A Brief History of M. Schames & Son at 3 Essex

Posted on: December 13th, 2010 at 6:07 am by

Since posting about the relocation of neighborhood paint purveyor M. Schames & Son to 90 Delancey, we’ve been in contact with ownership regarding the origins of their former headquarters at 3 Essex Street.  And it’s quite extensive!  Although the City of New York dates the building to around 1909, the tenement is allegedly much older.

But piecing together this history was difficult.  The Schames descendants know little about the structure prior to 1927, when the family initially acquired the property.  However, the demolition of neighboring 5 Essex Street a year ago revealed some interesting clues about its true age.  Based on the antiquated construction methodologies and materials (hand-forged square head nails, hand-hewn beams, etc.), it appears that the original building could have been constructed as far back as the early 1800s.  In subsequent decades (nay, centuries), the footprint was apparently enlarged, and gradually evolved to its current state.  At present, though, only half of the first floor is believed to be original.

And check out the wooden siding, now visible through the busted sidewalk plywood!

Tragedy struck in 1940, though, when a large fire consumed the building.  Coincidentally, a newspaper photographer just happened to be passing the scene with his camera gear in tow.  His chance encounter with the blaze produced the photo seen above.  Truly amazing that the whole place didn’t explode with the sheer volume of paints and chemicals stored there.  Also, note the firefighter on the move.

[3 Essex Street, Circa 1947]

Now that the plywood perimeter of 5 Essex is completely splintered, we have a clear glimpse of the facade of the old paint store. That large opening now sealed with brick was most likely a Porte-cochère for horse-drawn carriages, which probably led through the building at some point in the distant past. Also visible is some of the antiquated wood cladding of 3 Essex, likely the original supports from way back when.

Schames Paints is open at 90 Delancey.  Support your neighborhood hardware store!

Many thanks to the Schames family for the archival photos and help with their family history.

Recent Stories

forever-stanton-november
ABC’s ‘Forever’ Continues Its Months-Long Filming Residency Today on the Lower East Side

The season-long residency of Forever continues today on the Lower East Side. This ABC production has been headquartered east of Essex Street (between Houston and Delancey) since July. It was around that time that the production transformed 154 Stanton Street – Smart Clothes Gallery – into a faux shop called “Abe’s Antiques.” Four months out, […]

7th-precinct
The 7th Precinct Now Has a Dedicated Twitter Account

For those of you interested in following the minutia of the 7th Precinct (or bashing them), today is your lucky day. The NYPD just sanctioned a new Twitter handle for our neighborhood cops. Profile picture of the new account is of the recently-appointed CO, Joseph Simonetti. Greetings from the #LES #LowerEastSide Looking forward to connecting! […]

125rivington-night
‘awindow’ Pop-Up Retail Lab Opening at 125 Rivington Street

Aside from plans last year to transform 125 Rivington into a bar called “The Carolinas,” the ground floor has seen naught but pop-up endeavors. In fact, the last such temporary shop was seven months ago, that of SR luxury backpacks. As of this week, though, it’s again all systems go. Roving creative house awindow edition […]

wd50-closing
WD-50 Countdown: Demolition Permits Filed for 7-Story Condo Tower on Clinton Street

WD-50 is slated to conclude its decade-long presence at 50 Clinton Street in just over a week (November 30). Demolition of the entire row of quaint commercial stock will transpire soon thereafter. Indeed, the former 1492 has already been boarded up with dismantling activities transpiring behind the plywood shroud. Demolition permits were issued earlier this […]

SantaCon, December 2011
Why It (Probably) Doesn’t Matter that SantaCon is without a Home

Bushwick put up a united front this week and did what the Lower East Side couldn’t. It essentially strongarmed SantaCon into canceling its plans to host the “charity” event in the Brooklyn enclave. Many of the bars reportedly refused to permit revelers with costume. amNewyork had the scoop on Wednesday, quoting organizers who claimed that […]