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ICYMI: A Look Back at the Silk Exchange Building

SoHo Broadway History: Iconic 487 Broadway’s history as the epicenter of an industry

One of the most visually stunning buildings along SoHo Broadway, the Silk Exchange Building at 487 Broadway was built in 1894 by real estate developer, architect, and contractor John Townsend Williams. Williams would go on to sell the building only four years later to James B. Haggin for $850,000.00.

Top: Looking west on Broome Street from Broadway to Mercer Street ca. 1983 (photo: Edmund Vincent Gillon via Museum of the City of New York)
Above: A clipping from the July 6, 1899 issue of the San Francisco Call

The 12-story Silk Exchange Building sits on a lot that is only 28 feet wide but 200 feet deep, running the full length of Broome Street between Broadway and Mercer. At eye-level, the rather unadorned limestone base does not turn heads, but look up and you will see intricate terra cotta work on the upper floors. This lavish ornamentation and the building’s long, narrow shape set it apart from its neighbors. The building has often been compared to a wedding cake because of its intricate decoration.

Detail of the upper floors of the Silk Exchange Building, also known as the Haggin Building (photo: Alice Lum)

The Silk Exchange Building got its name from its former tenants, among whom were the Phoenix Silk Manufacturing Company, Cheney Brothers, William Ryle & Co., Nonotuck Silk Company, Belding Brothers’ Company, Sauguoil Silk Manufacturing Company, William Schroeder & Co., Liberty Silk Company, W. Guerin et Fils, Pelgram & Meyer and E. Geili & Co., according to Daytonian in Manhattan.

Also in residence was the Silk Association of America, which moved out in the early part of the 20th century, following its members uptown. Soon thereafter, no silk merchants remained in the building, but the name stuck until 1985 when it was renamed the Haggin Building (though many still refer to it as the Silk Exchange Building). The building includes 25 live/work units and a commercial space.

In recent years, the Haggin Building’s commercial tenants have been Buffalo David Bitton, Via Spiga, Jack’s Warehouse & Sample Sale, U.S. Polo Assn, Live! and presently Polène.

Yukie Ohta is founder of SoHo Memory Project.

Editor’s Note:  The Look Back series is on hiatus during this month. We hope you enjoyed this previous article from the series.

Take a ‘Look Back’ at previous articles in this series

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