The Haughwout – where Royalty and Presidents Shopped for China

The Haughwout Building is one of the city’s most stunning cast-iron buildings. Its two cast-iron street fronts create a majestic visual effect achieved by the multitude of repeating columns. These facades make the Haughwout stand out among other cast-iron structures, which usually have just one cast-iron front attached to a brick framework.

Technologically, cast-iron was a new word in building construction, but aesthetically, it looked back to traditional architectural styles. The Haughwout Building was inspired by a Renaissance masterpiece – the 1536 Sansovino Library in Venice.

E. V. Haughwout was one of the nation’s most esteemed and wealthy merchants dealing in porcelain and china, and he built the Haughwout to house his fashionable emporium. The business, which started with importing fine china, grew into a major manufacturing operation that even provided custom individual designs for its high-end patrons.

The Czar of Russia, Alexander II, acquired china for his royal table at the Haughwouts. The Imam of Muscat (present-day Oman and parts of the United Arab Emirates) purchased chandeliers to illuminate the royal harem. When the Lincolns moved to the White House, Mary Todd Lincoln personally traveled from Washington, DC to New York City to obtain official White House china from the Haughwout Emporium.

The pedigree of Haughwout’s customers was not its only bragging point. The Haughwout Building housed the world’s first passenger elevator! E. V. Haughwout hired Elijah Armstrong Otis, the founder of Otis Elevators, to install his newly created safety elevator in his newly created emporium. Although the five-story structure didn’t require an elevator, it was used to attract awestruck customers who came to the store just to ride it.

It’s hard to imagine Mrs. Lincoln riding an elevator, but if it ever happened, it must have been at the Haughwout.

Location: 488-492 Broadway at Broom Street
Built: 1857
Architect: John P. Gaynor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s