On December 4, 2012, prior to the subcommittee vote, Council Member Brad Lander questioned what issues surrounded the inclusion and subsequent removal of 59-63 Orchard Street from the Landmark proposal. Jenny Fernandez, Director of Intergovernmental and Community Relations for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, stated that the property on Lot 16 (59-63 Orchard Street) was not part of the original same buildings on Lots 14 and 15 (315-317 & 319-321 Grand Street) and only dated back to the 1930’s. It was determined after further research and review, that Lot 16 did not warrant Landmark consideration. Mitchell Grubler and Joyce Mendelsohn of the Friends of the Lower East Side, nonetheless, spoke in favor of designation at the Council hearing.

The Landmarks Commission and both City Council committees voted unanimously for designation of the two Grand Street sites. The full City Council is expected to vote in approval of designation on December 10, 2012.

Council: Edward Ridley & Sons Department Store (N 130075 HKMlandmark designation) (December 6, 2012).


Update: (12/10/2012) – On December 10, 2012, the full City Council approved the landmark designation by a vote of 46-0.

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