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Old LES Dancehall/Piano Factory Building has first Open-House for it’s Penthouse

Uncategorized // Jun 09, 2009

The building located at 345 Grand Street is believed to have been built around 1900.  It is a SOHO-Style Cast Iron that somehow was transplanted to Lower East Side.   Before the building was converted to a  Condominium in 2002, it had a quite an interesting history.

During the 1910’s the second floor was a dance hall.  The ticket pictured below was found under the floorboards on the 2nd floor, which has  13′ ceilings and used to have a wide staircase down to the ground floor, also 13′ high.  That stair is still there in the space that is for sale or rent as retail or gallery — but it is covered over now by the 2nd floor’s new flooring.

In the early 1900’s it became a distribution outlet for for H W Perlman Pianos.  1950’s it was a warehouse for Sun Ray Yarn.  As demonstrated in the photo below, Sun Ray Yarn used to be housed in the building next door to 345 Grand Street.  You can see that 347 the original home of Sun Ray Yarn was next door, while H W Perlman Pianos took up most of 345.  It was a warehouse and sales showroom, probably not a factory.  The lady’s long dress and the lack of wire suggest the date was around 1910, right around the time the “Grand Hall” Ballroom Dance was held.

Allen and Alice Freidman, the owners of the building put the building on the market in 1999.  Phillip Frazer and 5 other partners bought it as a Co-op.  They kept  the commercial spaces downstairs  where there was one tenant Grand Sterling Silver, operated by Grand Sterling Co Inc, now on 14th Ave Brooklyn.

AFTER the group brought together bought the building, in 1999, they chose an architect and builder and filed plans for a total rehab — new electrical, plumbing, HVAC, elevator, intercom and alarms.  A new roof enabled higher ceilings for the 5th floor and an entirely new apartment to be built on top — this 6th floor penthouse was designed and built by the present owner and seller Phillip Frazer.

First Open-house 12-3PM, Sunday June 14th.

Frazer had found the building, negotiated its purchase, and invited friends and business associates to join him in buying and developing the building.  That original group supervised renovations to get a new Cert of Occupancy and, in May 2005, converted to a condominium at which time three new owners took over floors 1, 2, and 3R.  (All floors are single apartments except the third which is divided into two.)

Over the next 2 years floors 2, 4 and 5 were sold as white boxes and, over the last 2 years the current owners have all built out their spaces into 6 unique and highly personalized luxury apartments.

The 2nd floor is a photo studio and home for a high-end fashion photographer.  The 4th floor owner and his soon-to-be bride have filled their space with custom cabinetry and quirky appliances picked up during his commutes between Manhattan and the factory he built in China.  The 5th floor space has reverted to early last-century mode, with pressed tin ceilings, concertina elevator gates, wood and zinc cabinetry, and recycled steel fire doors.  Its owner, a globe-trotting model, explains that she needs a home with a hand-made feel to balance the endless 5-star hotel rooms in which she spends so many of her days.  The new 6th floor penthouse is quirky too.  Frazer says he designed it while he was building up his political newsletter business and raising two teenagers.  “I remember sketching the mezzanine bedroom on an envelope, and telling the architect to make it as large and high as the City code allowed.”  He built the dining area, which also became his office, as an all-glass greenhouse, in part because the code permitted more square footage for greenhouses.  Then the City began disallowing rooftop greenhouses, but the building got a variance that allowed more than enough square feet for the solarium room to be a fully legal living space.

Many of the apartment’s features were inspired by ideas Frazer had tried in two previous renovations. Most of the woodwork was built by his artist/builder friend Steve Paul, using wood from several of the building’s original joists that had been cut to make room for the new elevator shaft.  For the kitchen counters Frazer asked Paul to join slabs of the 120 year-old Douglas fir (that made up the original support columns for the building)  side by side, so that the long edges of the 13 foot counter-tops would show off the wood’s distinctive end-grain rings.  “If you like the end grain so much,” said Paul, “I’ll make the entire counter-top end-grain.”   He cut the joists into hundreds of wooden bricks and glued the together, raising some areas up an inch to form butcher-block cutting boards. Meanwhile, the owner-builder team searched the internet for interesting wood for the cabinets and found a trove of Australian Jarra salvaged from a rough-hewn sheep-shearing shed and being sold in upstate New York for decking.  Frazer, who grew up in Australia, knew that Jarra is actually a rich and beautifully grained hardwood, which Paul combined with Plexiglas and dark brown African Wenge to make cabinets for the gourmet kitchen, both bathrooms, and the living room’s floor to ceiling bookshelves.

For the flooring, Frazer invited another artist friend, Joseph Riza, to render each room with his trademark acrylic cement.  Riza has combined this quintessentially industrial material with a vast palette of artist’s colors to create floors for restaurants, offices, and homes around the City.  For the penthouse, Riza’s instructions were:  For the living room, use these photographs of Australian outback clays and rocks.  For the greenhouse/dining room, take off from this Aboriginal drawing of fish and other natural symbols.  And,  for the teenage daughter’s room,  she wants large checkerboard squares in the dark brown and light beige colors of the family’s Siamese cat Smudge.

Last year, the ground floor’s silver shop tenants moved out to Brooklyn where most of their traditional Jewish customers now live, and since then co-owners Frazer and Manhattan artists David Rankin have played with many ideas for the raw space. They kept much of the 1950s steel shelving and the rolling library-ladder, and are now interviewing possible buyers or renters, eager to find newcomers who will add yet more character and creativity to a building that already is home to a remarkable gathering of lower east side talent.  David Rankin, whose large, earthy canvases are in galleries and private collections all over the world, wants to show a series of portraits of his wife, novelist Lily Brett, in the Silver Shop space, in its raw and very pre-modern mode.  Some musician friends from New Orleans might play at the opening, and Frazer’s teenage daughter might swing from the 13 foot ceilings in her role as a professional trapeze artist… at 345 Grand, you never know what’s next!