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

The Derby replaces Tiny Fork on Orchard St.
Three Problematic Hell Square Bars Hope to Upgrade to Full Liquor Licenses

Three Hell Square bars – two of which are newcomers – are headed straight to the State Liquor Authority for blessings regarding OP upgrades and alterations. Each of the establishments received denials from Community Board 3 within the last few months. Below is a quick and dirty update. The Derby Controversial owner (and hated neighbor) […]

bowery-mission-2014
With Pantry Depleted, Bowery Mission to Receive Funding From City

The Bowery Mission is set to receive some much needed government dollars to help stock their rapidly depleting pantry for local Lower East Side homeless. The Food Pantries Initiative has $237,600 earmarked in the city’s 2015 Fiscal Year budget, spread between ten delegates, which leaves Councilwoman Margaret Chin with $23,760 to work with. Of that, she plans to allocate $9,000 to the […]

billys-closing
Billy’s Antiques is Returning to the Lower East Side for One Day This Weekend

This Saturday (October 25), Billy LeRoy is reviving his antiques business for one day only. He’ll head down to Seward Park to pitch the big-top tent as part of the Hester Street Fair’s “Bedford + Bowery Bazaar,” the last event of the season. Billy Leroy’s eponymous antiques business on East Houston was a fixture of […]

tijuana-picnic-outside
Tijuana Picnic Opens Next Week on Essex Street; Here’s a Look Inside

While not readily apparent, the old Laugh Lounge space at 151 Essex Street is almost completely transformed. Behind those bombed-out windows the tables are set, with Tijuana Picnic nearly ready to begin service. Word on the street is that the Mexican/Asian fusion establishment – under construction since May 2013 – opens next week. Tijuana Picnic […]

comfort-diner-neon
Comfort Diner is Opening on Grand Street Later This Week

It was around this time last year – the Jewish high holidays – that Noah’s Ark kosher deli closed in observance. Never to reopen, despite some assurances to the contrary. Holy Schnitzel subsequently made a run for the establishment yet ultimately was passed over for the Comfort Diner. For the Midtown-based diner, the pin in […]