One of the New York’s Earliest Holdouts

December 10, 2018

In the second half of the 19th Century, the small Worth Hotel stood where the Townsend is today and the elegant, very famous St. James Hotel was located at the site of the St. James.

The Worth was owned by the Townsend family who decided to replace the hotel with a larger commercial building. They hoped to purchase the two adjoining brownstones to add to the building site. The brownstone nearest their building agreed, but the second brownstone was owned by Edward T. King, who held out. The design and building of the Townsend proceeded without King’s property. The St. James Hotel, at the other end of the block, was purchased by Joseph and Abraham Pennock, who planned a second office building on the block. They too approached King to incorporate his property into their site, but again he refused.

That’s how 1129 Broadway became one of the first holdouts in New York City history, and for a few years the five-story brownstone was wedged between a 12-story building and 16-story building.

King should have realized the neighborhood was changing as residents, hotels, and private clubs began moving further uptown and businesses increasingly took their place. It was only a short time before the family recognized their mistake. Less than 12 years after the Townsend and St. James were finished, the Pittsburg Life and Trust Company persuaded the Kings to sell. The brownstone was immediately torn down, and the one-story building that is now on the site was built. (You can still see the white ghost of the old King brownstone on the sides of 1123 and 1133.)

Now housing Num Pang, this one-story building was originally occupied by the renowned and popular Carl H. Schultz mineral water shop at “The Sign of the Siphon.” Schultz was famous for his artificially flavored waters and patrons could enjoy their drinks in long-stemmed glasses served from marble counters decorated with Tiffany lamps. Just across the store a wooden bar, putatively from the then recently demolished Fifth Avenue Hotel, served ice cream sodas and egg creams.

Since 1952, all three buildings have been under Kew ownership. In an ironic twist, a passage was created across the roof of the one-story “holdout” in the 1980s, connecting the Townsend and St. James. And despite the frustration of the original builders, the King holdout enforced a space between the two tall buildings providing today’s tenants with more light and air than they would have had if the buildings abutted each other as the Townsends and Pennocks had hoped.