109 West 17th Street is a handsome brick building just west of 6th Avenue, just south of Ladies’ Mile and its grand department stores, or at least the buildings that hosted them. When I first encountered it in 1999, there was a door treatment store on the ground floor; now there’s a gourmet cooking school and caterer called Haven’s Kitchen. Especially notable are the thin arched windows on the 2nd and 3rd floors and the thin arched doorways on the ground floor. But I’ve known for some time hat there’s something else very special about this building.
As many as 130 years ago, this was a building where horse-drawn carriages were rented out, and two panels on the second floor still have faded, but legible ad script. “To Let” is an old phrase meaning “for rent”; a coupé was a short carriage that was minus its two rear seats; and a hansom cab was a light vehicle that could be drawn by a single horse and was invented by Joseph Hansom in York, England in 1834.
A victoria was a stylish light carriage that originated in France and imported to England and the rest of the world in the 1860s, likely named for the British monarch during the period, while a wagon was the equivalent to today’s pickup truck, a vehicle drawn by horses that carried relatively light loads.
The script also advertises “horses taken in, board by the month.” Thus carriages could be rented here but horses were also stabled in this handsome building from what is now NYC’s distant past.
You may recall that I’ve featured these signs in FNY before, but this was the first time I’ve been by with an 18X zoom camera and I’ve gotten the best photos yet. This is not a landmarked block, but I think this building, and its carriage relics, are safe for the nonce.