Saturday, September 17, 2011

Equitable Block Complete After Forty Years' Buying.

January 14, 1906, NYT,
First News of Another Deal, Made Over a Year Ago, Brought Out by Purchase of 17 Nassau Street -- Prices Paid for Various Parcels in the Block

As marking the close of a real estate buying project that has covered forty years, last week's purchase of 17 Nassau Street by the Equitable Life was a happening of no little interest. It had become so much a matter of habit to speak of the "Equitable Block" that probably not one real estate man in a hundred knew before last Thursday morning that there was one small parcel which prevented this expression from being the exact, literal truth.

Furthermore, in the gossip which went the rounds last week as the result of the purchase of 17 Nassau Street the interesting fact was developed, but not hitherto made public, that it was only a little over a year ago that the Equitable bought the Nassau and Cedar Street corner of the block, a plot 45.5 by 87.7, upon which stands the building largely occupied by August Belmont & Co. This property was sold to the Equitable in September, 1904, through Horace S. Ely & Co., and was deeded to the society, but the instruments have never been recorded. Prior to that time title to the property was vested in Frederick G. Mead and another.

The announcement by John N. Golding concerning the sale of 17 Nassau Street was disappointingly silent on the subject of price. The lot measures 25 by 80---2,000 square feet---and there are few downtown experts prepared to believe that it brought less than $500,000, or $250 a square foot.

It is not likely that the Equitable Trustees have given any serious consideration to the scheme for erecting a new building on the block, an undertaking which was talked of a good deal two or three years ago at the time when the society bought the Trinity Building property. Indeed, the chief reason for the purchase of the latter site was said to be the necessity of providing quarters for the society while its older property was in process of improvement, but whatever the reason, it will be recalled that the Equitable tired of its Trinity Building bargain after a few months, and handed the property back to the United States Realty Company, thus ending for the time all talk of a new Equitable Building.

That the present massive and costly structure will sooner or later give way to a modern building seems beyond question. The remark made by one of the best known skyscraper constructors in the country, that the materials in the Equitable Building, if they could be recast into a modern steel skeleton structure, ought to inclose about three times as much space as they do to-day, puts the whole matter in a nutshell. The completion of the Trinity Building and its duplicate on the Boreel site may also serve to impress upon the Equitable offciers the possibilities of their plot on the opposite side of Broadway.

It is almost forty years to a day since the Equitable Life made its first purchase in the block bounded by Broadway, Nassau, Pine, and Cedar Streets.

The deed covering the properties, then known as 116 and 118 Broadway, was dated Jan. 5, 1866. These buildings had a Broadway frontage of about 53 feet, beginning 33.6 feet south of Cedar Street, and extending around the latter thoroughfare at the rear, with a frontage of 22 feet. The area of the plot was about 5,600 square feet, and the consideration stated in the deed was $375,000, or about $67 a square foot. The adjoining parcels on Cedar Street, on plot 44.4 by 71, were secured a few days later by a deed dated Jan. 17, 1866. The consideration was $90,000, or about $32 a square foot.

The immediate corner of Broadway and Cedar Street, 33 by 70, did not pass into the company's possession until 1868, the transfer being made for a nominal consideration. The company then controlled frontages of 86.8 feet on Broadway and about 137 feet on Cedar Street.

An interval of six years followed with no additions to the site. In 1874 Gen. Daniel Butterfield conveyed to the Equitable Life 112 and 114 Broadway, adjoining its previous holdings on the south and extending to within 43 feet of the Pine Street corner. Gen. Butterfield's property measured 38.3 by 143 by 35 by 150, and was sold for $302,887---at the rate of $35 a square foot.* [NOTE: Must be a, um, mistake. It is either one or the other dimension. Using the larger, 35 x 150, equals a plot of 5,250 square feet, which would come to a cost of $57.69 per, which is much more in keeping with such a large and fine building along Broadway, rather than mid-block sites on Cedar or Pine. This is not to say that the stated price paid the New York Life for the building is anything like honestly reported. Maybe they "slipped in a mortgage," to use Mr. Hyde's language, on some unrelated property to equalize the deal..] In the same year further purchases were also made on Cedar Street, as well as the first purchase on Pine Street. No. 12 Pine Street, about 80 feet west of Nassau Street, was bougt, together with an abutting parcel, having a frontage of 64 feet on the south side of Cedar Street. These properties were conveyed in April, 1874, by Theodore Weston, the consideration for them all being $319,000.

A year later as intervening property on Cedar Street was secured, completing the Equitable's ownership of all the buildings on the south side of that thoroughfare, extending east 221 feet from the Broadway corner and to within 88 feet of Nassau Street, or up to the plot which, as already stated, was bought only about a year ago.

In 1886, 19 and 21 Nassau Street, midway between Pine and Cedar Streets, where the Nassau Street entrance of the Equitable Building is to-day, were secured, the deeds in both cases containing only nominal prices. The then remaining properties in the block were the Nassau and Cedar Street corner, the old Clearing House on the Pine Street corner, and the adjoining building, 17 Nassau Street.

The Clearing House corner, 37.6 by 80.3, was transferred early in 1896, by the trustees of that institution, to James G. Wallace for $725,000, and conveyed by him a few months later to John E. Searles, then Treasurer of the American Sugar Refining Company, for $740,000. The transfer from Mr. Searles to the Equitable was made a year later, for a nominal consideration. On the basis of the price paid by Mr. Searles, the square foot rate for this corner figures down to about $253, or just about what was paid last week for the adjoining inside lot.

In this connection it may be pointed out that this inside parcel on Nassau Street brought over 50 per cent. more a square foot than did the corner of Broadway and Pine Street twenty years ago, and nearly five time as much as was paid for property on the Broadway side of the block twenty-eight years ago.

April 27, 1879, NYT,
Down-town merchants and the owners of property in streets south of the City Hall are manifesting more feeling from day to day against the schemes of the elevated railway managers to confiscate thoroughfares in the lower part of the City for no other purpose than the benefiting of certain special interests. The lack of any public necessity for taking possession of more down-town streets has been apparent from the outset.
W. A. CAMP, manager New-York Clearing-house, owner, No. 15 Nassau-street.
JOHN SCHERMERHORN, owner, No. 17 Nassau-street.
F.W. BLOODGOOD, owner, No. 19 Nassau-street
W.H. GEBHARD, owner, No. 21 Nassau-street
G. MEAD TOOKER, Executor, owner, Nos. 23 and 25 Nassau-street (Belmont Building)

Jan. 13, 1906, The Weekly Underwriter, page 30,
By the purchase this week of the seven story office building at No. 17 Nassau street, owned by John E. Schermerhorn, the Equitable Life came into possession of the entire block bounded by Broadway, Nassau, Cedar and Pine streets, estimated to be worth $20,000,000. It has taken the society thirtyfive years to acquire the block. It is reported that the company contemplates building a big skyscraper on the site in the near future.

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