When Jarmulowsky’s Bank Helped with Immigrant Boat Passage; Plus the Legend of the Cupola

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 at 10:36 am by

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Ad for boat passage, Photo: Eldridge St. Synagogue Archives

The current hotel conversion of the iconic, Beaux Arts-style Jarmulowsky Bank Building at 54 Canal Street prompted a closer look at the roots of this 1912 landmark. It briefly housed a financial institution which became a proverbial backbone to the immigrant community of the Lower East Side. Owner Sender Jarmulowsky had been banking in the neighborhood since 1873, and his bread and butter was the boat passage and exchange business.

As the above Yiddish ad clipping shows, Jarmulowsky encouraged the Jewish population to purchase cheaper steerage accommodations for loved ones wishing to make passage across the Atlantic. Tickets were touted as “Solid! Secure! and Honest!”

Here’s the translation:

Solid! Secure! Honest!
Boarding Passes for all crossings to and from Europe at the lowest prices.
Schedules are available to localities in Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Romania, etc. in our office.
Country orders are promptly taken care of.
Find out about all locations by visiting out offices:
S. Jarmulowsky
New York, 54 Canal street Hamburg, 52 Huetten
Bremen . S, Jarmulowsky and Co., 27 an der Brake

One external fixture these turn-of-the-century customers most definitely would have seen upon approaching the building was its fifty-foot cupola. And, as we previously reported, that eye-grabbing feature could make an epic comeback if architect Ron Castellano’s plan for its restoration is approved by Community Board 3 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The first vote is tonight.

This image has been archived or removed.

Sender Jarmulowsky, Photo: Eldridge St. Synagogue Archives

Lower East Side legend tells us that Sender Jarmulowsky added this dome to ensure its status as the tallest building around. According to Landmark Learning, the simultaneously constructed Forward building down the street had been slightly taller, and this was not deemed acceptable to the entrepreneur.

The limestone giant was completed just in time for the company’s demise. A run on the bank at the advent of World War I two years later ended Jarmulowsky’s financial empire.

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Photo: Municipal Archives

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