TUNNEL GARAGE and what it became

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Back in 2006, I lamented the impending loss of the Tunnel Garage, Manhattan’s first parking garage, at Thompson and Broome Streets, thusly:

The Tunnel Garage was constructed in 1922 by architect Hector Hamilton. The Holland Tunnel’s construction was already well underway by the time it opened, and the garage’s builders were anticipating brisk business when the tunnel opened to traffic, which it finally did in 1927. It’s often thought that the name of the Holland Tunnel commemorates the Dutch, who founded NYC as New Amsterdam in 1626. Actually it was named for Chief Engineer Clifford Milburn Holland, who died the day before workers tunnelling from New York and New Jersey met under the riverbed of the Hudson River. The garage did well even before the tunnel opened, since 7th Avenue had recently been extended south along IRT subway construction and was now a through route with Varick. Soon after the garage opened, Sixth Avenue would similarly be extended south to Church Street.

I found its huge ceramic plate depicting a 1920s-era car running through the tunnel fascinating, as well as the never-duplicated industrial-style typefont used to identify the building. Pleas from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to save the building fell on deaf ears and the old classic was unceremoniously demolished in the spring of 2006.

 

After what seemed like an endless period of construction, the chi-chi luxury rental building 55 Thompson has arisen in its place. The contours of the new building, especially the rounded corners and paneled windows, are somewhat echoic of the old garage.

And, the old medallion showing the car running through the tunnel has been saved, though not in an area open to the public:

To understand how much Soho has changed over the years, one need not look further than the corner of Broome and Thompson Streets. There, the Tunnel Garage—New York’s first indoor parking garage (circa 1920)—used to stand. Now it’s the rich, not roadsters, that call 55 Thompson Street home. The Tunnel Garage has been replaced by a 9-story, 38-unit luxury rental building, and the garage’s original terracotta medallion of a Ford Model T hangs on the residents’ roof deck like a stuffed moose head in a hunter’s cabin. Symbolic enough for ya? curbed

Directly across the street is a triangle park formed by Thompson, Broome and Watts Streets, featuring what appear to be pieces of twisted metal produced by an accident or car crash. These were originally placed there by artist Bob Bolles in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when this was just a concrete triangle. The city later incorporated them into the park, but they aren’t identified at all.

 

40 Watts Street could stand up to the Tunnel Garage in original grandeur. It was constructed in 1928 as a power company substation, but was apparently meant to echo the garage’s appearance. Like the old garage, it’s now used as a big billboard ad holder. A succession of bars and clubs, and most recently the Red Bull Theatre, have held down the ground floor.

12/18/12

 





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2 Responses to TUNNEL GARAGE and what it became

  1. Carrie says:

    the pieces in the park are by Bob Bolles – we lobbied the city to return more of his work (they carted it all off in a dumpster prior to the park’s creation) and to name the park ‘Bolles Park’ instead of ‘Sunflower Park’
    not sure where the ‘Sunflower’ came from . . .

  2. Carrie says:

    more info on the creation of the park – http://sohomemory.com/tag/bob-bolles/

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