Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > New York City History > 47. Architectural Iron Works

47.  Architectural Iron Works of New York.  Illustrations of Iron Architecture, Made by the Architectural Iron Works of the City of New York. New York: Baker & Godwin, Printers, 1865. Avery Library, Classics Collection

This catalogue of buildings, storefronts, and architectural elements is a noteworthy example of Avery Library's unrivalled collection of more than ten thousand catalogues from the American building trades. Daniel D. Badger's Architectural Iron Works was one of the larger American foundries producing cast-iron architecture. In 1865 Badger decided to advertise his firm's work with this volume listing its principal productions, including about four hundred buildings and storefronts in New York, but also ones in Richmond, Virginia, and Sacramento, California–not to mention Alexandria, Egypt, and Panama. The book also featured claims for cast iron as a new building material and, most important, 102 lithographic plates of architectural details as well as whole facades, printed by the prominent firm of Sarony Major & Knapp.

Plate III (one of a handful of color plates) shows the E. V. Haughwout Building (1857), designed by architect J. P. Gaynor as an emporium for the sale of glassware, silverware, clocks, and chandeliers, and the first New York City store to have an elevator for customers. The cast-iron facades at the northeast corner of Broadway and Broome Street recall the arched windows set between columns at Venice's Biblioteca Marciana, testimony to Badger's assertion "that whatever architectural forms can be carved or wrought in wood or stone, or other materials, can also be faithfully reproduced in iron." The Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report quotes an architectural historian on the significance: "In this one building are combined the two elements that provided the basis for today's skyscraper–the load-bearing metal frame and the vertical movement of passengers."

In parallel, one might say that in this one publication are combined the elements that provided the basis for the flourishing of trade catalogues for decades to come -- promotional writing and mass printing technology, in the service of prefabricated materials and building parts.

Purchase, 1944

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