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.

This image has been archived or removed.

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.

This image has been archived or removed.

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

This image has been archived or removed.

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.

This image has been archived or removed.

[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.

This image has been archived or removed.

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

Good News/Bad News for East River Park [OP-ED]

The following editorial was written by Pat Arnow, a photographer and writer on the Lower East Side who helped found East River Park Action in 2019.  East River Park will remain entirely open and untouched by construction through the end of the year. The latest delay in the massive flood control project – the $1.45 […]

Peppa’s Jerk Chicken Scouts Stanton Street for Expansion

A popular jerk chicken spot in Brooklyn is headed to Hell Square on the Lower East Side. Crown Heights counter-service spot, Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, is currently eyeing 90-96 Stanton Street. The multi-storefront space previously hosted the short-lived Falafix. News of their likely arrival is confirmed by liquor license application materials submitted to Community Board 3 […]

One Week After Reopening, Nathan Straus Playground is Again Locked

Not so fast. One week after the Parks Department unlocked Nathan Straus Playground to the public, it’s again gated. Readers report that the padlocks returned on Tuesday without any communication from the city. As reported, the Lower East Side park, which abuts the Attorney Street cul-de-sac, had been closed without notice for nearly a month […]

Parisi Bakery Building on Elizabeth Street Listed for $5.99M

The NoHo building housing Parisi Bakery is up for sale, and the store may not survive. Robert Parisi – building owner and former head baker of the family business – listed 290 Elizabeth Street on the market. He’s seeking $5.99 million for the seven-unit, mixed-use tenement. Parisi purchased the property in 1983 for $200,000, property […]

Astor Place Hair to Close Permanently Next Month Due to Pandemic

You’ve seen, you’ve read, you’ve heard. News broke over the weekend that Astor Place Hairstylists, a bastion of affordable cuts, is closing down for good. Barring some miracle, the 74-year-old business will be another victim of this dreadful pandemic. Apparently, management informed staff last Friday. Its final day on the namesake block is at the […]