2549 Broadway

View of 2549 Broadway from east; Image Courtesy NYC Municipal Archive 

2549 Broadway

by Tom Miller

In December 1906, William Waldorf Astor sold the vacant lot at 2549 Broadway, between 95th and 96th Streets.  It was quickly resold to real estate operators Gillies Brothers, who hired architect Henri Fouchaux to erect a one-story commercial building on the site.  The little structure would be home to the Tashjian Carpet Cleaning Company for years.

It appears that the Gillie Brothers never intended the single-story structure to be permanent.  In 1920, they demolished it and hired architects B. H. & C. N. Whinston to design a “two-story store and office building.”  The structure, completed in 1922, cost its owners $30,000 to construct, or about $525,000 in 2023.

…the Gillie Brothers never intended the single-story structure to be permanent.

The architects drew on the waning Arts & Crafts style.  Faced in beige brick, the decorative elements—the pilasters and entablature of the second-floor openings, two blind rondels, and a stepped parapet—were executed in brick.  The ground floor became home to the Toddle Inn Restaurant, run by the Chase Commissary Corp., while upstairs was the beauty salon of Paul Fisher.

The 1920s was a time for bobbed and waved hair for women.  On June 14, 1922, The New York Evening Post wrote, “Paul Fisher, the undulating Permanent Waver of 2549 Broadway—‘Atop of Toddle Inn’ says his letterhead—writes persuasively to one of our female clients, ‘Never before has a long dreary winter inspired the profession of permanent wavers to bigger and better changes for the comfort of ladies.’”

Lloyd Acker Elevation

Image by Lloyd Acker, Courtesy Office for Metropolitan History, ca. 1938

Lloyd Acker Elevation

Image by Lloyd Acker, Courtesy Office for Metropolitan History, ca. 1939

Lloyd Acker Elevation

Image by Lloyd Acker, Courtesy Office for Metropolitan History, ca. 1954

The Toddle Inn remained here through the mid-1930s.  Then, on July 20, 1938, Frank E. Gillies leased the ground floor to Ferlan, Inc. for 21 years.  Ferlan’s “Self Service” Department Store initially took over both floors, selling items costing from one cent to one dollar.  A Depression-Era general store, it sold cigarettes, groceries, housewares, toilet goods, and notions.  Orders over $3 qualified for delivery service.

In 1941 a “for rent” sign hung in the second-story window, while Ferlan’s continued to operate from the ground floor.  The Vienna Tea Room subleased the second floor, as did the Holland Club.  Then, in 1948, a long-term tenant moved in.  John J. Dickerson, Inc. was a real estate company.  Dickerson handled every aspect of real estate—leasing and selling, managing, appraising, and insuring properties.  In addition, he owned and managed his own buildings.  Like Ferlan’s Department Store, he would remain well into the 1960s.

 “Inspection revealed there was no heating system…”

John J. Dickerson Realty found itself in trouble in the fall of 1959.  In a drive to improve housing conditions in Harlem, Borough President Hulan Jack personally inspected apartment buildings there.  On November 7, The New York Age reported during one tour that residents insisted he inspect a building not on his list, at 329 W. 127th Street.  The newspaper reported, “Inspection revealed there was no heating system,” and added, “Commissioner Birns said that a summons would be issued against the owners, John J. Dickerson Realty, at 2549 Broadway.”

In 1972, the building was renovated to accommodate an “eating and drinking” establishment on the ground floor.  The Department of Buildings noted, “second floor to remain vacant.”  Home to a McDonald’s franchise, a modern storefront was installed, and a faux brick covering disguised the real brick façade of the second floor.  The building was renovated again in 2012 when the restaurant extended into the second floor.  The ground floor received a new front, and the second story was given vast plate glass windows and a slatted facing.

Tom Miller is a social historian and blogger at daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com


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