apexart :: Maureen Connor :: Building Histories

Building Histories
curated by Maureen Connor

The history of 291 Church Street, the building that houses apexart, is both typical of Tribeca loft buildings and unique in its historical usage by artists. This show presents work that addresses and reflects this history.

October 14 - November 13, 1999

291 Church St. New York, NY 10013

Artists: Arthur Cohen, Carrie Cooperider, Josiah McElhenny, Margaret Morgan, Repo History, Haim Steinbach, David Wells and Martha Wilson

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Chronology of 291 Church St. (originally 197, Street was renumbered in1890s; number is still visible on front of building) and other related events.

1700 291 Church property part of large tract of land called Trinity Farms, sometimes called Kings Farms.
1702 Yellow Fever outbreak- more than 500 died
1711 Slave market opens at Wall St. and East River.
1734 Anthony Rutgers leases swamp/ wetlands which contains 291Church property.
1735 Rutgers granted title to lease land and swamp is drained for cultivation;
mansion and formal grounds are constructed and named Ranelagh Gardens; 291 Church St. property is located within this mansion/ garden area; remaining property used as farmland.
1741 Great Slave Conspiracy. Thirteen slaves burnt at the stake; eighteen hanged; seventy others sold elsewhere.
1755 Rutgers’ daughter Elsie marries Leonard Lispenard, leaseholder of a tract belonging to Trinity Church just adjacent to the Rutgers Estate and combined lands become Lispenard Meadows; continues as farmland.
1765- 1793 Opening of Ranelagh Gardens, the original Rutgers mansion and grounds, as a “resort” area where people could go for food, drink and music,
1776-1783 British Occupation of New York , three thousand prostitutes sent over for the troops; Ranelagh Gardens used as headquarters for British officers.
1784 John Jacob Astor arrives in New York and enters fur trade.
1792 Opening of Washing-ton Market in Tribeca, an expansion of a market located further downtown. Became the city’s dominant market until 1965.
1799 Passage of gradual emancipation law
1804 First record of transfer of 291 Church St. property.
1805- 1809 291 Church listed in NY directory as occupied by Abraham Moore, a carpenter, probably used as workshop. During this period people usually lived and worked in the same place.
1812 William Maxwell listed in New York directory at 291 Church; listed in tax records as a two story wood frame house
1813-16 Abraham S. Moore- 291 Church
1819 Abraham S. Moore, Isaac Locus Depression, value on New York real estate and personal property declines.
1820 Property transfer books say property was bought by Naomi Edsall in 1820 but tax listings and NY directory say Isaac Locus, probably a lease with agreement to pay taxes, probably similar to bankruptcy sale
1822-1826 291 Church becomes boarding house. This became common practice in the neighborhood after the depression. Rineer Wortendyck, Amos Ketchum, Abraham Mills lease rooms.
1825 First gas pipes laid in New York
1829-1831 Wortendyck running boarding house
1832- 1836 Wortendyck and F.S. Gozzens; new business venture, combines boarding house with public restaurant
1836-1840 Tableau Vivants enacted by prostitutes (“Art” themes usually biblical or classical) become the preferred form of entertainment for men 1841 John and Gertrude Edsall, Rineer and Catherine Wortendyck, Samuel E. and Mary A. De Groot, Edwin and Naomi Wright are all listed as“Grantors”; actually boarders
1843- 1844 Estate of R. Wortendyck
1845- 1850 land transferred to Naomi Vreeland, daughter of Naomi and Edwin Wright, married to Sylvester Vreeland 1840; S. Vreeland dies 1842, Naomi Vreeland uses inheritance to purchase 291 Church, opens bordello
1848 A.T.Stewart’s Department Store opens designed by architect John Butler Snook; store became celebrated for its spectacular, neo-baroque interiors. also designed 291 Church St. when it was rebuilt in 1877.
1849 First Cast Iron Building erected at corner of Duane and Center Sts.
1849-50 A.T. Stewart’s managers report a number of incidences of shoplifting by bourgeois “ladies”
1853 Textile markets move to Tribeca, also dry goods stores- wholesale & retail, need for larger buildings develops.
1857- 1873 Land transfer lists as sold to Williams Adams but actually sold and then leased again to Naomi Vreeland who continues, her bordello under alias after police raid in 1850
1861 Attack on Fort Sumter, beginning of Civil War
1863 Draft Riots in New York
1868 Harpers Bazaar founded, later to be edited by great granddaughter of Naomi Vreeland (Diana Vreeland).
1873 Depression due to real estate speculation
1875 Condemnation of 291 Church St. by Anthony Comstock and his associates, anti-pornographer, anti-abortionist, determined to rid New York of prostitution. Also condemned many other buildings in the area with related uses. Responsible in part for the enactment of anti-abortion laws in New York.
1876 Land transfer lists as sold to Henry G. Muller who hired John Butler Snook to design a new building. (present 291 Church structure)
1876 Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the telephone.
1877 New, four story loft building with one story, cast iron base and brick-fronted upper section trimmed in stone opened as the Emma Rich Restaurant, patrons were textile and other workers in the area.
1877 Herman Melville visits the Emma Rich Restaurant.
1883 Edison Electric Company provides electricity for its first customers.
1925 George A. Muller (single ) and Emma Muller sold to Henry and Minnie Koener who started importing sponges
1929- 1948 Atlas Sponge Co., Schroeder and Tremayne, Inc. Sponges and Chamois
1949-1951 D. Rich & Co.
1952-1962 Carbon & Graphite Products Co.
Chicago Commutator Co.,D. Rich & Co., Seager Carbon Co., George Antoniello
1964- 1966 Carbon & Graphite Products Co., Kelly Girl, Services, Inc. , Labor Aide Division, Martindale Dust Masks, Seager Standard Carbon Co.
1967-1972 Carbon & Graphite Products Co., Martindale Dust Masks, Seager Standard Carbon Co., Fil-Amer International Co., Mallmont Int’l, Inc., Seager Standard Carbon Co.
1969 New York City Planning Department decides to call “triangle below Canal St.” Tribeca.
1973-75 George Antoniello, Carbon & Graphite Products Co., Martindale Dust Masks, Seager Standard Carbon Co.
1975 Baby Doll Lounge opens on White St. in Tribeca
1976 F. Antoniello
1976 Martha Wilson, Willoughby Sharp, Virginia Piersol, Duff Schweninger move into 112 Franklin St.1977-1979 K. Cox, Nicholas Hollander, P. R. Mazur , B. O’Sullivan, Pola Rapaport
1979 Opening of the Mud Club
1980- 1 F. Antoniello, K. Cox,Delahanty Gallery
1982- 1985 Delahanty
1985-6 Chanterelle Restaurant(4*) opens in Tribeca.
1986- 1987 Delahanty P. Kolansky
1988-89 R.J. Rosen, P. Kolansky
1989-1992 J.L.Auerbach, Ann Luce
1993- Apex
1995 -Baby Doll lounge changes from “Topless Dancers” to “Stopless Dancers” in response to Mayor Giuliani’s crackdown on pornography and sex clubs.
1999 property values reach unprecedented heights, in some cases more than double their value of two years before.

