pearlstreetrevival.typepad.com > Pearl Street Photos

Images and information on Pearl Street and the symbolic brickwork.

211 Pearl Symbol

211 Pearl Symbol

Full view of the brickwork symbol. Layers of brickwork were inadvertantly added to the base by the contractor following demolition.


211-215 Pearl Street

211-215 Pearl Street

211-215 Pearl Street (December 2005). 201-209 Pearl St. being prepared for demolition and a new development on the southeast corner of the block.


211Pearl_2000

211Pearl_2000

This image was taken before demolition of the interior. The building's facade includes handmade Flemish bond brickwork. stone lintels, star tie-rods, iron gudgeons and granite piers at the storefront. A peaked roof marks it as a rare early example of the style. 211-215 Pearl is about all that's left from the early Pearl Street dry goods district. The former World Trade Center in the background.


Demolition

Demolition

The interior of 211 Pearl St. was dismantled in the spring of 2002. The beams of the building were purchased by M. Fine Lumber Co. of Brooklyn.


Demolition

Demolition

This photograph was taken near the end of demolition work, and shows the symbol before layers of brickwork were added to the base by contractors. The cloudy effect is a result of it being the last frame of the roll.


Interior Party Wall with Symbolic Brickwork

Interior Party Wall with Symbolic Brickwork

The symbol is located at the storefront level - 16'6" from the storefront granite columns and 10' 4" high (45 brick layers high / 4.5 bricks wide). The brickwork is believed to have been covered with plaster and shows no signs of having been structural (ie. a fireplace flue).


Pearl Street - c. 1835

Pearl Street - c. 1835

Pearl St. was the city and nations first wholesale district. Beginning in the early 1830's, the new neo-Classical 'Counting-House' architecture designed by Ithiel Town lined the blocks of the district. The three buildings at 211-215 Pearl St. are about all that remains.


Pearl Street Mercantile District - 1834

Pearl Street Mercantile District - 1834

Property values on Pearl Street in 1834. Only three structures remain from the center of the early trade district. (Source: Tax Assessment Records - NYC Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers St.)


Symbol Analysis

Symbol Analysis

The building’s interior symbol is located at the storefront level, one vertical layer of bricks mortared to the south party wall. It stands 10’4” high (45 brick rows), 3’3” wide (4.5 bricks) and 16’6” from the storefront granite columns.

The design features three vertically aligned triangular forms. The top and bottom forms are triangular numbers in the sequence 2-5 (top form) and 2-5-8 (bottom form). The bold center triangle is scalene (angles 57, 60 and 63 degrees) with straight-lined sides of protruding mortar. A symmetrical pattern of alternating full and half bricks frame the left and right vertical borders of the installation. There are six and twelve rows of bricks at the top and base; and one and three rows of bricks separating the top and bottom triangles from the center triangle.

How these various elements work together is displayed in the image to the left (and more clearly in the video clips which can be accessed from this website in the near future). A series of 2:1 ratios are directed into a boldly outlined center scalene triangle, a 3:1 ratio; with the arrangement expressing a clear ‘Unity of Opposites’ - and then unity as Trinity in the form of a scalene triangle with proportional sides.

There are, however, further refinements to the basic pattern. Primarily, the upper and lower triangular forms that point into the center scalene triangle do not align with each other. They intersect with the apex and the mid-point of the base of the center triangle respectively, with the direction of their path running parallel to each other and on opposite sides of an intentionally marked mortar gap at the center of the bold middle triangle.

The entire installation is directed into this center. But its proposed that the movement does not stop at a scalene triangle. The interpenetrating forms evolve into a rotating spiral (or sphere), suggested by the incremental opening of the inner angles (57, 60 to 63 degrees) and the kinetic nature of the work.


Symbol Close-Up

Symbol Close-Up

The center triangle is not perfectly equilateral. The three sides are proportional in what appears to be a three degree variance. It is difficult to create this kind of precision in brick, so this appears to be a near exact approximation based on close measurements. Three degrees are also consistant with other elements of threeness or the Trinity that are layered into the work.

Since the top and bottom triangular forms align with the apex and the base respectively, they are not in exact alignment with each other. They do however follow a paralell path that is equidistant from a center point, marked as a broder gap in the middle triangle. It seems impossible to concieve of the center scalene triangle as a brickwork mistake.

The bold mortar border of the middle triangle, the centerpoint gap, the direction of the top and bottom triangular forms and the layered 2:1 ratios all suggest a kinetic movement of the brickwork that points into the middle triangle - and that movement, once again its suggested, continues into a circular rotation.


Symbol Covered Again

Symbol Covered Again

The symbolic brickwork is believed to have been covered over with plaster at the time of construction in 1831-32.


Symbolic Installation

Symbolic Installation

This vertical shot of the symbol displays the layers of brickwork that were added by contractors to the base of the installation following demolition. The angle also makes apparent that this work does not appear to be a structural feature - stopping abruptly at the upper joists and with no evidence of a fireplace opening.


Tappanstore

Tappanstore


William Colgate

William Colgate

211 Pearl St. belonged to William Colgate, the founder of Colgate-Palmolive. A devout Baptist, Mr. Colgate was a founder of the American Bible Society and Colgate University, a leader in the city's volunteer fire department, active in The Society of Mechanics and Tradesman and also lead a rally in support of religious liberty. In the 1830's, he was offered the nomination for Mayor of New York (which he declined). 211 Pearl St. was the highest valued of the soap maker's real estate holdings and one of two (among approx. twenty properties) that he willed to his six children in equal part, with the stipulation that it be held for at least fifteen years.

Although the property is not believed to have been part of Colgate & Co., he did lease space to prominent merchants and civic leaders of the era. These included Seth Low, a founder of Brooklyn, father of the shipping merchant A.A. Low and grandfather of Seth Low II, a mayor of New York and president of Columbia University; and Joshua Scholefield, who was a Brittish Member of Parliament and instrumental in bringing modern democracy to England in the 1830's.

There is currently no evidence that Mr. Colgate or a family member belonged to a Masonic lodge in New York. His wife, Mary Colgate, was a trained artist who had traveled to England as a young woman. Robert Colgate, Samuel Colgate and James B. Colgate, were also active in religious and civic institutions, helping to found the Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.