Vintage New York: The Cable Building

by - September 24, 2014

A Vintage Nerd

I thought it was so neat when I found out the workshop I attended this past weekend was going to be at The Cable Building. First of all I didn't even know it was called that and secondly, I must have passed that building hundreds of times in the past twenty years. I found it so ironic that my workshop was going to be inside because although I have been inside the building, I never went inside the office parts of the building.

I started going to Angelika Movie Theater back in 1993 when I was seventeen years old. They show Independent films there and it holds a lot of memories for me. That's how long I have been going into that building, of course not realizing what it was. Angelika is at the side of the building and now Crate & Barrel store is at the front. In between they have heaps of office and conference space. It is huge and incredibly beautiful.

It is located at 611 Broadway by Houston Street. It was built between 1892-1894 and has a steel and iron  frame structure with brick, stone, and terra-cotta facing. The Cable Building was designed by Stanford White, a partner in McKim, Mead & White, the preeminent American architectural firm at the turn of the twentieth century. The Cable Building was originally the headquarters and power station for the Metropolitan Traction Company, one of the city's cable car companies.

$12 million was spent on a cable car railway system to move cars on Broadway from Bowling Green in the Battery to 36th Street. It was the most expensive system on a per-mile basis of any in the nation. When it became operational in the summer of 1893 it included 125 cable cars and served 100,000 daily passengers. The building's basement, which had been excavated 46' under the street surface, housed four 32-foot winding wheels that carried the cables that pulled the cable streetcars.

Here is what a typical cable car looked like in New York:

NYC Cable Car

The Cable Building

The Cable Building as it is now: 

The Cable Building
The Cable Building

By 1999 it was designated as part of the NoHo Historic District in 1999 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. So it is now a landmark. 

Have you passed by a building over and over again and wondered about its history? Do you have many landmark buildings where you live?


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2 comments

  1. That is one beautiful building! There aren't a ton of historic buildings where I live, but there are quite a few places that are important to local history and I work in a 1950's building that's on the National Register of Historic Places. :)

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  2. How beautiful! We have a neat art deco building in our town and while I know some about it I have never read up on all of the history. I'd love to go in it someday but it's not used much anymore. It was a medical clinic to start with and until 1980 but it closed (I want to say it had asbestos), now there are some offices in there.

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