Maureen Connor ©1999

THE HISTORICAL ATLAS OF NEW YORK by Eric Homberger, Henry Holt 1994
TRIBECA HISTORICAL REPORT by Ira Goldfarb, Office of Lower Manhattan Development, Office of the Mayor,City of New York,1973

Related events for Building Histories
Building Histories, curated by Maureen Connor, includes work that addresses and reflects the history of 291 Church Street (the building that houses Apex) and its immediate neighborhood at a moment when both Tribeca and the art world seem to be undergoing a generational shift. The exhibition includes site specific pieces as well as existing works that relate to the exhibition concept. Additional programming, listed below, will be held at Apex on the dates indicated.

Thursdays, October 14, 21, 28, November 4, 11; 5:00 pm

David Wells will present “Exposed Wiring” a slide show series which investigates lighting fixtures in Tribeca

Wednesday, November 3; 7:00 pm
A slide talk by Martha Wilson, Founder of Franklin Furnace

Thursday, November 4; 7:00 pm
A slide talk by Tom Klem, Archivist of REPOhistory

Friday, November 5; 7:30 pm
Screening of Berenice by Michael Gitlin
1996, color, 16mm film, sound, 51 minutes
Berenice is a meditation on a dream of lost plenitude, and its inversion into decay. The events depicted in the film concern the formation and dissolution of a utopian community in 1832, and the psychic and physical disintegration of two members of that community. In an allusion to the interiority of the main character, Berenice, whose flashbacks form the film’s narrating consciousness, the oblique and inward-turning fictive structure gives itself over to delirious visual asides. The film is partially adapted from the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. Additional primary sources used in constructing the film include texts by the 19th Century French utopianist Charles Fourier and the collected letters from Brook Farm.

Wednesday, November 10; 7:30 pm
“History Lessons: Reviewing, Reclaiming, Reinventing U.S. History”
A screening of tapes that are steeped in edgy cultural inquiry, organized by Kathy High
Tara Mateil Cereal 6 min. Les Leveque Flight 7 min.
RT Mark Untitled #29.95 15 min. Shelly Silver small lies, Big Truth 19 min.
Ho Tam Pocahontas: Transworld Remix 4.5 min. Elisabeth Subrin Shulie (1997) 37 min.
Kathy High a new work Jason Livingston The End 3 min.
Keith Sanborn The Zapruter Footage: An Investigation of Consensual Hallucination 15 min.