And the third in a series of posts about our day out to the Lower East Side. This time it’s about the mysterious building on the corner of Bowery and Spring Street. We went by it on the way the Pickle Day and stopped short to gaze up at this graffiti clad vast old building that was once a bank. You can see from the pictures below that in its day it was very grand and imposing. The front steps retain their iron gates and the pillars are grand and imposing. The graffiti is awful.
I was intrigued. What on earth was this place. As usual, the Internet turns up the answer pretty quick. It was the home of the Germania Bank, built in the late 19th Century. The area was home to a large German population at the time and I’m sure it would have been as imposing then as it is now. Incredibly it is the home of one family, the Maisels. Jay Maisel is an artist who bought the bank for $100,000 in 1966 and has lived there ever since. He uses the space for his own art and has rented it out to other artists, including, impressively, Roy Lichtenstein. There’s a really good article from 2008 in New York Magazine, so I won’t go into any more detail here. Read it, it’s really good and the pictures are great.
As for Mr Maisel, he says he gets approached by real estate agents all the time and he has had to put a website up called 190thebowery.com to try and stop them as he has no interest in selling. New York Magazine asked agents to put a price on the 30,000+ square foot building. These topped out at $50 million and that was five years ago. New York is in the grip of a property boom right now, so heaven knows what those estimates would look like now.
So why doesn’t Maisel sell and realise his investment all those years ago? ‘Where am I going to live? A three bed apartment?’. Fair point. Not sure I’d fancy it, he and his wife have to clean up the sidewalk every day as they are responsible for it. Doubt that’s a pretty sight after a Saturday night.