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

classic-coffee-closed-1
LES Stalwart ‘Classic Coffee Shop’ Temporarily Closes for Renovations

Well, this certainly isn’t the best way to start the day. The Classic Coffee Shop on Hester Street, the authentic luncheonette mainstay in the neighborhood for decades, is currently closed for renovations. Temporarily, though. This, according to a computer printout pasted to the shuttered gate. Despite the unease – these renovation notices are oftentimes a […]

bowery-graffiti-wall-scraped
Bowery Graffiti Wall Whitewashed for Logan Hicks Artwork Next Week

The Bowery Graffiti Wall is primed for its next act. Out came the whitewashers this week, painting over the remains of Futura’s ten-month-old mural. The one-story enclosure – the original concrete slab still sits intact with Os Gemeos art – is now a blank canvas for stencil artist Logan Hicks. There is also a portable […]

Rendering of potential use
City Seeks Proposals to Convert Allen Mall Bathhouse into Food Stand

Now’s your chance to convert an old Lower East Side shithouse into a food stand. That’s right; the city officially began its Request for Proposals (“RFP”) process last week in order to redevelop the relic bathhouse situated in the Allen Street Mall. The decades-old structure – constructed in the 1930s as a bathroom for riders […]

peace-pentagon-boxed
Noho’s ‘Peace Pentagon’ Boxed up, Ready for Demolition

Noho’s activist spirit is dead. Gone by way of luxury. The Peace Pentagon is about to follow. Demolition is nigh. Its longtime sidewalk bridge, a mainstay for several years, was deposed this week, yet quickly replaced. The borderline-unstable property is being boxed up in plywood as we speak. As previously reported, the A.J. Muste Institute […]

Bargain District, August 2010
As Development Heats Up, Landmarked Lower East Side Historic District Isn’t Any Closer to Happening

With the city’s so-called “backlog” initiative firmly in the rearview, it’s time to refocus. You’ll recall that several local grassroots preservationists continue the battle to protect an historically-significant swath of Lower East Side territory. Led by the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and Friends of the Lower East Side, the consortium of area groups is pushing […]