EHRICH BUILDING, Chelsea, 1983

by Kevin Walsh

I am no stranger to the east end of Chelsea, 6th Avenue in the West 20s. This is smack in the middle of what used to be called Ladies’ Mile, when huge Beaux Arts buildings bulging with clothing and housewares clustered along the 6th Avenue El, which was razed in the late 1930s. The stores moved out, leaving the emporia as huge hulks that filled with storage, wholesalers and small offices.

I first worked in the area in 1981 when I was employed in a small textbook printer on 5th Avenue and 20th Street. I returned in 1988 when I was toiling at a small type shop on West 29th that printed material in every language, including Russian (I typeset and proofread, letter by letter, every language except the material printed with Cyrillic). I came back again from 2000-2004 when I was slaving in the bullpen at the World’s Biggest Store at 7th and West 34th. I’m quite familiar with the area’s evolution.

Here’s a NYC Municipal Archives photo of the Ehrich Building at 6th Avenue and West 22nd. It’s been renovated and now has upscale shops and eateries on the ground floor, and I have bought a suit at Burlington Coat Factory on the second floor. With the demise of Penn Station’s K Mart, Burlington may become my go to spot for shirts, pants and underwear.

If you look carefully, you can see several wholesale shoe stores on the ground floor. In the 1970s and early 1980s — and I don’t know how many years before this — this was NYC’s shoe wholesaling capital.

The Ehrich Building is notable for its collection of mosaic and terra-cotta K’s that you can see on 6th Avenue as well as West 22nd and 23rd Streets. Ehrich doesn’t begin with K, so what gives?  This dates to the era when the building was purchased by Chicago merchants J.L. Kesner Company in 1911, who hired architects Taylor and Levi to add all the letter K’s. You can see them on this FNY page.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Peter March 18, 2021 - 12:55 pm

You won’t have to worry about Burlington Coat Factory going bust. It is one of the Big Three clothing discounters, along with TJMaxx and Ross (which is no closer to NY than central New Jersey), and for all the chatter about the Retail Apocalypse all three are doing very well.

chris brady March 18, 2021 - 4:03 pm

Though this is not really about that bldg. we all took a tour of the Daily News printing plant where we saw the linotype machines
being fed lead blocks in one end and out the other came “News” type.The operators typed out our names but when we took them home
and tried to print our names it didnt work because it only worked with certin type ink,not stamp pad ink,a letdown.Thjat was in 1971.There was a strike
later on concerning the linotype operators,one could say that it was an example of union featherbedding whatevber,mgmt. won.
Father Ambrose,SJ knew someone at the News thats how we got the tour of the plant.He later presided at my brothers and Dads funerals.
It sure pays to know a Jesuit even though you might no longer be a Catholic

Edward March 19, 2021 - 8:25 pm

It never ceases to amaze me how utterly shabby NYC was in the 1970s and ’80s. I often forget that until I see pics from the era. Also dig that 1980-83 Dodge Diplomat/Chrysler LeBaron/Plymouth Gran Fury police cruiser. Can’t tell if it’s the Dodge, Chrysler or Plymouth version from so far away (NYPD used all three models in the early ’80s).


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